Hello, Rock Bottom. Nice to see you again.
Four years after Florida sunk to the lowest depths imaginable with a loss to Georgia Southern, a new batch of Gators engineered the school’s return to them. And with the Gators’ 45-16 loss to Missouri- which came into today’s contest winless in the SEC- Florida is not just in danger of replicating that 2013’s fate by missing a bowl game, but in serious jeopardy of replicating that team’s dubious distinction of losing its final seven games, too.
Much like Georgia a week ago, Missouri didn’t even need a half to put this one away.
Drew Lock guided the Tigers right down the field to start the game, but a miscommunication led to him throwing an easy interception to CJ Henderson. That was the highlight of the half for Florida. Unable to move the ball, Florida punted. And the game was effectively over.
Lock then hit Kendall Blanton for the first of three touchdown passes he would throw on the day. The Tigers followed that drive up with three more touchdown drives to make it 28-3 with under a minute to go in the half. All Florida could do in response was kick a pair of field goals on the last drive of the second quarter and the first drive of the third, and Missouri replied to that adorable little salvo with two more touchdown drives to make the score 42-9 early in the fourth. To its credit, Florida finally reached the end zone when Feleipe Franks hit LaMical Perine out of the backfield for a 16 yard touchdown.
This is, put bluntly, as embarrassed as I’ve ever been as a Florida football fan. By the time Florida lost to Georgia Southern in 2013, we knew the season was already going to end an abject failure. But with the midseason firing of Jim McElwain, there was a flicker of hope that Randy Shannon would rejuvenate this team and come out firing.
Instead, they quit for the second straight week.
Missouri racked up 455 yards of offense against the Gators, but far more concerning was the inverse stat. Florida managed just 349 yards of offense against a defense that came into the contest averaging 456 yards of offense allowed per game- and 89 of those 349 yards came on the final two drives with the outcome a foregone conclusion and the scout teams on the field.
The task falls on Scott Stricklin to make the best possible head coach hire that he can. I have faith that he will rely on Steve Spurrier and others within the program who have experience at hiring head coaches to help him with his search, and I have faith that the right head coach can engineer a turnaround and someday return Florida to its status among the nation’s elite.
But after today’s loss, the Gators’ 2017 season has cemented its legacy as a failure. On the flip side, though, this year is- and pardon my lack of nuance- the absolute worst it’s ever going to be for this proud program. So soak in the failure, the misery and the embarrassment now. And when the day that Florida returns to the nation’s elite comes, we can look back at this day and appreciate just how far the program has come.