COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Missouri has had two weeks to prepare for Florida. The Gators have had two weeks off, too, but only because their game against LSU was put off last weekend due to Hurricane Matthew.
For Jim McElwain and the 18th-ranked Gators, homecoming weekend carries a bit of extra weight after last week’s confusion and decision to postpone the Oct. 8 game against LSU until Nov. 19 in Baton Rouge.
“Obviously, this was a very unique situation that occurred,” McElwain said. “This should be fun for us as far as coming home to a homecoming crowd and trying to restore some order and some normalcy to what we do and how we go about it.”
Missouri (2-3, 0-2 SEC) had its regularly scheduled bye last week after losing 42-7 at LSU.
While far removed from damaging winds and sweeping floods, Missouri coach Barry Odom still felt the storm’s impact in his program.
“You look at a roster full of 115 guys, you need to know where they’re from, what their families are going through,” Odom said. “Even though they’re not in it, there’s a mental toll that takes on you when your family is going through something and you can’t do anything about it. You feel helpless to an extent, but also want to make sure that you provide everything that those guys need to help them go through the process of a tragedy like what’s taking place.”
Missouri has nine Florida natives on its roster, including wide receiver Chris Black and backup quarterback Marvin Zanders.
Now that the brunt of the storm has passed, Zanders is eager to play a game in his home state.
“Being like 45-50 minutes away from Gainesville, I traveled to a lot of the games,” he said. “I’ve just been to so many games there, I just know the atmosphere. It’ll just be a great experience to actually be a part of the game.”
All things considered, this has not been a standard week of preparation for either team. However, both teams are excited about the prospect of returning their focus to football.
“I don’t know at what point they decided to play or not play the game, and then, who knows when they transitioned over into preparation for us,” Odom said. “I know that we got a lot of really good work in last week.”
Missouri leads the SEC in passing with 350 yards per game, but will likely face its biggest test yet in Florida’s stifling secondary. The Gators (4-1, 2-1) lead the conference in passing defense, allowing only 139 passing yards per game. Junior cornerback Teez Tabor has three interceptions and a pass breakup in four starts.
Missouri quarterback Drew Lock hopes the extra preparation will translate into the Tigers’ first conference win of the season.
“I definitely think we prepared well last week. We took a lot of time watching time. More than normal, considering that we have that extra week,” he said. “There’s definitely a little chip on our shoulder. We know that we can do it, and we just want to prove and actually put it into action and get an SEC win.”
Florida will start quarterback Luke Del Rio, who started the Gators’ first three games of the season before missing the last two with a sprained ankle. Del Rio was 62 of 101 for 762 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions in his first three starts.
With a healthy Del Rio back at the helm of Florida’s offense, Missouri defenders are also watching plenty of film.
“There’s more shorter, quicker, faster guys,” said Missouri safety Thomas Wilson. “A lot of formations. A lot of motion. We’ve got to be really solid with our checks so everybody’s on the same page.”
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