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Florida 40, Missouri 14: Gators’ lopsided win belies sloppiness

The numbers look fine. But Florida looked far from great.

NCAA Football: Missouri at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Florida had its win over Missouri — eventually a 40-14 one, after fourth-quarter touchdowns that did nothing to threaten the outcome — secured by halftime. By then, Teez Tabor and Quincy Wilson had pick-sixed the Tigers on back-to-back drives, building a 20-0 lead in the second quarter that was going to be insurmountable against a middling Mizzou offense that Tabor and Wilson outgained in the first 30 minutes.

This was a game, though, that produced a box score rife with lies.

Florida scored 20 more points in the second half, mostly on the backs of its stable of running backs. Lamical Perine had 106 yards, and Jordan Scarlett added 101; they gave Florida its first pair of 100-yard rushers since Matt Jones and Kelvin Taylor ran roughshod over Georgia in 2014. And Mark Thompson had the lion’s share (65 yards) of the 80 more the Gators gained, going over 250 yards on the ground for the third time in six games in 2016.

But Florida had just two offensive touchdowns on the day, with Tabor, Wilson, and Antonio Callaway — who snagged an onside kick and bolted for the day’s final score late in the fourth quarter — producing one more six-pointer than a unit that churned out an impressive 523 yards of total offense.

Luke Del Rio put up numbers, too: 236 yards and a touchdown. But his were less incontrovertibly good, as he completed just 18 of 38 passes and threw three picks — probably fewer than he deserved to have on his scorecard on the night, given how poorly he threw the ball.

Those 523 yards were also helpfully inflated by false starts — eight of them! — that gave the Gators a chance to regain yardage lost by flinching feet. And the big numbers translated to just 19 total offensive points, not much better than the 13 tallied at Vanderbilt, and certainly not a gaudy total some — more irrationally than reasonably — expected to see in Del Rio’s return from injury.

And Florida’s defense was more dominant, especially early, than 14 points and a whopping 265 rushing yards against would suggest. Drew Lock completed just four of 18 passes, and the Tigers converted just four of 15 third downs; those big gainers on the ground came almost exclusively in the second half, often with backups dotting Florida’s side of the ball.

A comparison of the first half to the second might be the best way to find Jarrad Davis in the box score, too. Florida’s fantastic senior linebacker went down with an injury early in the second half, and the Gators’ defense suffered without him after inflicting the suffering on the Tigers during the first stanza.

What we saw on Saturday against Missouri was what Florida is and has been for years, despite a box score that argues otherwise: A team that relies on its defense to be dominant, and pick up an offense that can sputter and struggle no matter what.

Florida rose to first place in the SEC East with the victory, thanks to Tennessee’s second consecutive loss. Whether the Gators can hold that space will probably depend on whether they can improve — or whether the same old Gators can do just enough to be successful.