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Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Notebook: UF secondary torched, offense unable to capitalize on big plays in loss to Missouri

<p dir="ltr"><span>While Florida’s defensive backs played well early, marked by Henderson’s first quarter interception on a Missouri fade route in the end zone, they also allowed the most passing touchdowns by an opponent since Sept. 30 against Vanderbilt.</span></p>

While Florida’s defensive backs played well early, marked by Henderson’s first quarter interception on a Missouri fade route in the end zone, they also allowed the most passing touchdowns by an opponent since Sept. 30 against Vanderbilt.

CJ Henderson was running, chasing Missouri receiver Emanuel Hall down the right sideline.

And then, suddenly, Henderson pulled back.

But Hall didn’t. He locked in on the ball arcing high in the sky, stuck out both hands and hauled in the 49-yard pass from Mizzou quarterback Drew Lock.

On the next play, from Florida’s 1-yard line, Missouri scored a touchdown to extend its lead to 26 points.

It was a long day for Florida’s defensive backs, one in which they allowed four different Missouri receivers to make catches of more than 10 yards — including the 49-yard pass to Hall and a 38-yard pass to receiver J’Mon Moore — and allowed Lock to throw for 228 yards and three touchdowns in Missouri’s 45-16 win on Saturday.

“As a whole unit, it was just us making big mistakes,” defensive lineman Khairi Clark said.

And while Florida’s defensive backs played well early, marked by Henderson’s first quarter interception on a Missouri fade route in the end zone, they also allowed the most passing touchdowns by an opponent since Sept. 30 against Vanderbilt.

“It was real tough,” Clark said. “But at the same time, as a unit, we have to keep motivating each other.”

UF unable to capitalize on explosive pass plays:

About halfway through the second quarter, as Florida’s offense began a drive from its own 11-yard line, it saw something it hadn’t seen in five weeks: a pass play of more than 20 yards.

Quarterback Malik Zaire dropped back into the pocket and tossed a pass just over receiver Dre Massey’s head, who extended his arms, made the catch and raced 37 yards for a 38-yard gain.

It was the longest pass play since Feleipe Frank’s 49-yard touchdown pass to receiver Tyrie Cleveland against Vanderbilt on Sept. 30.

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“He made some very good throws,” Shannon said of Zaire

Two drives later, the Gators connected on another explosive pass play, also to Massey — a 37-yard completion on UF’s last possession of the second quarter.

Despite the pair of big plays, Florida couldn’t get into the end zone on either drive. Both ended in field foals.

“We hit some big plays down the middle,” Zaire said. “‘We will get back to the drawing boards and figure out how to push the ball down the field.”

Offensive lineman Brett Heggie injured:

Guard Brett Heggie fell to the turf after a non-contact injury in the first quarter and was carted off the field into the locker room.

The redshirt freshman did not return for the remainder of the game.

Heggie has been one of Florida’s most consistent offensive lineman this year, and was named the SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week after Florida’s 38-24 home win against Vanderbilt on Sept. 30.

Earlier in the season, former UF head coach Jim McElwain called Heggie’s play “outstanding”, lauding his consistent effort each game.

Playmaker Kadarius Toney, defensive lineman Jachai Polite held out:

Freshman playmaker Kadarius Toney and sophomore defensive lineman Jachai Polite did not play in Saturday’s game due to injuries.

Both Toney and Polite sustained shoulder injuries the week before in Florida’s 42-7 loss to Georgia.

Toney, who was having a breakout season in his first year with the Gators, entered Saturday’s game ranked fourth on the team with 12 catches for 115 receiving yards and 13 rushes for 117 yards and one touchdown.

Polite was also having an impressive 2017 season, and entered Saturday’s game 5.5 tackles for loss, good for third-best on the team, and two sacks.

You can follow Ian Cohen on Twitter @icohenb, and contact him at icohen@alligator.org.

While Florida’s defensive backs played well early, marked by Henderson’s first quarter interception on a Missouri fade route in the end zone, they also allowed the most passing touchdowns by an opponent since Sept. 30 against Vanderbilt.

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