Missouri stymied by No. 11 Florida’s defense in 21-3 loss
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — No. 11 Florida put up just enough offense against Missouri and the Gators defense did the rest.
“That’s the first time I’ve played against a true defense like that,” said Drew Lock, who threw two picks in his second start for Missouri, including one that was returned 40 yards for a touchdown in Florida’s 21-3 victory on Saturday night. “It was a little different than I’ve ever seen.”
Kelvin Taylor rushed for 99 yards and two first-quarter touchdowns and the defense clamped down on Missouri to give new coach Jim McElwain a 6-0 start to his Gators career. Only Charles Bachman and Galen Hall had accomplished the same feat.
“It wasn’t pretty by any stretch of the imagination,” said McElwain. “Sometimes in this business, you’ve got to kind of win like that. I thought our offense got off to a good, quick start, and then our defense just kind of closed the door on them.”
The Gators (6-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) piled up 337 yards and hung on to the ball for 37:53, converting 23 first downs.
“Back-to-back years those guys kept beating us,” Taylor said. “It gives us motivation to keep playing good ball.”
Quarterback Will Grier was 20-of-33 for 208 yards. Demarcus Robinson led Florida with six catches for 79 yards.
Florida’s defense never allowed Missouri’s offense to settle into a rhythm. Missouri (4-2, 1-2) was 1 of 14 on third down and opened the second half with three consecutive three-and-outs.
Lock made his second start for Missouri in place of Maty Mauk, who is suspended indefinitely for violating team policy. He completed 16 of 39 passes for 151 yards, but had those two interceptions.
Jalen Tabor, who returned one interception for a touchdown, now has two touchdowns off of picks.
“My whole career in high school, I only had one,” Tabor said. “Coach (Geoff) Collins is a really good defensive coordinator. He just made the right calls, and allowed us to play ball.”
″(Drew) shouldn’t have thrown it into that coverage,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said of the interception. “It’s not going to be the first or last interception. That’s a young guy. He’ll get better.”
Florida’s defense has not allowed a touchdown its last two games. Lock said the defense switched up coverage very well.
The Gators led the SEC in sacks entering the game, and had three against the Tigers, including one each from Charles Brantley and Cece Jefferson. Marcus Maye and Antonio Morrison each had six tackles. Maye also had an interception in the second quarter.
“They out-executed us,” Pinkel said. “They are a really good defensive football team. We just made mistakes they didn’t make. Obviously, offensively we’re still having some problems.”
Andrew Baggett’s 21-yard field goal with 7:33 remaining in the first quarter gave the Tigers their only points. Baggett also missed a 53-yard attempt in the second quarter.
Russell Hansbrough had a season-high 74 yards on nine carries and Ish Witter added 11 carries for 39 yards. Witter also had a team-high four catches for 29 yards.
Wesley Leftwich was the only Missouri receiver with more than one catch, finishing with three for 39 yards.