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Tuesday, September 27, 2022
<p dir="ltr"><span>Coach Dan Mullen stressed that even with no conference wins, Missouri remains a tough opponent. "They probably have the best quarterback in the league," he said.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span> </span></p>

Coach Dan Mullen stressed that even with no conference wins, Missouri remains a tough opponent. "They probably have the best quarterback in the league," he said.

 

Even the touchdowns were pitiful.

On Oct. 18, 2014, quarterback Treon Harris faked a handoff and rolled right toward a half-empty, half-apathetic student section in the Swamp. He was met by a blitzing Missouri corner. He heaved a desperation ball just past the goal line and into a mosh pit of blue and white.

Tight end Tevin Westbrook eventually emerged from the pile with the ball, initiating a dull rumbling of sarcastic cheers and the eruption of overstated fireworks that had been gathering dust all night.

That touchdown, and the one Harris ran in with 26 seconds remaining, were all the UF offense could scrap together that chilly night in Gainesville four years ago.

The numbers are enough to make you contemplate the fabric of reality. The box score from that night the Tigers played at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is a barren wasteland of turnovers and radioactive offense. It’s a dilapidated shrine to everything the Gators have sought to destroy this season.

So far in 2018, the exorcism of those offensive demons is ahead of schedule. Florida has the No. 42-ranked offense in points per game (32.3) and averages an even five yards per carry. Compared to 2014’s No. 56 scoring offense (30.3 points per game) and the 4.4 yards per carry, the current squad looks like world-beaters.

The Gators don’t necessarily have to be that tomorrow to beat the current Tigers, but it couldn’t hurt. Missouri (4-4, 0-4 SEC) has lost two of its conference games to No. 6 Georgia and No. 1 Alabama by a combined 43 points, but its other pair of SEC defeats were much closer: a two-point loss against South Carolina and a one-pointer to Kentucky. The Tigers are still itching to get their first SEC win, and coming off a last-second loss to the Wildcats could be all the fuel they need to pull it off.

They’re also led by Drew Lock, a quarterback some analysts saw as a dark-horse Heisman candidate before the season. He’s No. 2 in the conference in completions (169) and passing yards (2,144).

Outside of his gaudy numbers there, however, he and UF quarterback Feleipe Franks are fairly similar. Just 0.3 yards separates Franks (7.4) and Lock (7.7) in yards per attempt, and they each have 16 touchdown passes and six interceptions apiece.

That means the game could be won or lost with the ground game, where both teams have struggled relative to the rest of the conference. But Mullen doesn’t expect the Tigers to stray away from Lock.

“They can put up points with anybody in the country,” he said. “They probably have the best quarterback in the league. (He) can make every throw you want to make. He’s got experience. He’s got poise.”

Missouri presents the greatest challenge to the Gators for the rest of the season. UF has a 69.9 percent chance to win tomorrow, according to ESPN projections. The odds increase to 74.7 percent against South Carolina next week and 77.1 percent against FSU.

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But for a coach and a team preaching a one-game-at-a-time mentality, Missouri seems to be all that’s on the Gators' minds, especially after their loss to Georgia last week.

“Win or lose, it’s how you respond as you continue to go during the season,” Mullen said. “We want to see how we have to handle this adversity moving forward.”

 

Follow Morgan McMullen on Twitter @MorganMcMuffin or contact him at mmcmullen@alligator.org. 

Coach Dan Mullen stressed that even with no conference wins, Missouri remains a tough opponent. "They probably have the best quarterback in the league," he said.

 

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