Florida came to Columbia, Missouri with even the best possible SEC outcomes theoretically in its grasp. On a bright, clear Saturday, though, the Tigers wrenched all the good fates out of the Gators' hands — and left Florida searching for answers after a 36-17 loss.
Missouri put up 500 yards of total offense on Florida, a new high for Florida under Will Muschamp. Henry Josey ran for 136 yards, the most any player's gotten against this Gators defense this year — and Maty Mauk's 295 passing yards were a high for a quarterback playing against Florida, too.
And a Florida team that prided itself on playing well in the fourth quarter throughout 2012 got outscored by a 13-0 margin by the Tigers in the final stanza on this afternoon, turning a reasonable 23-17 deficit into the final margin.
Missouri's dominance began early, with Mauk hitting L'Damian Washington over Vernon Hargreaves III for 41 yards on the first play from scrimmage, and never let up. The Tigers scored on eight possessions, and gave up just one drive of more than 18 yards to the Gators — a 70-yard touchdown trip in the third quarter that featured Kelvin Taylor heavily. And though Taylor's touchdown was one of two Gators scores in the third quarter — wide receiver Solomon Patton jolted the Gators alive by bringing back the second half's opening kickoff for a touchdown — Florida never got within six points of Missouri after the Tigers' opening drive.
Taylor ran for 74 yards on just 12 carries and scored Florida's only offensive touchdown of the day, but after that drive, he got just one more carry, with Florida following his success with a perplexing pass-pass-pass three-and-out. And Florida did virtually nothing in the passing game all day, with a besieged Tyler Murphy getting sacked six times and completing 15 passes for a tidy 92 yards.
This was an immensely frustrating game, one in which Florida had three turnovers and the same number of conversions on 15 third down attempts, and, despite the many injuries that have left Florida seriously short-handed, it is likely to inflame a fan base that is just about fully fed up with how the Gators have followed the success of their 11-1 regular season in 2012.
That frustration may or may not be fair. But, right now, for many Florida fans, it feels right.
Andy Hutchins is Alligator Army's managing editor. Follow Alligator Army on Twitter and Facebook.