GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Missouri’s last visit to Florida Field was a debacle for the home team.
The Tigers returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and then really blew the game open in the third quarter by scoring on a punt return, a fumble return and an interception return.
The 18th-ranked Gators (4-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) haven’t forgotten, and they plan to use it as motivation when the Tigers (3-2, 0-2) return to Gainesville on Saturday.
“That was just embarrassing how we came out,” Florida cornerback Jalen Tabor said. “Man, homecoming. They returned the opening kickoff. They had four non-offensive touchdowns. Sheesh, that’s tough.”
The 42-13 drubbing ranks among Florida’s worst home losses in school history. Mizzou had just seven first downs and 119 yards of offense, including 20 passing, and essentially sat back and watched the Gators self-destruct every way imaginable.
Senior linebacker Jarrad Davis reminded teammates this week how humbling that 2014 homecoming game was.
“If that’s what it takes for them to get excited,” Florida coach Jim McElwain said. “I don’t know, maybe they put it on their locker room wall or something. Maybe that’ll be good.”
The Gators are coming off an unexpected bye week caused by Hurricane Matthew. The SEC postponed Florida’s home game against LSU because of the threatening storm and eventually rescheduled it for Nov. 19 in Baton Rouge.
Missouri also had a week off after losing 42-7 at LSU , a disconcerting setback in which the offense totaled just 265 yards and the defense missed two dozen tackles and gave up 418 yards rushing.
“I think it was a wake-up call for us,” Mizzou receiver Chris Black said.
Florida, which has managed 20 points and 338 yards in its last six quarters, expects an offensive boost with the return of quarterback Luke Del Rio. Del Rio missed the last two games with a sprained left knee.
“I’m looking for, obviously, improvement in all phases,” McElwain said. “But more than that, I’m looking for improvement with guys not just trying to do their job and stopping, but actually doing their job and finishing. That’s really what I’m looking for this week.”
Here are some other things to know about Missouri and Florida heading into their sixth meeting:
GETTING HEALTHY: The Gators used to week off to get a little healthier on both lines. Defensive tackle Caleb Brantley (finger) and left tackle David Sharpe (shoulder) should be good to go against the Tigers. Defensive linemen Joey Ivie (thumb) and Jordan Sherit (leg) remain sidelined.
INFLATED NUMBERS: Missouri quarterback Drew Lock leads the SEC in passing, averaging 335 yards a game. The sophomore has thrown for 1,675 yards, with 14 touchdowns and four interceptions. But 10 of his TD passes came in lopsided wins against Eastern Michigan and Delaware State.
FOUR-HEADED MONSTER: It will be interesting to see if Florida sticks with its four-man running back rotation against the Tigers. Leading rusher Jordan Scarlett looked like the best of the bunch against Vanderbilt, running for 55 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries, but the Gators continued to get Mark Thompson, Jordan Cronkrite and Lamical Perine touches.
HARRIS WATCH: Florida wants to know exactly where Missouri defensive end Charles Harris is before every snap. Although Harris had a slow start to the season while adjusting to a new defensive scheme, the junior is one of the best players in the league. He has 19 tackles and 3 1/2 sacks, modest numbers for a guy widely considered a first-round draft pick in 2017.
TITLE TEAM IN TOWN: The Gators will honor their 2006 national championship team Saturday, welcoming many of the players back to recognize the 10-year anniversary of the program’s second national title. Retired coach Steve Spurrier, who led Florida to its first title two decades ago, spoke to the current team Thursday about the importance of homecoming. Florida is a meager 3-3 in its last six homecoming games.
Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.