Sunday, January 4, 2015

Missouri dismantles Florida, faces Vanderbilt on Homecoming

Missouri’s 42-13 dismantling of Florida last Saturday in the Swamp was one of the more bizarre football games you’ll see, but in a good way. If you try to analyze it too much, you end up staring into the distance with the bewildered look that has become the default setting for Florida coach Will Muschamp.

Late in the third quarter, Missouri (5-2, 2-1 in SEC play) had put up a paltry 97 yards of offense, yet led 42-0. The Tigers finished with 119 yards of offense, a worse output than even the disastrous shutout loss to Georgia the week before. Maty Mauk completed just 6 of his 18 passes for 20 yards, a passing total straight out of the leather helmet days. The Tigers had one offensive touchdown, and it was a 19-yard drive after a Florida fumble.

So with that offense, how did the Tigers not just win, but absolutely crush Florida? Well, defense and special teams are still a big part of football, and Florida (3-3, 2-3 in SEC) is a mess right now. Marcus Murphy, started the game with a kick return for a touchdown, and later had a punt return for a touchdown. (He also had a rushing touchdown - not too shabby of a day.) The defense also scored two touchdowns, on a Markus Golden fumble return and a Darvin Ruise interception return.

Florida had an appalling six turnovers in the game. This futile effort will turn up the heat on Muschamp.
The win kept the Tigers in the SEC East race. Georgia (6-1, 4-1 in SEC) is in the driver’s seat, but a loss by the Bulldogs against Florida, Kentucky or Auburn would open the door for Missouri. However, the Tigers have to keep winning to have a chance, and the offense has to get better. This makes three straight poor offensive performances, although the Tigers have managed to go 2-1 in those games. But scoring four non-offensive touchdowns is probably not the most sustainable model for success.

Next up is Missouri’s Homecoming game with Vanderbilt (3 p.m. on SEC Network). The Commodores (2-5, 0-4 in SEC) have been struggling, to put it gently. Vanderbilt’s two wins are narrow escapes over Massachusetts and Charleston Southern, and the Commodores have lost their four SEC games by an average of 22.25 points.

Vanderbilt is trying to rebuild under first-year coach Derek Mason, but the Commodores have been shockingly noncompetitive. They are 121st nationally in scoring at 17.6 points per game and 100th in points allowed at 34.0. If Missouri’s offense doesn’t score a bunch against Vandy, it’s never going to score a bunch. I expect Missouri to win big.

It’s a day game, and since Faurot Field didn’t have permanent lights until the mid-1990s, day games harken back to another time, fitting for the tradition and nostalgia of Homecoming. By the time the Homecoming king and queen are crowned and the shadows slant across the old stadium and the clock winds down, Tiger fans should have plenty to celebrate.

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