The Florida Gators can’t be sure of the kind of test they will receive this Saturday. They could get the Missouri Tigers’ best game. They could also get the Missouri team witnessed the past few weeks.
By Matt Zemek
They could get a revived Kelly Bryant, coming off injury, or they could get a diminished version of Bryant. They don’t know, and neither do we, but whereas a commentator or outside observer can sit back and relax, merely taking in the scene, a football team and its coaching staff can approach an opponent only one way: with complete focus and a total emotional investment. Florida has to expect Missouri’s best shot, regardless of what the Tigers have shown over the previous few weeks. Let’s see what that means in a more applied sense in CoMo against Mizzou:
1 – Crisp Start
The Gators blew out Vanderbilt, but that doesn’t mean they looked good, at least not in the first quarter. Florida struggled on offense in the first 12 minutes against Vanderbilt before finally coming to life at the very end of the first quarter. Florida’s offense had a burst of roughly seven to eight minutes in the first half in which it performed up to expectations, but more than 20 minutes of that first half were a struggle bus for the offense. Against Vanderbilt at home, it didn’t matter.
At Missouri, it might matter. The Gators have to place considerable emphasis on getting out of the blocks well, which will not only make their day easier, but give Missouri a chance to doubt itself. Missouri is an emotionally fragile team after its collapse over the past several weeks. Squashing any of the Tigers’ hopes is Florida’s most direct path to victory. Kyle Trask being on his game in the first quarter will ensure that – in contrast to the South Carolina game – he won’t have to lead a come-from-behind rally in the fourth quarter.
2 – Get after Bryant (assuming he plays)
Kelly Bryant’s situation was uncertain for Missouri last week at Georgia. If he does play this week, Florida doesn’t know what kind of quarterback it will see. We know that Bryant led Clemson to the College Football Playoff a few years ago. He is no slouch. However, he has been injured, so if he does play against Florida – which is likely – he might not be 100 percent.
Florida, however, can’t think it will see a diminished version. In sports, athletes and coaches make decisions about playing hurt all the time. The opponent’s job isn’t to pamper that injury, but to ruthlessly compete. Instead of wondering about Bryant’s effectiveness, Florida – which was completely untested against Vanderbilt – needs to make a statement on defense in this game. That statement can be vocally and powerfully made by getting after Bryant and making his day a nightmare. Florida didn’t get after Jake Fromm against Georgia. It needs to get home and get Bryant on the ground often in this game.
3 – Shut down the big play
If Missouri needs 12 or 13 plays to score touchdowns, it probably won’t thrive. The Tigers will count on beating Todd Grantham’s blitzes or finding other ways to spring big plays against Florida’s defense. Is Kelly Bryant ready to be relentlessly consistent on a day when no one knows what to expect from him? Missouri badly needs home-run swings on offense to win this game. Florida has to make sure Missouri is a singles-and-doubles offense, always getting small gains and never finding the chunk plays the Tigers have to produce to win this contest.