The weather outside was almost as frightful as the Florida defense.
With the temperature in the 40’s and residual snow piled up on the sideline, the Gators (9-2, 6-2 SEC) shut down Missouri in their SEC finale en route to a 23-6 win in Columbia, Missouri.
After a characteristically slow start from the UF offense, No. 11 Florida outscored the Tigers (5-5, 2-4 SEC) 17-3 in the second half. That slow start was negated by the play of the defense, which allowed just a pair of field goals on the day. Linebacker Jonathan Greenard was the MVP with two sacks and five tackles for loss.
Quarterback Kyle Trask (282 yards on 23-of-35 passing) wasn’t flashy, but he threw two touchdown passes in the third quarter — one a 34-yarder to receiver Josh Hammond and the other a 15-yarder to running back Lamical Perine — to ensure UF didn’t lose to Missouri for the third-straight year.
The biggest play of the game came with about four minutes left in the third quarter.
With UF up by just seven, Trask lofted a pass down the sideline to tight end Kyle Pitts. After some jostling, Mizzou defensive back Khalil Oliver came away with the ball. It looked like an interception, but a referee conference and a review ruled that the two players had simultaneous possession at the end of the play, making it a 25-yard completion.
Three plays later, Trask connected with Perine to put the Gators up 20-6.
Kicker Evan McPherson had a busy day for Florida, especially before halftime when offense was at a premium.
Florida did have some success moving the ball early on, totaling 176 yards in the first half, but poor offensive line play and ineptitude on third down set back any progress the Gators made.
Missouri, a team with just two sacks in their previous four games, racked up four in the first half on Saturday. UF was just 1 for 8 on third down, and Tommy Townsend punted the ball five times.
The Gators defense, however, ensured the Tigers didn’t fare any better. Missouri was just 1 for 7 on third down and only had 137 yards of total offense in the half.
The result was a field goal battle. Florida’s Evan McPherson hit from 47 and 39 yards, and Mizzou’s Tucker McCann hit a 37-yard bank shot off the upright to make the score 6-3 at the break.
UF’s defense continued to dominate in the second half, holding Missouri to just four additional third-down conversions and allowing just one McCann field goal. The improved play from the offense (especially at the line, which didn’t allow a sack in the second half) meant that the game was firmly in Florida’s control by the time McPherson tacked on a 22-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter for the game’s final points.
The Gators will have a bye week before finishing the regular season at home against in-state rival Florida State. In the meantime, they’ll be rooting for Auburn it its game against Georgia today — the Bulldogs clinch the SEC East with a win.
Follow Sam Campisano on Twitter @samcampisano. Contact him at [email protected]