Florida football traveled to Columbia, Missouri, to face the No. 11 Missouri Tigers on a cold Saturday night and nearly pulled off the upset, but instead, came away with a 33-31 loss with just one game remaining on the schedule.
Make no mistake, it was a thrilling matchup between two Southeastern Conference programs heading in different directions that saw an impressive output from both squads. The defense, however… that was another story.
Nonetheless, when the final horn sounded, the Orange and Blue found themselves with their sixth loss of the season and one last chance against the Florida State Seminoles next week. They will try to earn a bowl berth without their starting quarterback, Graham Mertz, who left this one with a shoulder injury.
In the meantime, the Gators Wire gang convened to give their respective takes on the heartbreaking loss in the heartland. Take a look at what we had to offer.
Adam Dubbin - Managing Editor
GOOD: The offense came to play once again, and despite losing the starting QB, still managed to keep pressing until the final horn. Max Brown’s fumble and Mertz’s tipped INT were the black eyes for the corps, but otherwise, this was a performance Gators fans can be proud of.
Gold star to the running game, which posted nearly 100 more yards than Mizzou’s seemingly unstoppable ground attack.
BAD: The defense once again played a bend-don’t-break approach that broke more often than not. The corps gave up some big plays and looked like the opposition was covered in Vaseline when it came to tackling.
Especially the final drive, where Florida had Missouri down to 4th and 17… and then proceeded to allow them to march down the field for the game-winning field goal.
UGLY: It was an ugly game when it came to penalties — once again — that threatened to hamstring the Orange and Blue. It is hard to find a rhythm when you have flags pulled on you nine times. Additionally, Florida lost the turnover margin once again which pretty much spells doom for this squad.
David Rosenberg - Assistant Editor
GOOD: Ricky Pearsall is looking more and more like a complete receiver each week, and he only needed to touch the ball three times against Missouri to keep Florida in it. This team can score, but the defense is going to bury them every time…
BAD: Two turnovers proved costly for Florida, especially since the defense couldn’t secure its own takeaway in the game. Florida’s defense has had trouble forcing turnovers all year long, and it’s an area the team needs to improve on next year. With one game left against No. 4 LSU, the book is pretty much written on this secondary.
UGLY: The poorly timed penalties were perhaps more costly than the turnovers, but my UGLY this week has to be everything that happened after fourth-and-17. Allowing Mizzou to convert there was bad enough, but watching the Tigers March down the field for a chip shot after the fact puts your stomach in knots.
Pat Dooley - Staff Writer
GOOD: Trevor Etienne was hardly used in the first half as Florida ran the ball (Etienne had two touches). But he exploded in the second half with two touchdowns and 119 all-purpose yards on a total of 17 touches. He just looked so quick out there.
BAD: Remember way back when everyone thought Florida’s defense was really good this year? On Saturday night, they only gave up 508 yards and 33 points. The worst part was that 54 of those yards came after Florida had put itself in position to win the game.
UGLY: Florida only had 47 yards in penalties, but they all seemed to be big ones (mostly false starts) that kept the offense behind the chains a lot. At one point, Billy Napier said to the officials, “Who jumped?” Well, everybody for the most part.
Jesse Richardson - Staff Writer
GOOD: I’m going to hand my props over to Florida backup QB Max Brown, who stepped up big-time to replace Graham Mertz when the Gators were in dire need of a score. The botched handoff during his first drive almost spelled the end for the Gators, but he found a way to redeem himself and get the job done to put the Gators ahead on the scoreboard.
The weight of the world was on his shoulders, taking over the offense in a hostile environment with bowl eligibility on the line. Brown put the Gators in a position to win, but the defense faltered.
BAD: Hopes of playing in a bowl game this season is probably gone, right? The game-winning field goal by Missouri almost feels like the final nail in the coffin for the 2023 season and is a picture-perfect metaphor for how the Gators have performed. Florida has come up short several times this season when it matters most, and it looks like it’s time to put our eggs into next year’s basket.
UGLY: Remember when milk cartons used to print “missing child” on the side? Society should bring that back and put the Florida Gators’ defense in the first edition. The offense is wringing out every ounce of effort they have to gain a lead, only for the defense to give up another scoring drive and leave Florida fans helpless.