Defense Gets Gators Started In Win Against Missouri

The Gators are now in sole possession of the SEC East after a win over Missouri

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Gators (5-1, 3-1 SEC) defeated the Missouri Tigers (2-4, 0-3 SEC) by a score of 40-14 on Saturday. With the Tennessee Volunteers losing to Alabama, the Gators have now moved into first place in the SEC East.

The Gators dominated Missouri all game, even though the offense could not find the end zone for the first 40 minutes.

Florida’s first nine possessions totaled for 250 yards on 59 plays. Of those nine, Luke Del Rio threw interceptions on three, with the second one coming just as the first half expired. Kicker Eddy Pineiro made field goals from 53 and 24 yards, but he missed a 32 yard attempt on the Gators first drive.

This game was won by the Florida defense, as they forced Missouri quarterback Drew Lock into making tough throws. He finished the game 4-of-18 with 39 yards and a pair of interceptions.

In the first half, Lock was 3-of-12 with 25 yards and two pick sixes. Those interceptions were on Missouri’s last two drives of the half. The first one was intercepted by Teez Tabor, after he jumped a pass attempted to running back Damarea Crockett. Of courseafter Tabor had an interception, Quincy Wilson needed to get one. Wilson had two interceptions this year coming into the game. In both games, three series after his interception, Tabor had one. Against Vanderbilt, Tabor had a pick and Wilson did not. So naturally on Saturday, Wilson intercepted a pass and took it 78 yards to the house the drive after Tabor’s.

Tabor and Wilson have been phenomenal for the Gators at cornerback, and both are projected to be first round picks in the 2017 NFL draft if they decide to forgo their senior seasons. Along with Marcus Maye and Nick Washington or Marcell Harris at the safety spotsthe Florida secondary is arguably the best in the nation.

Tabor has been getting more hype than Wilson, but it is Wilson who has allowed a 0.4 QB rating on passes thrown his way this year. After the interceptions, the Gators were up 20-7 at halftime. The second half did not start well for the Gators, with a Missouri touchdown following a Del Rio interception.

The Gator offense finally started to make plays in Missouri’s half of the field. Freshman wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland caught his first touchdown pass of the year, to make the score 26-7.

Cleveland has emerged as a playmaker over the past few games. He had a slow start this season due to a hamstring injury and a suspension after a BB gun incident in a dorm, has been a solid contributor as of late. He is averaging 20.7 yards per catch this season.

Another freshman on the offensive side of the ball who is showing he deserves playing time is running back Lamical Perine. Perine had 106 rushing yards on 11 carries, along with a 31-yard catch. He became the seventh Gator running back with multiple 100-yard games in their freshman year, joining Jeff Demps, Fred Taylor, Errict Rhett, Emmitt Smith, Neal Anderson and Tony Green. Perine has become the clear-cut second best back on this team, behind Jordan Scarlett, and ahead of Mark Thompson and Jordan Cronkrite.

Scarlett had 12 carries for 106 yards, but fumbled at the opponents one yard line for the second consecutive gameHe leads the team with five touchdowns, but he will have to hold on to the ball if he wants to see goal line carries in the future.

Linebacker Jarrad Davis suffered a high ankle sprain during the gameand his status for the Georgia game is uncertain. Losing Davis would be a big blow for the Gators defense, as Davis is their defensive leader. If he cannot play, freshman David Reese will start in his place. The Gators have a bye this week and will play the Georgia Bulldogs (4-3, 2-3 SEC) in Jacksonville on October 29th.

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