Good, Bad and Ugly: Florida football’s ship continues to sink at Missouri

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Florida football lost an overtime nail-biter on the road against the Missouri Tigers on Saturday, putting its postseason hopes in peril and resulting in the dismissal of head coach Dan Mullen less than 24 hours after the defeat. The game overall was not what most fans expected, with the defense showing up to play against the best running back in the conference while the offense went completely limp against a poor Mizzou D.

The long story short in this one was that the Gators once again managed to seize defeat from the jaws of victory through a carousel of incompetency from its units. Sure, they were able to keep the Tigers’ running game at bay for the most part, but Florida gave up big plays in the air (and later on on the ground) and could not find any answers in its own once-vaunted ground assault. In the end, it resulted in an overtime loss and the end of the Mullen era.

The staff here at Gators Wire submitted their takes in a Sunday roundtable, which we present in our weekly Good, Bad and Ugly feature. Read below our respective post mortem of the final nail in the head coach’s coffin.

Adam Dubbin - Managing Editor

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

GOOD: Well, the defense for all intents and purposes came alive and slowed down one of the best running backs in the nation, though an uncomfortable amount of big plays were still allowed. Nonetheless, it seemed like there were fewer missed tackles and the opposition didn’t have a cheat code for their running game. For the most part, the D played a bend-but-don’t-break style of game that almost was enough to prevail.

BAD: Florida’s running game. Where art thou, Dameon Pierce? He once again got insufficient touches to make a significant impact but his fellow RBs failed to make any impact either. A lot of this falls on the offensive line, which gave up a season-high five sacks on Saturday, which ended up being a significant Achilles heel.

UGLY: This is the first time Florida has finished with just a pair of SEC wins since 1986 (beck when we had to listen to all the games on the radio) among other horrible historical facts I’ll spare you. This loss makes next weekend’s matchup with FSU even more disconcerting.

Tyler Nettuno - Assistant Editor/Writer

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

GOOD: For the first time in nearly a month, Florida’s defense showed up in this game. Tyler Badie had the quality game you would expect him to have, but it didn’t translate to many points on the scoreboard, and quarterback Connor Bazelak struggled to do much, save for a handful of big plays. Credit to interim defensive coordinator Christian Robinson, who is in a tough spot but got these guys motivated after last week’s defensive clunker. Emory Jones also had a solid game and Jacob Copeland crossed the 100-yard threshold. It just wasn’t enough.

BAD: Remember when Florida had the best non-service academy run game in college football? Me neither. This team has inexplicably struggled in the run game in recent weeks, but this game was the pinnacle. Missouri entered with the second-worst run defense in the country. It allowed just 93 yards on 38 (!) attempts. Dameon Pierce once again saw just seven carries, and it’s hard to understand why this team doesn’t get the ball in the hands of its best offensive player.

UGLY: Dan Mullen’s decision to play for overtime with more than a minute left on the clock was reminiscent of his lack of aggressiveness at the end of the first half in the Kentucky game. I’m not sure why he doesn’t have faith in his offense, but it cost him once again. The Gators will win just two games in the SEC for the first time since 1986, and they finish 2-6 in SEC play for the first time ever. This game may have sealed the fate of the Dan Mullen era. [Editor’s note: It did.]

Pat Dooley - Staff Writer

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

GOOD: Florida’s defense finally showed a pulse. The Gators stuffed Tyler Badie in the first half and holding a team to one touchdown is usually the recipe to a win. It was pretty evident that these guys were not mailing it in as we assumed after the Samford game. “We played lights out,” said defensive tackle Antonio Valentino. “A lot of people questioned our desire to play. I thought our defense came together.” Overtime was a bit of a mess, however.

BAD: Once again, a defense was able to take the running game away from Florida even though it came into the game ranked NEXT TO LAST in the country in rushing defense. Florida’s offensive line – which had a bunch of guys who had to come in and out of the game with injuries – was the culprit. They were awful, whether it was opening holes for the running game or protecting the passer.

UGLY: Mullen might have sealed his fate with the decision not to try to score with 1:04 to play. This again goes back to his lack of trust in his starting quarterback and certainly in his back-up, who never sniffed the field Saturday (although Mullen said he was banged up). You are either a guy who goes for things or not and I don’t think Florida hired a guy who does not. “We were (going to try to score),” Mullen said. “But we called a draw and our running back slipped. That slowed us down right there.”

David Rosenberg - Staff Writer

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

GOOD: The defense bottled up the SEC’s best running back for at least the first half of the game, which was pleasantly unexpected. It wasn’t enough to win the game, but it’s the best we’ve seen from that unit in weeks. Jacob Copeland also managed to finally have a breakout game with 102 yards on eight receptions. He might not need 13 targets a game, but getting Copeland more involved is a good thing for Florida.

BAD: You wouldn’t be able to tell that the Gators were once the best running team in the country with the way they played against Missouri, but it was true at one point. The team’s best running back this season, Dameon Pierce, finished with only seven yards on seven carries after averaging over six yards a carry all season. As is often the case with Florida, the quarterback finished with double the carries of any one running back on the team. Emory Jones ran the ball 17 times for just 45 yards against one of the country’s worst run defenses.

UGLY: The Gators will finish the season 0-4 on the road against conference opponents this year, and it’s truly impressive how many ways the team has found to lose. Kentucky’s crowd noise affected Florida early and the Gators shot themselves in the feet with over a dozen penalties. The defense had its first epic collapse against Ty Davis-Price and LSU in Baton Rouge and then gave up 40 at South Carolina. This time around it was the offense that couldn’t get things going when they should have been able to. What’s it called when a coach can’t get his team to put it all together one time in a season? Oh yeah, trouble.

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