It had been a long six weeks since Drew Lock had his No. 1 receiver to throw to.
In fact, Emanuel Hall hadn’t even caught a pass since Missouri’s Week 3 win over Purdue, as he dealt with a groin injury that limited him throughout that game and the ensuing game against Georgia. Hall, who had been one of the top receivers in the Southeastern Conference through the first three weeks, was almost nonexistent against the Bulldogs, not even catching a single pass as the injury limited him against one of the nation’s top teams.
He didn’t make the trip to South Carolina the week after as he stayed in Columbia to rehab, and he then hit another road block with the death of his father. It came just two days prior to the Tigers’ road tilt with Alabama, and Hall stayed in Tennessee to attend his father’s funeral the next Saturday while Missouri knocked off Memphis.
There was hope Hall would finally play against Kentucky — a game in which the Tigers could’ve used him as they watched the offense stagnate in the second half — but he was once again ruled out.
But Saturday against Florida, Hall made his triumphant return.
He wasn’t in the starting lineup, but it didn’t take long for him hit the field. On Missouri’s fourth play from scrimmage, Lock looked for Hall deep down the left sideline, but the ball bounced off the helmet of a Gators defender. Lock tried to hit Hall again later in the quarter, but the ball fell incomplete.
It wasn’t until the Tigers’ third drive that the two finally connected.
After Lock and Larry Rountree III led Missouri into Florida territory, Lock finally found Hall on an 11-yard sideline pass, his first reception for the Tigers in about a month and a half.
Hall and Lock are known for their deep-ball chemistry, though, and that took until the second quarter to get going. Hall broke past the corner on a go-route, and Lock hit him perfectly on the run for a 41-yard connection to get Missouri to the Gators’ 13.
Overall, Hall led all receivers (are we really all that surprised?) with 77 yards on four catches. His return was capped off with a four-yard touchdown reception on a slant route with five minutes left in the third quarter — his first touchdown since Sept. 8.
Hall’s contributions to the Tigers’ attack came on more than just the stat sheet, though.
With his top receiver finally back in the fold, Lock had the receiver on the field that he had spent his entire Missouri career throwing to; Hall’s return kept the pressure off of freshmen receivers like Jalen Knox and Kam Scott to carry the load in the receiving corps; And having Hall out wide kept Florida’s secondary honest, as the Gators couldn’t cheat to cover the middle of the field with a nine-ball threat like Hall hungry for one-on-one matchups down the sideline.
Overall, the Tigers’ offense is much better off with Hall around and healthy. This could be seen when Missouri barely squeaked out a win over Purdue as Hall missed a majority of the game, and it stood out as the Tigers went 1-4 in the ensuing five games when he was either limited or out of the game completely.
Hall is one of Missouri’s most dangerous weapons on offense, and with the Tigers needing a win over Florida to salvage any sort of a successful season, Hall’s return couldn’t have come at a better time.