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Surging Missouri trounces sliding Florida 45-16

By Times wires
Running back Larry Rountree III of the Missouri Tigers breaks free of Duke Dawson of the Florida Gators as he runs for a touchdown in the second quarter at Memorial Stadium on November 4, 2017 in Columbia, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

COLUMBIA, Mo. — In a game pitting two teams riding emotional waves in opposite directions, Missouri trounced Florida 45-16 on Saturday, the Gators’ first game since firing coach Jim McElwain last week.

The Tigers (4-5, 1-4 SEC) have won three straight; the Gators (3-5, 3-4) have dropped four straight.

UF interim coach Randy Shannon was asked if players were losing interest in the season.

"Never have to worry about guys checking out," Shannon said. "Somebody wants to play in the game. If a guy’s going to check out, just go to the next guy. You’ve just got to keep playing, keep coaching. Now if you check out as a coach? That’ll go down to the players."

UF linebacker David Reese called it an "unacceptable’’ defeat. "It’s sometimes disappointing when everybody doesn’t want to come together and just play for each other," Reese said. "That’s sad to see. We’ve still got a lot to play for. It wasn’t as personal for us as it should have been."

Missouri took control with a 14-play, 98-yard touchdown drive that spanned the first and second quarters. Larry Rountree capped the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run, giving the Tigers a 14-0 lead.

The Tigers, known for Drew Lock’s prolific passing, leaned on the running game early. Rountree carried 15 times for 83 yards and three touchdowns, and Ish Witter (Alonso High) had 83 yards on 17 rushes. The Tigers finished with 227 rushing yards.

Lock and his receivers also exploited Florida’s tight man-to-man coverage over the top. Lock completed 15 of 20 passes for 228 yards with three touchdowns and an interception.

In his first start at quarterback for the Gators, graduate transfer Malik Zaire completed 13 of 19 passes for 158 yards and one interception. Florida settled for three Eddie Pineiro field goals, including a 24-yarder after it squandered a first-and-goal opportunity from the 2-yard line.

"Any time you’re in that 5-yard range going in, it hurts not to be able to punch it in due to miscues or missed assignments," Zaire said.

Florida reached the end zone when former starter Feleipe Frank connected with Lamical Perine on a 16-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.

When asked if the quarterback job would be up for grabs after Franks completed 7 of 10 passes for 98 yards in the fourth quarter, Shannon said he would look at the film first. "When we put Feleipe in, it was a little bit smoother," Shannon said.