Florida 14, Mizzou 7: Links and reflections

Sam Greenwood

Exceeding expectations in the most frustrating way possible™.

Recaps

MUtigers.com: Missouri Falls in Tight Fight with Florida, 14-7
MUtigers.com: Mizzou/Florida Post-Game Notes
The Trib: Tigers drown in mistakes in Swamp debut
The Missourian: Missouri football starts fast but falls 14-7 to Florida
KC Star: Mizzou offense sputters in 14-7 loss to Florida
KC Star: MU-Florida game report
Post-Dispatch: No. 8 Florida holds off Mizzou 14-7
PowerMizzou: Game at a Glance
PowerMizzou: Game Balls: Florida
PowerMizzou: Sunday Grade Card
KBIA Sports: James Franklin’s mistakes doom Missouri in tight loss to No. 7 Florida

Really, this was like the Arizona State game: visitor outplays home favorite, play for play, but the home team pulls out a win with turnovers and late defensive stands. Outplayed home team "did what was necessary," shoulda-woulda-coulda visiting team "drowns in mistakes." The expected winner won, and the expected loser ends up with a lot more regret than expected.

Just Good Enough To Lose

The Trib: Franklin, Missouri see upset bid sink in Swamp
Post-Dispatch: Mizzou's offense can't cash in defensive gifts
Post-Dispatch (Bryan Burwell): Franklin isn't all that ails Mizzou offense
Post-Dispatch: Franklin makes highlight reel for both teams
PowerMizzou: Beat and beaten down
PowerMizzou: Offense sinks in the Swamp

Here's the deal: Mizzou's field position situation was as bad as expected. Of Mizzou's first 11 drives, six started inside the Tigers' 25, and another four started on Mizzou's side of the 50. If you'd have told me that before the game, I'd have assumed Mizzou would have scored about seven points, and they did. But I'd have also assumed that the field would have drastically tilted in Florida's favor, and the Gators would have eventually scored between about 24 and 31 points. Instead, Mizzou moved the ball enough to actually give Florida the exact same field position.

Team
Avg. Starting
FP (1H)
Avg. Starting
FP (2H)
Drives Starting
Inside 25
Drives Starting
In Opp. Territory
Drives Advancing
>25 Yards
Mizzou 28.3 31.8 7 3 6
Florida 29.3 32.6 7 3 6

Basically, Mizzou's offense made too many mistakes to win. Yes, of course. But in gaining 339 yards against the Gators (five more yards than Texas A&M gained on them, by the way, and 66 more yards than Georgia gained), the offense gave itself a chance to win despite what should have been fatal field position. That something else killed the offense is both obvious and beside the point.

(In other words, as we have often said on this site, Mizzou figured out a way to exceed expectations in the most frustrating way possible.)

Despite the worst accuracy problems of his career (and I'm not even talking about the passes he made under pressure -- I'm talking about the passes he made when attempting to step into them properly in the pocket), James Franklin led a strong offensive effort against the second-best defense in the country. With Franklin, Mizzou averaged more yards per play against Florida than Mizzou did with Corbin Berkstresser against Kentucky, the same Kentucky that allowed 40 points to Vanderbilt yesterday. As I wrote in last week's BTBS post, I'm not giving up on Berkstresser. But I've basically given up on him in the short term. He got almost four full games to prove himself capable of playing good offense in 2012. He didn't do it.

That Mizzou was able to move the ball against Florida, even with Franklin unable to throw an accurate pass more than about seven yards, ends the argument. With a healthy Franklin that wasn't coming back from his third extended absence of the last six months, Mizzou goes for over 400 yards. With the evidence at hand, we can't even guarantee Berkstresser gains 200 yesterday. The bad passes were incredibly frustrating. But Mizzou still gained 339 yards against, again, the second-best defense in the country. And again, that was more than Texas A&M or Georgia gained. That means something.

Sigh

The Trib: GAME NOTES: Florida 14, Missouri 7
The Missourian: Missouri defense battled against Florida despite lack of offensive support
KC Star: Britt leaves game with knee injury

From the Trib:

Justin Britt, you are the next contestant on "Missouri Offensive Lineman with a Knee Injury."

Britt, MU's right tackle, became the fourth starter along the offensive line to suffer damage to a knee ligament when he was knocked out of yesterday's game at Florida in the first quarter. Pinkel did not give a full update on Britt's condition, saying only that the early indication was Britt hurt his anterior cruciate ligament. If the ligament's torn, Britt would most likely miss the rest of the season. The junior has started every game the last two seasons, making 22 consecutive starts, the longest current streak for any of Missouri's O-linemen. He was on crutches after the game with his right leg in a brace.

"Unfortunate for him," Pinkel said. "Such a great kid."

With Britt out of the game, redshirt sophomore Anthony Gatti took over for a few possessions at right tackle. Later, Missouri shifted Mitch Morse from center to right tackle and pulled Brad McNulty off the bench to play center.

In nine games, Missouri has used five different offensive line combinations because of multiple knee injuries. Left tackle Elvis Fisher missed three games with a sprained medial collateral ligament, the same injury that sidelined Morse for a game and projected starting guard Jack Meiners for all but three games. Travis Ruth, the projected starter at left guard, has missed every game this year with a torn triceps tendon, while backup tackle Taylor Chappell was lost for the season in training camp with a torn ACL.

