Gators look to return favor by ruining Missouri’s homecoming
Missouri ruined Florida’s homecoming last season.
The Tigers traveled to Gainesville and rolled through the Gators for a convincing 42-13 win.
“That was probably the lowest point of the year,” Florida junior defensive end Alex McCalister said. “That was homecoming. We came in and just let that team take everything from us.”
Now, the No. 11 Gators (5-0, 3-0 SEC) will have a chance to return the favor.
Florida is Missouri’s homecoming opponent this season, as the improved Gators will go on the road to take on the Tigers (4-1, 1-1 SEC) with revenge on their minds Saturday (7:30 p.m., SEC Network).
“That’s even more perfect,” McCalister said after he was informed Florida was Missouri’s homecoming opponent. “I didn’t know that. That’s better. Now I know.”
The Tigers have rolled over the Gators the past two seasons by a combined score of 78-30. Missouri is one victory away from joining Alabama and Auburn as the only SEC teams that currently hold a winning streak of three or more games against Florida.
“They embarrassed us,” Gators senior defensive back Brian Poole said of last year’s loss. “We don’t like that.”
But the back-to-back SEC East champion Tigers enter the matchup as 4.5-point underdogs after struggling offensively to start the season. Missouri is ranked 119th nationally in total offense with 322.4 yards per game and will start freshman quarterback Drew Lock for his second career start in place of the suspended Maty Mauk.
Lock threw for 136 yards and two touchdowns in a 24-10 win over South Carolina last week in his first career start.
On Florida’s side, quarterback play is trending up. After inconsistent play through his first three career starts, Gators redshirt freshman Will Grier turned in his best performance with four touchdown passes and no interceptions in a statement win over then-third-ranked Ole Miss last week to become the first Florida quarterback since Tim Tebow to throw for 250 or more yards in consecutive games.
“It’s the greatest team sport except for one spot, and that’s quarterback,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. “That’s the spot where the guy touches the ball 75 or so times a game and that guy really is going to influence the success of the team. That right now is the difference (with the Gators). They’ve had some ups and downs in the past at quarterback. (Grier) is really playing well and I’m really impressed.”
Both defenses are strong, though. Missouri ranks eighth nationally in total defense and Florida is 22nd.
And even though Florida enters as the favorite, it has plenty of motivation on its side. Gators coach Jim McElwain won’t let his players forget about it either.
“It’s one of those deals that I’m sure based on that history,” McElwain said, “Missouri felt pretty good about us being their homecoming (opponent).”