Facing third and 4 deep in Florida territory, Missouri quarterback Drew Lock found Kendall Blanton in the corner of the south end zone to open the Tigers’ scoring on Saturday. Blanton barely kept his foot in but was able to give Missouri a 7-0 lead that it would never relinquish.
The play was the latest example of the Tigers’ ability to overcome a bad start and not let it linger the rest of the game as Missouri blew out the Gators 45-16 for its third consecutive win.
Missouri now sits at 4-5 with three games remaining as bowl chatter continues to pick up for Barry Odom’s team, while the temperature of his seat cools down.
Lock ended Missouri’s first series on offense with an interception in the end zone, after last week’s opening drive against Connecticut resulted in a safety. Lock threw into double-coverage on a play in which it appeared neither wide receivers Emanuel Hall nor Johnathon Johnson were expecting the ball.
After safety Anthony Sherrils, a Hogan Prep graduate, recovered a fumble off of a punt return halfway through the first quarter, Missouri’s drive started at the Gators’ 11-yard line. Lock connected with Blanton three plays later.
“He’s just focused,” Blanton said of Lock. “He’s on it in every aspect of the game. He’ll make a mistake, but he’s not letting that determine the next play. Mentally he’s different.”
Lock was at it again early in the second quarter. With Missouri getting the ball at its own 2-yard line, Lock led the Tigers on a 98-yard drive that ended with true freshman running back Larry Rountree rushing for a 2-yard score. Lock showed the versatility of the offense during the drive, using his own feet, in addition to his running backs, to pick up yardage and connecting with Hall for a 36-yard completion.
After a Florida field goal cut Missouri’s lead to 14-3, Lock found senior running back Ish Witter in the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown to make it 21-3.
Sherrils intercepted Gators quarterback Malik Zaire shortly after, giving Missouri excellent field position for the second time in the half. Rountree ran for a 21-yard touchdown two plays later, his second of three touchdowns on the day. Rountree rushed for a total of 83 yards Saturday.
Missouri’s first-team defense continued its strong play from recent weeks and limited the Gators to three field goals. Junior defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr. got his sixth sack of the season against Zaire late in the first half. Beckner has sacks in his last three games.
Florida got on the board with a 38-yard field goal halfway through the second quarter and scored its only touchdown late in the game after Odom had pulled his starters.
In the second half, Sherrils had a huge tackle for loss on third down deep in Missouri territory, forcing the Gators to settle for another field goal.
Lock connected with Hall late in the third quarter on a 49-yard completion that was initially ruled a touchdown but was called back after officials believed Hall’s knee was down a foot short of the goal line. Rountree scored his third touchdown of the day, giving Missouri all the breathing room it needed. Hall finished the day as Missouri’s leading receiver with 113 yards on five catches.
“It’s hard to guard a guy that’s a car moving down the field,” Blanton said of Hall. “That guy is fast. You have to respect him as a defense. You either have to put a safety on top of him or else whosoever man-on-man is in trouble.”
Lock, a Lee’s Summit native, finished the day 15 for 20 for 228 yards with three touchdowns and an interception.
His strong play has powered Missouri’s offense during its short winning streak. He has shown an improvement in both his decision-making and completion percentage.
Hall said that the offense has fed off Lock’s confidence and knows the momentum needs to continue if Missouri is to win at least two of its final three games to secure bowl eligibility, which would clarify Odom’s future in the process.
“I think he’s gotten so much confidence that all of his natural ability is starting to come out,” he said. “He’s throwing the best passes you can possibly throw. I don’t know how much better they can possibly be.”
Missouri 45, Florida 16
MIZ—Blanton 5 pass from Lock (McCann kick), 5:56
MIZ—Rountree 2 run (McCann kick), 10:36
FLA—FG Pineiro 38, 7:32
MIZ—Witter 15 pass from Lock (McCann kick), 5:39
MIZ—Rountree 21 run (McCann kick), 4:29
FLA—FG Pineiro 36, :00
FLA—FG Pineiro 24, 7:40
MIZ—Rountree 1 run (McCann kick), 2:58
MIZ—J.Moore 4 pass from Lock (McCann kick), 11:08
FLA—Perine 16 pass from Franks (Pineiro kick), 5:34
MIZ—FG McCann 42, :46
Time of Possession
RUSHING—Florida, Perine 19-66, Zaire 6-17, Lemons 3-8, M.Thompson 3-2. Missouri, Rountree 15-83, Witter 17-83, Lock 7-35, Mi.Wilson 4-17, Downing 3-9.
PASSING—Florida, Zaire 13-19-1-158, Franks 7-10-0-98. Missouri, Lock 15-20-1-228, Mi.Wilson 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING—Florida, B.Powell 5-70, Perine 4-30, Cleveland 3-46, Massey 2-75, Goolsby 2-15, Hammond 1-7, Lemons 1-7, M.Stephens 1-4, M.Thompson 1-2. Missouri, E.Hall 5-113, J.Moore 5-64, J.Johnson 2-28, Witter 1-15, Blanton 1-5, Floyd 1-3.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—None.