Florida entered the third quarter of its homecoming game on Saturday night having held Missouri’s offense to under 100 total yards and quarterback Maty Mauk to 20 passing yards. After the third quarter ended, no Missouri receiver had eclipsed the 10-yard mark. Mauk wouldn’t throw for a positive yard in the second half and he finished the game with six completions. It should come as no surprise that the Tigers posted a season-low 121 total yards of offense.
Still, after the third quarter ended, Missouri led 42-7. The game ended 42-13. By many accounts, it was the most mortifying outing in recent Florida football history.
Most Gators fans couldn’t linger in The Swamp to witness the horrendous offensive effort that could prove to be the final straw for coach Will Muschamp. Some sat with faces in their hands, some slept, while others stared into the abyss, curious how a team with such immense talent has produced such an inept attack.
The bizarro box score isn’t short on highlights: Missouri recorded a season-low in total yards but produced its second-highest scoring game of the season. (It scored 49 points at Toledo on Sept. 6.) The Tigers scored on a kickoff return, a punt return, a pick-six and a fumble return for a touchdown as Florida turned the ball over six times. Mizzou had seven first downs; Florida had eight third-down conversions. The Tigers' yards per pass attempt was 1.1.
The Gators have a bye next week, and fans hammered social media to emphasize this was an even lower point than the program's 26-20 loss to Georgia Southern last November. Yes, worse than watching two linemen block each other on SportsCenter for weeks on end. No, Muschamp is not a suitable leader anymore.
The boos were overwhelming. The “Fire Muschamp” chant reverberating through the stadium was deafening. And this is what was audible through a TV screen.
For a program that has won three national titles in the last two decades, Saturday’s contest offered a macabre performance devoid not only of offensive structure, but also of any semblance of confidence from one of the nation’s most athletic rosters. Marcus Murphy’s kickoff return for a touchdown to open the game was deflating, but took up a mere 11 seconds. It was clearly enough to knock over the 2014 Florida Gators. It was the third time this season that Florida had been shut out in the first half. This is an offense led by quarterback Jeff Driskel, who was more revered as a recruit than Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley, Braxton Miller, Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel. Under Muschamp, he seems to have regressed.
Shortly after Murphy returned a punt 82 yards for a score to give the Tigers a 28-0 lead early in the third quarter, Driskel faced a third-and-nine at his 33-yard line. He absorbed a crushing blow from defensive end Shane Ray, fumbling into the arms of defensive lineman Markus Golden, who ran it back 21 yards into the end zone and celebrated by ferociously gator chomping. It was a grave dance. Surely, Florida would have been prideful enough to reject such treatment in its own stadium.
Instead, Driskel threw a pick-six on the next drive. Muschamp stared into space. Driskel walked, shoulders slumped, to the sidelines. They both arrived in 2011. This isn’t where they expected to be in '14.