Down six touchdowns, Florida fired fireworks after a short score.
After Saturday night’s humiliating homecoming performance against Missouri, dynamite would have been more appropriate.
Will Muschamp’s ill-fated career as UF’s head coach likely went boom as the Gators — losers in 12 of their last 19 games — were embarrassingly shellacked 42-14 by the Tigers in The Swamp.
“We didn’t even give ourselves a chance to win,” Muschamp said despondently. “We need to play better. Our fans are outstanding. Hang with us.”
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In front of a crowd thirsty for change — one that chanted “Fire Muschamp” late in the second half — Florida’s embattled coach lost at home for the seventh time in four seasons. Former UF coach Urban Meyer lost only five home games in his six seasons at the school.
UF — which has lost blowouts, nail-biters and even a game to a former FCS-school that failed to complete a pass under Muschamp — dropped consecutive homecoming games for the first time since just after WWII, as another deflating performance snowballed from the very start.
Missouri’s electric returner/tailback Marcus Murphy sprinted 96 yards on the opening kickoff, as the senior nearly single-handily torched the Gators. Murphy finished with three touchdowns, including an 82-yard punt and a 5-yard rush to finish with 224 total yards.
Florida (3-3, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) talked all week about reentering the Eastern Division race, but instead laid down to Missouri (5-2, 2-1), which suffered a 34-0 loss at home to No. 10 Georgia last week.
Missouri scored 42 consecutive points — a punt return, a kickoff return, a pick-six, a fumble-return, a simple five-yard run and a couple field goals — despite totaling just 119 yards and seven first downs. The Gators’ dreadful attack, with six turnovers, scored more offensive touchdowns than the Tigers.
“[Missouri] didn’t have to do much and they figured out that pretty quickly,” Muschamp said.
For weeks, execution, not effort, was Florida’s critical issue, but the Gators visibly quit on their coach and their embattled quarterback Saturday night.
Third-year starter Jeff Driskel, whose confidence was already shattered following a benching and three consecutive putrid performances imploded — again.
Driskel turned the ball over four times, including two interceptions, finishing the night 7 of 19 for 78 yards.
“Offensively, just abysmal,” Muschamp said. “We didn’t have any rhythm. Six turnovers, that’s hard to overcome. … We’ve got the narrow down what we do well, which right now is not much.”
Driskel was yanked after two awful series in a row, but freshman Treon Harris didn’t fare any better.
The former Miami Booker T. Washington star fumbled on his first possession in front at home and did little to ignite a static offense until it was too late.
Florida’s offensive line was dominated by Mizzou’s front-seven, turning Driskel and Harris into ragdolls. Tigers’ pass-rushing duo Markus Golden and Shane Ray were unblockable, as Mizzou registered six sacks and three hurries.
Tigers quarterback Maty Mauk was awful, too — and it didn’t matter. Mauk completed just six passes for 38 yards and an interception. Florida’s defense (just 13 points allowed) did its best to put out all the self-inflicted fires, but the rest of the team’s ugliness was too much to overcome.
“Defensively, I thought our kids played well enough to win,” Muschamp said. “I think the defense played their butts off.”
Asked about Florida’s defense constantly suffering thanks to the offense’s woes, Muschamp said, “It’s a team game. We don’t get into the pointing fingers stuff here.”
Florida averted the shutout when tight end Tevin Westbrook, a scapegoat just a week ago after dropping a potential game-winning score against LSU, snagged a wayward five-yard touchdown pass from Harris with five defenders draping him.
Later, Harris — who was 8 of 12 for 98 yards in the most extensive playing time of his career — added a 3-yard score on a short quarterback keeper.
“I thought Treon did some nice things,” Muschamp said. “There’s some things he hasn’t been exposed to as much. That’s why we started the second half with Jeff.”