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Gators overpower Missouri in first game in three weeks

1061 days ago
Florida Athletics

WHAT HAPPENED: Florida started slow offensively, but its defense held firm until a scoring surge late in the second quarter gave the Gators a two-score lead they extended with a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter. UF carried its 34-7 lead into the fourth quarter, and never allowed Missouri to get closer than 24 points en route to its 10th consecutive home win.

Until mop-up duty late in the game, the only touchdown scored against the Gators came when redshirt senior quarterback Kyle Trask was hit on a throw, which led to a wounded duck of a pass and a 59-yard interception return touchdown by Missouri's Jarvis Ware. The pick-six put Missouri up, 7-6, a little over two minutes into the second quarter, as the Gators settled for a pair of field goals (both made by redshirt junior backup kicker Chris Howard) on their first two drives, despite some explosive passing plays from Trask to junior tight end Kyle Pitts and running backs Malik Davis and Dameon Pierce.

Florida's offense got on track late in the second quarter, as a 36-yard pass from Trask to redshirt sophomore wide receiver Jacob Copeland drove the Gators to Missouri's 24-yard line. Then senior all-purpose athlete Kadarius Toney delivered his latest video game-esque escape for an 18-yard touchdown run.

Missouri faced a third down and one on the ensuing drive, and Brenton Cox Jr. recovered a fumbled exchange between Tigers quarterback Connor Bazelak and running back Tyler Badie, giving the Gators the ball at the Missouri 30-yard line with 1:15 remaining. They only needed seven seconds, as Trask found Toney for a 30-yard touchdown reception on the very next play, securing a 20-7 halftime lead.

Florida faced a fourth down and one at Missouri's 31-yard line on its opening drive of the first half, which Trask converted himself with a 15-yard run. Toney capped the 8-play, 75-yard touchdown drive with a 16-yard touchdown run on the next play, making it 27-7.

The Gators kept the ball on the ground for much of their next drive, which transfer receiver Justin Shorter capped with a two-yard touchdown reception, the first of his collegiate career.

Trask delivered his fourth touchdown pass of the night on an 18-yard connection with Trevon Grimes midway through the fourth quarter. The Manvel, Texas native became the first Gators quarterback in history to throw at least four touchdown passes in four consecutive games, and brought his season total up to 18 (read on for more on how remarkable that feat is).

WHAT IT MEANS: Florida shook off the rust in its first game since a tough loss at Texas A&M back on Oct. 10, and shored up some of the defensive issues it displayed through the first three outings this season. Most importantly, the Gators generated some momentum heading into next week's highly-anticipated rivalry matchup (more on that below).

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The Florida defense. The unit entered the night ranked near the bottom of the FBS in rushing and passing defense, but until Missouri's final two drives - by which time Florida built a 41-10 lead - the Gators allowed just 172 total yards.

Florida also limited Missouri to just three conversions on 15 third down attempts (20 percent). The last time UF held its opponent to 20 percent or worst on third downs when it faced at least 15 was last year's rout of Vanderbilt, a game in which the Gators finished with the exact same 3-of-15 stat line on third down.

STAGGERING STATISTIC: 18. Trask's touchdown total through four games this season - which set an SEC record for touchdown passes in the first four games of a season.

Entering Saturday's games, the FBS leader was UCF's Dillon Gabriel, who threw 19 touchdowns. In five games. The FBS player with the most touchdown passes in four or fewer games prior to Saturday's slate? Memphis' Brady White, with 17 in four games.

UP NEXT: The Gators (3-1) head to Jacksonville, Fla., for their annual rivalry matchup with Georgia (4-1). The No. 5 Bulldogs won a defensive battle against Kentucky Saturday afternoon, departing Lexington, Ky., with a 14-3 victory. In spite of its recent lopsided loss to Alabama, Georgia still ranks in the top 20 nationally in total defense and scoring defense, meaning Florida's high-powered offense will face its toughest test to date this season.