Playing football at night on Halloween with about 15% of your roster unavailable against an in-conference foe is frightening.
Despite a slow start and some halftime antics, the Gators managed to brave 60 minutes of football and walk away with a 41-17 win Saturday night in The Swamp.
On a literal blue moon, tensions were high between the Gators, returning to the gridiron for their first game since their COVID-19 outbreak started earlier this month to face the Missouri Tigers. Like a witches cauldron, said tensions boiled over in the form of a halftime scuffle. A late Hail Mary hit on quarterback Kyle Trask led to a brawl between white and blue jerseys that resulted in three ejections and unsportsmanlike penalties for all players on both teams. Even coach Dan Mullen got involved, having to be yanked from the action. Upon leaving the field, he turned around and motioned for the crowd to get louder and rowdier.
“"I mean I talked about ‘let's create an exciting environment in the Swamp,’ with the crowd,” Mullen said about the incident. “And I love hearing them be loud and I love hearing them cheer so I was just trying to get them to keep continue to stick with the game and continue to cheer. And I did that the whole game too.”
The first half of play was marked by a sluggish start for the Gators. Their first two drives ended in field goals, putting them up 6-0 on the Tigers. Missouri then answered with a touchdown off a Kyle Trask pick-six, the first of the game, to claim the lead.
Two first-half receiving touchdowns from Kadarius Toney juiced up Florida’s offense, giving the orange and blue a 20-7 lead after one full half of football. In both of his scoring plays, Toney eluded defenders on his way to the endzone, bobbing in and out of white jerseys like a buoy in through ocean waves.
The second half opened with a four-and-a-half-minute scoring drive that featured a lot of QB run plays. Trask ended the game with 47 rushing yards on six attempts, averaging around eight yards per carry. In a game where all three of Florida’s scholarship quarterbacks made an appearance, Trask cemented himself as the first Gator to throw four touchdown passes in four straight games.
Toney crossed the goal line for Florida’s first score of the half, putting the Gators up 27-7 and securing the team’s (and his) third touchdown of the game.
All night, Toney finessed his way through heavy coverage, proving even further that he’s the type of “every-down player” his coaches have touted him as all year long. He ended Saturday’s game with four receptions for 60 yards and three total touchdowns.
“That’s what he’s capable of on any given night,” Trask said about his teammate. “Like I said in the past, it’s pretty hard to cover Kadarius Toney one-on-one, to say the least. That’s what he can do when you give him those opportunities.”
Receivers Justin Shorter and Trevon Grimes accounted for Florida’s other two touchdowns against Missouri. Shorter secured a two-yard pass from Trask in the third quarter and Grimes took an 18-yard pass to the house about midway through the fourth.
UF’s next game, the famed Florida-Georgia rivalry in Jacksonville, Florida, is set for Nov. 7 at 3:30 p.m.
Contact Payton Titus at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @petitus25.
Senior Kadarius Toney had three touchdowns Saturday night in Florida's drubbing of Missouri at home.
Payton is a sophomore journalism major from Jacksonville, Florida. She is The Alligator's Spring 2021 digital managing editor. Her previous roles include softball beat writer, football beat writer and online sports editor.