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Here are a dozen observations from Florida's 36-17 loss to SEC East leader Missouri.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME
For the second-straight week, freshman running back Kelvin Taylor was the most productive player on the offensive side of the ball, gaining 74 yards on 12 carries and registering his first career rushing touchdown. The score ended a 109:01 drought for the Gators, which had not found the end zone on offense since the end of the Arkansas game on Oct. 5. Over the last two games, Taylor has amassed 126 yards on 22 carries. He has been the lone bright spot on a Florida offense that has regressed in a major way…yet for some reason the coaching staff sees no reason to give him a significant number of carries even after he proves to be the hot hand in a game.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME
Sophomore defensive back Brian Poole was a few inches away from a monster game but still played incredibly well. He registered an interception (with a 30-yard return) along with two tackles for loss and a pass defense in the contest. Poole dropped another potential interception and was not the only one to do that on Saturday. Senior Jaylen Watkins also deserves commendation for his touchdown-saving pass breakups and overall solid game while taking on even more responsibility than he has been asked to shoulder all season.
UNSUNG HERO OF THE GAME
One week after the Gators had a kicker listed here, freshman punter Johnny Townsend takes over the spot. With junior Kyle Christy struggling mightily, Townsend started and played in his first career game on Saturday and played pretty well all things considering. He punted eight times for 365 yards with a long of 61 and two touchbacks, one of which was inches away from being downed at the one-yard line. While he did not boom the ball every time, Townsend averaged 45.6 yards per punt and looked better than Christy has at any point this season.
STAT LINES OF THE GAME
-45, which represents how many yards redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy lost due to being sacked six times on the afternoon. The Gators' offense line was atrocious with redshirt sophomore right tackle Tyler Moore playing especially terrible. Murphy had absolutely no time to throw and was either hit or pressured on seemingly every passing play. Murphy missed some tosses on his own, no doubt about it, but when you don't have confidence in your protection, you tend to make those types of mistakes. He averaged just 6.1 yards per completion in the game.
ON THE RISE
Senior wideout Solomon Patton continued to showcase his improved level of play, returning a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown and leading Florida's pass catchers with six receptions for 46 yards. His touchdown right out of the half gave the Gators momentum, something they squandered immediately, and he joined Taylor as the only two players that made Florida's offense look like it had any life whatsoever.
ON THE BUBBLE
There is simply no way UF can continue starting Moore at right tackle. He's become a turnstile when he's not committing penalties and is therefore a huge liability on the field. The Gators' entire offensive line deserves blame and no one's job should be safe…but Florida does not have much of a choice considering how thin it is in the position group. Speaking of jobs on the line, don't be surprised if offensive line coach Tim Davis becomes a deserving scapegoat and gets the axe during the bye week. He's neither the man in charge of the team nor the offense but his unit is underperforming worse than any in the program at this point in time.
No matter how bad you might have thought the Gators were entering Saturday's game, Florida looked and played much worse. UF appeared absolutely inept in what was undoubtedly a winnable game despite the lopsided final score.
Head coach Will Muschamp has criticized his defense plenty this season, often nit-picking while trying to take some of the heat off the offense. He was right to be angry this week as Florida's top-ranked defense allowed Missouri to rack up 500 yards of offense, the most UF has allowed in a single game since the 2008 Capital One Bowl against Michigan. The defense has not registered a single sack in the last two weeks, the defensive line got gashed up the middle (granted, it was missing yet another starter), and the secondary was dominated by a couple of big, talented receivers. The offense was atrocious on Saturday, but the defense was nearly as horrendous.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Usually this spot is reserved for a positive play, so Patton's kickoff return, Poole's interception or Taylor's 20-yard touchdown would all fit nicely. This week, the play of the game was the very first of the contest, a 41 yard completion from Mizzou QB Maty Mauk to WR L'Damian Washington. But it was not the completion that made a mark on the contest; rather it was the tackle by redshirt junior safety Cody Riggs and the subsequent targeting penalty that forced him out of the game. As if Florida was not facing enough adversity entering Saturday's game, the Gators got a kick in the lower region just seconds after the opening kickoff.
THE GOOD NEWS
Florida cannot lose next week. The Gators have a bye and may, possibly, be able to regroup and save their season by becoming bowl eligible and putting together some respectable performances.
THE BAD NEWS
Florida's players spent all week talking about how they controlled their own destiny, and guess what, they were right. The Gators are now two games back in the SEC East and still have some incredibly tough opponents ahead including Georgia, South Carolina and a Vanderbilt team that just took down UGA. Granted, all three teams have their flaws and bad losses this season, but none has looked as bad in a single game as UF did on Saturday.
A LOOK AHEAD
As mentioned earlier, Florida has a bye week before squaring off with Georgia in the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. Muschamp is 0-2 against the Bulldogs during his tenure with the Gators. And while a loss is unlikely to end his career at Florida - it would be a shocker if he does not get at least one more year at the helm - dropping three-straight games to Georgia will certainly do nothing to help his case in the eyes of Gator Nation or athletic director Jeremy Foley.