To upset No. 9 Missouri, Gators must solve star RB Cody Schrader

Ed Zurga/Orlando Sentinel/TNS

GAINESVILLE — Florida’s hopes to upset No. 9 Missouri hinge on corralling running back Cody Schrader, one of the SEC’s most unique talents and stories.

Schrader’s rise from walk-on transfer at Division II Truman State to Tigers star is as improbable as his 321 yards from scrimmage during last Saturday’s 36-7 rout of Tennessee.

The 5-9, 214-pound senior will have the attention of a struggling Gators’ defense a week after it allowed a school-record 701 yards during a loss at LSU. Schrader ran roughshod over the Vols for 205 rushing yards and 116 more receiving.

In a league where Herschel Walker and Bo Jackson once reigned, Schrader became the first SEC player with a 200-yard rushing and 100-yard receiving game. He leads the conference with 1,124 yards on the ground.

Schrader’s considerable skill set is no more impressive for the St. Louis native’s path to the state’s flagship university. The 24-year-old opted for D-II after receiving no FBS offers despite rushing for more than 8,000 yards at Lutheran High School South.

“I love stories like that,” said UF coach Billy Napier, a Division I-A quarterback at Furman. “I’ve got respect for it. Certainly he’s part of the challenge when you play Mizzou. For the most part, he carries the load.”

Quick slant: Florida is 6-6 all-time against Missouri, including 2-3 in Columbia. The Gators have won three of the past four meetings. UF is 1-3 in games played in weather below 50 degrees; the forecast is for temperatures in the 30s. In 2019 at Louisiana, Napier lost twice to Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz during his only season at Appalachian State. Those were two of Napier’s three losses during his second season in Lafayette.

Coaches: Napier, 11-12 in 2nd season (51-24 overall); Drinkwitz, 25-21 in 4th season (37-22 overall)

About Florida:The Gators’ attack averages 27 points during its three-game losing streak while Missouri has scored at least 30 points in nine of 10 games. Quarterback Graham Mertz is a native of Kansas City who used to go to Mizzou games and has friends who attend the school. Mertz ranks first in the SEC in completion rate (73.3%) and has an 18-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Senior receiver Ricky Pearsall is third in the SEC in receptions (62) and fifth in receiving yards (876). Freshman Eugene Wilson II has 25 catches for 228 yards and 4 touchdowns the past three games. Tailback Trevor Etienne has 227 yards from scrimmage the past two games, averaging 6.9 yards per touch, and 4 scores. The Gators’ defensive collapse at LSU continued the unit’s free fall to the bottom of the national rankings in several key categories — tackles for loss (106th of 133), yards allowed per play (6.57, 129th), takeaways (7, 129th) and pass plays yielded of 40 yards or longer (133rd). Edge rusher Princely Umanmielen has 10 tackles for loss, including 5.5 sacks, and 13 of the team’s 25 quarterback hurries. Cornerback Jason Marshall has a team-high 8 pass break-ups but has allowed 4 touchdowns.

About Missouri: Schrader is far from a one-man show. Quarterback Brady Cook and receiver Luther Burden III, Missouri natives, take a backset to no one in the SEC as a passing combo. Burden has 68 catches for 984 yards and 8 touchdowns. Physical, 6-foot-2, 192-pound sidekick Theo Wease Jr. (43, 547, 5) causes his own set of problems for opponents. Cook has capitalized and boasts a 67.9% completion rate, 17 touchdown passes and averages 9.3 yards per attempt. Also helping is one of the SEC’s top offensive lines, anchored by preseason All-SEC guard Javon Foster and center Connor Tollison. The Tigers’ attack has grown during its first season under offensive coordinator Kirby Moore, who arrived this past offseason from Fresno State. Meanwhile, star cornerback Kris Abrams-Draine leads the SEC with 16 passes defended, including 4 interceptions. Rangy 6-foot-2, 218-pound safety Daylan Carnell is everywhere. He has 43 tackles, 5 for loss, 6 pass break-ups and 5 quarterback hurries. Former Florida linebacker Ty’Ron Hopper (team-leading 55 stops) has anchored the run defense, but is questionable with an ankle injury. Triston Newson has proven capable when called upon.

3 things to watch

Cook’s wheels. The Tigers’ signal-caller is not in the league of LSU’s Jayden Daniels or Arkansas’s KJ Jefferson, who had field days against Florida. But the Gators’ struggles containing running quarterbacks makes Cook doubly dangerous. He has rushed for 375 yards, not including sacks, and 6 touchdowns.

Mertz’s pass protection. Missouri’s 28 sacks rank fifth in the SEC and come from several sources. End Darius Robinson has a sack in six consecutive games, while bookend Johnny Walker Jr. of Tampa has 4. Hopper has 3 at linebacker and Carnell 2 from his safety position. The Tigers will keep Florida’s leaky offensive line (31 sacks allowed) on its toes, especially if left tackle Austin Barber (questionable, upper body) sits.

Kicking duel. With a game on the line, UF’s Trey Smack and Mizzou’s Harrison Mevis give their teams comfort and options. Smack is 14 of 16 on field goals, with two 54-yarders. Mevis is 18 of 24 because snapping and holding issues, but the 5-foot-11, 243-pound powerhouse has 13 50-yarders during his decorated career.

Where: Faurot Field

When: 7:30 p.m.

TV: ESPN; Radio: ESPN FM 98.1/AM 850 WRUF, Sirius/XM 384

Weather: 41 degrees, 2% rain chance

Favorite: Missouri by 11

Online:; @osgators on X.

Edgar Thompson can be reached at