GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida-Missouri game ended with a similar score two years ago, only with a different outcome.
The Gators avenged their 42-13 homecoming loss to Mizzou in 2014 with a 40-14 win Saturday. There’s another similarity with those two games: The points for the winning team did not coincide with a strong offensive showing.
In 2014, the Tigers offense scored only 13 of their 42 points and produced just 119 yards. Their defense and return units accounted for the other 4 touchdowns.
UF had no trouble gaining yards Saturday, but the offense didn’t light up the scoreboard. Florida made another “DBU” statement with a pair of pick-6s, and Antonio Callaway returned an onside kick better than he does punts.
Offensively, though, the Gators managed 19 points.
“We’ve got some work to do,” UF coach Jim McElwain said. “I mean, guys, you saw it. We did some really good things, and then you shoot yourself in the foot. It’s hard to limp back.”
Quarterback Luke Del Rio misfired on more than a dozen passes and ended three drives with interceptions. The offense also jumped the gun eight times with false-start penalties.
“I thought Luke was a little off today, obviously,” McElwain said. “The turnovers are something that we’ve got to get corrected. The false start penalties, wow.”
Chalk it up to the rain, the flags or Del Rio’s rust, but this unit did not play as well as the box score suggests (523 yards). McElwain said after the game he laid into Del Rio, who finished 18 of 38 for 236 yards with 1 touchdown but committed the cardinal sin — throwing to the wrong color jersey.
“He got on me pretty good, but I don’t blame him,” Del Rio said. “It was not seeing guys, it was forcing it, just trying to make something happen when there’s no need.
“You’ve just got to take care of the ball. It’s like, 3 picks is awful. You can’t do that. You will lose a lot of those games. … I need to be better.”
Del Rio could’ve finished with 5 picks, but there’s a reason Missouri’s defensive backs don’t play wide receiver. He threw several passes into double coverage, which McElwain was asked about.
“Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah,” McElwain said. “It wasn’t good.”
But there were some positives Saturday. Running backs Lamical Perine and Jordan Scarlett both had 100-yard games, though 122 of their 207 combined yards came in the fourth quarter.
Tyrie Cleveland continued to emerge an as offensive weapon with a 46-yard catch and his first career touchdown.
“I like the parts that we’re getting in here,” McElwain said. “I think we’re getting some really explosive parts, and I’m excited about the direction we’re headed.”
But those pros aren’t outweighing the cons yet, and the negative plays have been hard for this offense to overcome during the course of a game.
“You can’t let that affect the rest of it,” McElwain said. “Hey, OK, something (bad) happens. Come back and win the next play. The mentality of winning the next play, they just have not kind of established yet.
“It’s like, ‘OK, now what’s going to happen?’ Instead of, ‘No, I’m going to go make something happen.’ And that’s where we’ve just got to continue to grow.”
In his return to the starting lineup, Del Rio said he wanted the offense to get back to having fun. That was hard to do at times, especially for him.
“It’s not fun to throw picks. It’s not fun to make bad reads and bad throws,” Del Rio said. “We’re a young team, but it’s part of growing up. I think I need to do a better job at leading guys and maintaining positivity even when things do go wrong. It’s not easy, but this is the reality of it.
“It’s very important for quarterbacks to be able to do that. I’m extremely competitive, so it’s always been a challenge for me to move on from a bad play because I want to make every play. But it’s just something you have to do.”
Perhaps it was even harder for Del Rio because he had not played in four weeks. But his feet are now wet (literally) and he’ll get another week off to digest this performance.
Former Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel also had three turnovers against Missouri on homecoming. At least Del Rio will be able to stomach his with a win.
“It’s big I think to try to get the bad taste out of your mouth, whether it’s a play, a quarter or a drive,” Del Rio said. “We need to get better at that because there were drives that got killed by penalties or sacks or whatever it is.
“There’s a little more execution and focus, consistency (that’s needed). … If you’re out there and you’re not enjoying yourself, or flustered, or frustrated, it’s not fun.”