Mizzou has its swagger back.
On Saturday, Missouri (4-5, 1-4 SEC) pounded Florida (3-5, 3-4 SEC) by a score of 45-16 with a power-rush attack and stout defense. The Tigers’ scoring had been heavily reliant on airing it out in recent weeks, but today that wasn’t the case.
“We talked about a couple things that we needed to have in our favor, and one of them was playing physical,” Missouri coach Barry Odom said. “In the game of football you better be mentally tough and you better be physically tough and be able to withstand the good and the bad.”
Larry Rountree III led the charge with 83 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 15 attempts. He brutalized the Gators' defense with his usual north and south, take-no-prisoners running style. Even when Rountree III was alone in the open field, he seemed to be looking for someone to hit.
Late in the first half, Rountree III shot up the middle and shrugged off an arm-tackle by Duke Dawson like he was a fly before scampering in for a 21-yard touchdown. The run gave Mizzou a 28-3 lead, but Rountree III looked disappointed at how little contact there was on the play.
Larry Rountree scores his 2nd TD on this 21 yard run up the middle, Mizzou leads Florida 28-3 pic.twitter.com/rnfC0HsI46— Osᴄᴀʀ Gᴀᴍʙʟᴇ™ (@OscarGambler) November 4, 2017
The attitude that Rountree III shows with his play is reverberating throughout the entire team. They look animated and energized by this three-game winning streak. Sporting blacked-out uniforms, Tiger players were talking trash and celebrating on seemingly every drive. The coaches and players on the sidelines were hyped and active after big plays.
“The game of football is supposed to be played with emotion and momentum and energy,” Odom said. “When you can do that and you understand schematically what you're trying to do and you prepare the right way, then you can go play freely on Saturday. You can play fast, you've got confidence, and when you've got all those things moving in the same direction, you start to see the effects of that.”
Out of the 455 total yards that the Tigers gained, 227 came on the ground. An improving Tiger defense didn’t allow the Gators to cross 300 total yards until garbage time. Florida wasn't able to get much going on the ground, which led to Missouri winning the time of possession battle through 30 minutes for the first time in what felt like forever.
In a game mostly defined by rushing and defense, Drew Lock still managed to make history. With his touchdown pass to Ish Witter in the second quarter Lock moved into second place on the Tigers' all-time passing touchdowns list with 57. He made it 58 with a strike to J’Mon Moore early in the fourth quarter.
“I was debating,” Lock said when asked about his pass to Witter. “I was like, 'Hey we might have to put a bigger back in there. I don’t know if I'm going to be able to see him through the trees that you've got to look over.’”
Lock went 15-20 for 228 yards and three touchdowns overall, but what stood out was what he did on the ground. He ran six times for 30 yards, which isn't a lot, but it was encouraging to see him tuck the ball down and run instead of forcing passes.
“I think it opens things up quite a bit,” Lock said. “People are going to have to respect me on the run. I've always been like this, I just rolled the dice a little bit today.”
Unfortunately, Lock started the game by doing just that. On Mizzou's first possession of the game, the Tigers set the tone early with five rushes by Witter for 36 yards. The Tigers were in a position to score at Florida's 20-yard line when Lock dropped back to pass.
Emanuel Hall appeared to run the wrong route, but instead of throwing the ball away Lock lofted it downfield in the direction of Jonathan Johnson. Johnson was in double coverage and located the ball late, and the ball was picked off by Florida's CJ Henderson.
Missouri's defense forced a quick Gators three-and-out, but the Tigers' offense stalled out on their next drive and was forced to punt. Brandon Powell signaled for a fair catch, but misjudged the distance of the ball and lunged forward in an attempt to make the catch.
Powell muffed the punt, and Anthony Sherrils quickly scooped it up at the Florida 11-yard line. Mizzou capitalized on the field position and went up 7-0 on a five-yard touchdown catch by Kendall Blanton. Blanton not only rose over the defender to make the grab, but managed to get a cleat down just inside the sideline.
Rountree III capped off an impressive 14-play, 98-yard drive with a two-yard touchdown run up the middle to make the Tigers' lead 14-0. The drive lasted almost six minutes, which was a huge change of pace for a team that tries to hike the ball as quickly as possible.
It was 28-6 Mizzou going into halftime. Rountree III tacked on his third score of the game with a one-yard run after a 50-yard catch by Hall. Hall seemed to score, but was ruled down at the one-foot line.
“I didn't know about that one,” Lock said. “His vertical off of his knee is higher than my normal vertical. I thought he bounced up and got in the air and fell into the end zone. In the end it's seven points, and I couldn't care less.”
Rountree III attempted to make Hall feel better about missing out on the touchdown after the play. “If you look at the video, I went to him after I scored and I told him 'That was your touchdown,’” Rountree III said.
Missouri looked pretty good in a convincing triumph over a crumbling Florida team that’s now lost four-straight. The Tigers will attempt to continue their winning streak when they host Tennessee in their final home game on November 11.
“They're aware of it but we won't talk about it in here,” Odom said when asked about the possibility of making a bowl game. “I'd love to talk about grander ideas and thoughts but I don't know that we can handle that. We've got something going right now that we have to focus on one day at a time. We do that, then all the other stuff will take care of itself.”
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Missouri Thumps Florida 45-16. Let the discussion begin.......Posted by Rock M Nation on Saturday, November 4, 2017