Florida hangs on at finish, beats Missouri

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange


GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida's defense intercepted a season-high four passes thrown by James Franklin of Missouri and the Gators managed to scrounge up enough offense to hold off the upset-minded Tigers, 14-7, on Saturday.
Florida (8-1, 7-1 in the SEC), which for the 12th time in school history has won seven conference games, wasn't assured of the victory until the final seconds of a tense game.
"We have to do what we have to do to win the game," Gators coach Will Muschamp said. "Our guys don't panic, our guys don't get flustered, and they just go out and play the game.
"They do what they are supposed to do to play within the scheme and the system and they play for each other. They have a very strong bond within the locker room, they really do."
Missouri (4-5, 1-5) shut Florida out for a half, extending the Gators' streak to six quarters without a touchdown.
"Florida did a great job and did what was necessary to win," coach Gary Pinkel of Missouri said. "I'm proud of our team; we battled. It was just one of those games where we had the chance to drive and tie the game at the end and we made probably too many mistakes.
"A lot of things happened in that game. ... There were a lot of good things but it was obviously very frustrating."
Florida had two big offensive plays to take the lead and Matt Elam and Jon Bostic killed a couple of late drive by the Tigers to set up a dramatic ending.
Franklin twice threw into the end zone in the closing seconds, with one pass falling incomplete and the other being intercepted.
"We like being out there if we are needed to win," Bostic said.
The Gators' Brad Phillips, kicking in place of injured Caleb Sturgis, kept things interesting by missing a 24-yard field goal attempt that would have locked up the game with under two minutes remaining.
Mistakes, once again, caused Florida fits.
"Obviously, we want to make plays," said Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel, who completed 12-of-23 passes for 106 yards. "We want to move it downfield and score touchdowns."
One of the biggest Gator gaffes came when Missouri linebacker Donovan Bonner forced the ball loose from Gators running back Mike Gillislee in the second quarter.
Defensive back E.J. Gaines recovered at the Florida 27. It was the 27th straight game in which Missouri has forced a turnover.
The miscue continued Florida's turnover problems, after the Gators gave the ball away six times in last week's 17-9 loss to Georgia when they could have clinched the SEC East.
"Good defenses do that and that's what our defense did, too," Pinkel said. "That's what good defenses do, they give your offense the opportunity to get back in it and that's what we did."
Franklin, who completed 24-of-51 passes for 236 yards, hit on passes of 13 and nine yards to get the ball to the Florida six-yard-line.
Kendial Lawrence carried the ball three straight times, the last for a one-yard touchdown. It was the first touchdown the Gators' have allowed at home against an SEC opponent in four games this season.
The Gators could have taken the lead first, but Sturgis's 47-yard field goal try was blocked by Missouri's Sheldon Richardson.
It was the third miss in 18 attempts this season for Sturgis, who sustained an ankle injury earlier in the week in practice and had to be replaced by Phillips.
Missouri lead, 7-0, at halftime, only the second time this season Florida failed to score in the first half. LSU led the Gators, 6-0, on Oct. 6.
Florida had another poor opening half offensively, gaining only 111 yards, 54 rushing. But the Gators finally found a little bit of offense in the third quarter and with the way the defense played a little was enough.
After punter Kyle Christy pinned Missouri at its three-yard-line, the Tigers had to punt from there and the Gators got the ball at the Missouri 40.
On second down, Florida went into the Wildcat formation and Omarius Hines took the ball on an end around all the way to the end zone from 36 yards away.
"When I got the ball I saw a big hole and I just took off," Hines said.
Florida, which got pep talks on Friday night from motivational speaker Tony Gaskins and ex-NFL star Chad Ochocinco, had a go-ahead score wiped away when Driskel's 45-yard touchdown pass to Frankie Hammond on the second play of the fourth quarter was called back on a holding call.
But the Gators came back with another big play when Driskel hit Gilislee on a short pass that he turned into a 45-yard score. It was Gilislee's first touchdown reception of the season.
Florida then fought off Franklin and Missouri for the rest of the game. The Tigers got the ball to the Florida 21 with 16 seconds left.
Franklin threw incomplete in the end zone on third down and his last pass was picked off in the end zone by Josh Evans with five seconds to play.
"I really felt as some point someone was going to break, either they were or we were," Florida defensive back Omar Hunter said. "Fortunately, it wasn't us."
NOTES: Linebacker Lerentee McCray (ankle), receiver/return man Andre Debose (leg) and offensive tackle Xaiver Knee (knee) of Florida did not dress for Saturday's game. ... The game was nowhere near a sellout, with thousands of empty seats. Florida announces only tickets distributed, not actual in-house attendance. ... Jaylen Watkins had his team-best third interception of the season for the Gators in the second quarter. ... Missouri offensive lineman Justin Britt left the game in the first half because of a knee sprain.