A Thorn in Florida's Side, Missouri Always Presents a "Trap Game"
In recent years (since 2012), the Missouri Tigers have been a constant thorn in the side of the Florida football program.
When Missouri joined the SEC in 2012, I think everyone let out a chuckle — one that questioned whether or not the third Tiger team to join the conference could stay afloat.
And after a 2-6 SEC outing in 2012, things weren’t looking great for the conference’s new member.
However, a year later, the Missouri Tigers made a tremendous improvement in conference play going 7-1 and winning the eastern division.
In week seven, the No. 22 ranked Florida Gators visited Columbia, Missouri for the first time in the program’s history. The Gators’ business trip to Columbia didnt end well after they were dismantled by a Gary Pinkel led Missouri team in a 36-17 loss.
And from that point on, Missouri wasn’t circled on Florida’s calendar. It wasn’t in a box. It wasn’t crossed out with a big, red ‘X’.
Instead, it was annotated with a question mark.
No matter Florida’s record, no matter Missouri’s record, the Florida-Missouri game always came with questions.
Following the 36-17 loss in 2013, 2014 didn’t prove any better for the Gators when the Tigers came into town and curb-stomped Will Muschamp’s Gators, 42-13.
The Gators’ bout against the Tigers was ultimately decided on the opening kickoff.
My family and I were in attendance that day and had our back to the football field getting our picture taken by a family a couple rows above us. By the time we had turned around, it was just in time to see Marcus Murphy get into the end zone after taking the opening kickoff 96-yards to the house.
After just two minutes into the third quarter, Murphy returned another kick — this time a punt that went 82-yards the opposite direction, good for a 28-0 lead over Florida.
The Tigers topped the third quarter off with two defensive scores after Marcus Golden returned a fumble for 21-yards and Darvin Ruise took an interception 46-yards to the end zone.
In the two years to follow, Florida snapped the two-loss skid to Missouri in 21-3 and 40-14 victories. However, in the two most recent seasons, the Gators fell to Missouri in back-to-back games again.
In 2017, Randy Shannon was serving as the interim head coach for the Gators just a week after Jim McElwain’s firing post-Georgia game.
Despite being known to ride on the shoulders of then-quarterback, Drew Lock, the Tigers opened the game against the Gators with a run-heavy approach. Then freshman, Larry Rountree III, helped in the 45-16 torching of the Gators with 83-yards and three touchdown rushes. Lock and the Tiger receiving corps added three other touchdowns to seal the win in Columbia.
Meanwhile, a year later, the Gators had posted a better-than-expected opening season under Dan Mullen. However, the Gators were coming off of yet another loss to the Georgia Bulldogs.
And a visit from the “sleeper” Tigers had the words “trap game” all over it.
While the year prior the Tigers thumped the Gators early with a heavy rushing attack, in 2018 the Florida fans and players alike would get to see with their own two eyes why Drew Lock had the NFL world buzzing.
In a 24-for-32 performance, it seemed as though Lock came in to the game with the intentions of exposing the Gator defensive backs.
In four quarters, Lock was accountable for three touchdowns while running backs, Rountree and Crockett added two more with their legs in a 38-17 victory over the Gators.
Why is it that these guys always manage to rain on Florida’s parade?
While the same can be asked of UGA’s Jake Fromm always having career performances against the Gators, Missouri’s success against Florida is just odd. With the exception of 2013, the Tigers haven’t found much success in the SEC. Most seasons they find themselves in, say, the third tier of the conference.
You have the two or three teams who have a reasonable shot at Atlanta in tier one (LSU, BAMA and UGA this year), followed by those who will at least challenge the contenders in tier two (UF and AU this year) while tier three is constructed of just mediocre teams — they’ll win the easy ones and pull an upset or two (SCAR, TAMU and UT this year).
Everyone else falls into the fourth tier of the conference, which, to say the least, isn’t a place you want to be.
This year, the Tigers have toed the line of the third and fourth tier. Had it not been for an upsetting loss to Vanderbilt, Missouri would likely get the push they needed to get into that third tier.
Though this is of course subjective and my opinion. My point is, Missouri is rarely a head-turner. Rarely are they favored to win their division, let alone the conference. Though I will say that the media was pretty high on Barry Odom’s Tigers heading into this season. With former Clemson quarterback, Kelly Bryant, under center, Missouri was expected to continued on from where Drew Lock and Co. left off.
However, in a season that has seen Bryant throw five interceptions through eight games, the Missouri offense hasn’t been at a very high caliber. Ranked tenth in the SEC, the Tigers are averaging 402 yards per game.
Yet, this isn’t said to discredit the Tigers. In fact, like Dan Mullen pointed out in his Monday press conference, the Tigers are very good at home.
“You know, they're averaging 40 points a game at home, they're undefeated at home, I think they've blown out just about everybody that's come in there. Play at their place, you know, so they're a team that plays with a lot of confidence at home and has played extremely well this season.”
While Mullen’s Gators are already a step ahead of last year in the fact that they bounced back from a Georgia loss with a 56-0 blanking of the same Vanderbilt team that beat Missouri earlier this year, as always, a game against Missouri has Gators anxious.
So as the Tigers have continuously driven themselves into the flesh of the Florida football program, come Saturday, it will be up to the Gators to pluck that thorn out of their side and end another two-game skid to Missouri.