The Missouri Tigers traveled to The Swamp Saturday to face the Florida Gators in a matchup of two Southeastern Conference programs still searching for their first SEC victories of the season.
With both teams searching for consistency, Florida prevailed 24-17 behind its run-heavy offensive scheme. Mizzou stifled the Gators’ offense throughout the first half, but the Tigers could not keep the pressure alive in the second half en route to another road SEC defeat.
A staunch Mizzou defense, anchored by defensive back Ennis Rakestraw, Jr., overwhelmed the Florida offense early, providing quite the challenge for Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson. Despite the challenge, however, a familiar story did the Tigers in early.
Midway through the first quarter, Mizzou punted the ball away following its second consecutive offensive possession that stalled after a promising start. Florida wide receiver Xzavier Henderson broke free for a 48-yard return to set the Gators up at the Tigers’ 24-yard-line.
Even with the promising field position, however, the Florida offense met its match, gaining only four yards en route to a 37-yard field goal make from kicker Adam Mihalek.
On the ensuing Tigers’ possession, quarterback Brady Cook missed his mark on a first down pass to wide receiver Luther Burden III. Cook looked for Burden again two plays later, only for his ill-advised pass to land in the awaiting grasp of cornerback Jaydon Hill, who returned his first-career interception 49 yards for a touchdown.
After Mizzou’s next drive stalled out once again near midfield, Florida received an opportunity to put the pressure on the Tigers’ offense. The Gators worked themselves to the Mizzou 33-yard-line, setting up a 50-yard field goal attempt, but Mihalek missed wide left.
Given a plot twist, the Tigers flipped the script on Florida.
Mizzou pieced together an 11-play, 67-yard drive punctuated by running back Cody Schrader’s five-yard touchdown run to put the Tigers within three at 10-7. Fellow running back Nathaniel Peat made the score possible with a 28-yard rush of his own, gashing through Flordia’s SEC-worst rush defense.
Needing a big stop to limit the explosive Gators’ defense, the Mizzou defense did what it’s done all season— responded.
Facing a 3rd & 5, DJ Coleman fought through the offensive line and delivered a strip sack on Richardson. Defensive lineman Dameon Wilson recovered the fumble at the Florida 32-yard-line, giving the Tigers prime field position.
Mizzou forced its way within the Gators’ 10-yard-line, but stalled again. The Tigers settled for a 28-yard field goal from Mevis to tie the game, but they left points off the board again.
Entering halftime in a 10-10 tie, the statistics showed anything but that. Mizzou led Florida in total yards (196-65), first downs (11-3) and total plays (40-19). Sadly, the fairytale start for the Tigers’ defense would not continue.
Florida running back Montrell Johnson, Jr. flew through the middle of the field for a 41-yard gain on the Gators’ second play of the half, setting Mihalek up for a 47-yard field goal attempt. The redshirt freshman kicker missed his second consecutive attempt, giving Mizzou strong field position.
After a 16-yard rush from Peat, however, the offense punted it right back. The Florida offense capitalized on its newfound momentum, notching runs of 39 yards and 32 yards from Trevor Etienne and Richardson, respectively. The latter of which set the Gators up for Johnson Jr.’s three-yard touchdown rush to make it 17-10 midway through the third quarter.
In response, Mizzou, behind an efficient Cook, worked itself into the Florida red zone. However, the 12-play, 59-yard drive came to a screeching halt as Cook looked toward receiver Tauskie Dove and threw another interception to Hill. The physicality of the Gators’ defense created the mismatch, as both Dove and receiver Mookie Cooper looked overpowered.
Florida capitalized on the takeaway with its most efficient drive of the afternoon, needing only six plays to work 82 yards down the field for a touchdown. The drive featured booming 36-yard rush from Johnson, Jr., while Richardson found receiver Ricky Pearsall for a nine-yard touchdown catch.
Facing a must-score drive, Cook worked some magic:
- He found Cooper on a 28-yard competition on the drive’s second play.
- Then, with a 3rd & 22, Cook found Schrader in the left flat for a 27-yard conversion.
- Three plays later, on a 3rd & 15, Cook connected with receiver Mekhi Miller for an 18-yard competition before Peat capped the drive with an 18-yard rush touchdown.
The success translated on defense, where ‘STAR’ Daylan Carnell intercepted a tipped pass by Jaylon Carlies on a 3rd & 14 to give the Tigers one final opportunity.
Cook responded with another third down and long conversion, finding Miller for 20 yards on 3rd & 18. The comeback fell short four plays later, however, when Cook missed Dove on a fourth down try that may have featured a botched DPI call.
For the third consecutive game, Mizzou lost a one-score game to an SEC opponent.
Cook finished the game with 220 yards on 22-30 passing with two interceptions. Peat finished with a career-high 117 yards on the ground, including the late touchdown.
The Mizzou defense held Richardson to just 66 yards passing, but Florida pounded the run game for 231 yards. Johnson Jr. and Etienne recorded 86 and 83 yards, respectively, while Richardson added 45 yards of his own.
In the end, however, familiar flaws cost Mizzou. The Tigers committed six penalties for 55 yards, two turnovers and failed to score touchdowns in the red zone. Eliah Drinkwitz fell to 2-10 on the road in his tenure, while Mizzou dropped to 2-4 (0-3 SEC) on the season. A bye week awaits before the Tigers face Vanderbilt for Homecoming on Oct. 22.