"Our O-line's been beat up all year, but we've got guys who have played the position before," Fisher said. "It wasn't anything new. It was just a little heartbreaking to see your buddy go down."

And from The Missourian:

Richardson admitted some frustration, but mostly emphasized his desire to win. He blocked a punt in the game and has been consistently productive for the Tigers this season.

"There's more games to play. You can't get angry at each other now," Richardson said. "Just got to keep playing. We lost more lineman on offense, gotta keep going."

Missouri right tackle Justin Britt went down early with what Pinkel called an ACL injury.

"With the offensive line issues we have, it's absolutely staggering, and it affects absolutely every single thing that we do," Pinkel said. "And I thought our guys battled against a great defensive line."

The offensive line has struggled with injuries all season, which might be a reason why the defense is willing to share the blame for losses.

"It's frustrating but we have to keep our poise," said cornerback E.J. Gaines. "We can't control what they do. Anytime you lose, it's tough on the whole team, not just the offense or the defense."

While the Tigers defense held Florida scoreless in the first half, the defense was clearly wearing down in the second half.

A holding penalty nullified a touchdown that would have given the Gators their first lead of the game, but Florida scored anyway just two plays later to go up 14-7.

Even after, the defense regrouped and gave the Tigers a chance to win. For Ebner, it still wasn't good enough.

"We shut them out first half," he said. "Why couldn't we do it the second half?"

Next week against Tennessee, Mizzou will be starting its sixth different offensive line in 10 games. That's staggering.

It's probably also worth pointing out that Mizzou's effectiveness, both in run-blocking and pass protection, pretty much began to run out in the second quarter ... right around the time Britt got hurt. Kendial Lawrence's first five carries went for 26 yards. His last 13 went for eight. And he looked really good in just gaining eight. We can discuss how the second-half play-calling put too much of the game's hopes in James Franklin's hands, but honestly, there wasn't much of a choice. Lawrence carried the ball on first-and-10 four times in the second half; the result: 2nd-and-12, 2nd-and-14, 2nd-and-10 and 2nd-and-10. Marcus Murphy also carried once on first down and gained 13 yards. But even counting that one, that's five carries for seven yards.

Since Franklin obviously couldn't control his accuracy, here's my one complaint about his decision-making: he consistently looked unprepared for the pass rush. This wasn't a Gabbert-esque "fleeing the pocket directly into pressure" situation; he maybe did that twice. Most of the time, he fled because he had to ... but he never seemed to have a plan. It was pretty obvious that the pressure was going to come, but he wasn't ready to check down because of it. Again, you can pin part of that on rust. But you won't be able to do that next week. If Tennessee is able to take advantage of another patchwork offensive line (questionable), Franklin needs to be readier to offload the ball.

The Other Side

Alligator Army: Florida vs Missouri: Gators survive, 14-7
Alligator Army: Florida vs. Missouri, Theater of Operations: Reviewing the Gators' 14-point offensive explosion
Team Speed Kills: Florida Survives Missouri 14-7
Gainesville Sun: Gillislee screen play of game for UF
Gainesville Sun: Notebook: UF defense holds
Gainesville Sun (Dooley): Gators deserve applause
Gainesville Sun: Resolve equals results
Gainesville Sun: Young linemen step up, Bullard, Fowler help stop Tigers
GatorZone: Gators Cap Comeback SEC Season in Familiar Fashion
GatorZone: Two Big Plays Were Enough for Gators Offense
GatorZone: Gator Defense Delivers by Affecting the Quarterback

It does bear mentioning that Florida was forced to deal with a Mizzou-esque number of injuries (and illness), both before and during the game. But as Gary Pinkel said about Mizzou's injuries all year, nobody cares. No sympathy here. We've heard that the post-injury struggles are just proof that Mizzou doesn't have "SEC depth." Florida almost didn't have it either, I guess.

Multimedia

The Missourian: PHOTO GALLERY: Missouri Tigers face Florida Gators in Gainesville
The Missourian: PHOTO GALLERY: Missouri, Florida football fans gather in Gainesville
The Missourian: PHOTO GALLERY: Fans cheer as Florida Gators play Missouri Tigers

Let's Finish This Happy

Here are five reasons to be optimistic about the weeks ahead:

  1. Matt Hoch and Kony Ealy have each been really, really good the last two weeks, and Sheldon Richardson has been incredible. Combine that with persistently underrated Michael Sam and Brad Madison, and Mizzou might have the level of defensive line play to disrupt the three good passing offenses it will face in the weeks to come. (Andrew Wilson and Will Ebner looked outstanding yesterday, too.)

  2. Marcus Murphy looked really confident running the ball yesterday. He obviously didn't get many chances, and he was obviously dealing with the same OL-versus-DL matchup as Kendial Lawrence, but in Murphy's four carries, he looked like he was returning a punt. That's a compliment, as he has looked much more confident in punt returns than actual carries this year.

  3. Dorial Green-Beckham looked sharp, smart and confident yesterday. He didn't break a big gainer, and he did drop a first-down screen pass on what eventually became Mizzou's touchdown drive, but he has shown signs of growth for two straight weeks now and is apparently "getting it" in practice. Want to see an offense improve quickly? Watch a five-star recruit turn into a five-star player.

  4. James Franklin will be healthier six days from now than he was yesterday.

  5. No remaining defense on Mizzou's schedule is anywhere near as good as Florida's. (At least two of the offenses are also better, but that's beside the point.)
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