Faurot Field served as undefeated ground for the Missouri football team through its first five games on home turf this season.
Since its departure after a homecoming victory over Mississippi five weeks ago, Missouri suffered three losses where it scored a combined 21 points.
In the Tigers' return to Columbia on Saturday, they again failed to deliver much of a punch, proving what happens on the road, doesn’t stay on the road.
Missouri fell 23-6 to No. 11 Florida in front of an announced crowd of 57,280. It drops to 5-5 and 2-4 in Southeastern Conference play, extending its losing streak to four games.
Florida achieved its sixth victory in the SEC for the first time since 2014 and improves its overall record to 9-2. The Gators also snapped their two-game losing streak against the Tigers.
“Nobody likes this right now,” Missouri head coach Barry Odom said. “Obviously it’s hard. They're not going to blink; I'm not going to let them blink. We’re going to go get after it.”
Missouri was held out of the end zone for the second straight game and has scored 30 points in the past 17 quarters. In the Tigers' last 145 minutes of game action, they’ve generated two field goals, both against Florida.
One of Missouri's two scoring drives Saturday included long completions from quarterback Kelly Bryant, who played every snap behind center against the Gators, to wide receivers Jonathan Nance and Jalen Knox for a total of 68 yards. The other possession that ended with points started at Florida’s 46-yard line.
“There’s progress and I think the potential is there. I don’t think that’s a doubt, it's not like we're running out there with guys who can't compete,” Missouri wide receiver Barrett Banister said of the offense. “It’s just for whatever reason, we’re in a slump right now.”
Bryant finished with 25 completions on 39 attempts for 204 yards. His final pass of the day, and the Tigers’ last offensive play, was the game’s lone turnover on an interception to Gators cornerback Marco Wilson.
Eight different Tigers caught a pass, but none had more than 60 yards receiving in the defeat.
The Clemson transfer said after the game that his hamstring was a little sore, but it felt good to be back on the field for a game for the first time in three weeks.
Florida outgained Missouri 388-256 in total offense, while the Tigers had 10 punts in the game and six three-and-outs.
The double-digit punts meant Missouri had nine or more in consecutive contests for the first time since 1999.
“I’m never going to point and say, ‘Our players didn’t do this.’ I always look in the mirror and I always look at our staff,” Odom said. “We’ve got good enough players, we've got to find a way to move the ball offensively."
For the fourth straight contest, Missouri couldn’t establish the run. Larry Rountree was the Tigers' leading rusher with 30 yards on seven carries.
MU running backs Rountree, Tyler Badie and Dawson Downing were unable to jolt an ineffective run game — making just 14 total rush attempts.
“I’ve talked for a long time, not just this year, about how important it is to run the ball,” Odom said. “You've got to be able to run it because if you don’t, you put so much pressure on completing it. ... It’s a line-of-scrimmage league, that hasn’t changed. That’s kind of been my thoughts since the day that I started talking about it.
“It’s been a concern for me, you bet.”
The possible key play of the game happened late in the third quarter when Florida tight end Kyle Pitts and Missouri safety Khalil Oliver jumped and both had their hands on a pass thrown by Gators quarterback Kyle Trask.
Pitts originally made contact with the ball, but Oliver had control of it after the two got up from the turf.
After an initial discussion from the referees, it was ruled a Pitts catch. An ensuing replay was issued by the SEC and found no legitimate evidence to overturn the call.
Odom said in his postgame news conference that a tie always goes to the offense, but he didn’t see it as a draw.
“I’ve got strong judgment and faith and conviction that the SEC makes the right calls,” Odom said. “It went to review and they saw it differently than I did. I stick by their call. ... I never thought the receiver had complete control of the ball.”
Three plays later, Florida took a two-touchdown lead for good. Oliver said he didn’t see the moment of his near-interception as a back-breaker for the defense.
“All year, our goal and our mission has always been if they get something, we bounce right back and get it going,” Oliver said. “So I don’t think it was that play for us, I don't think it was any certain play.”
The Tigers had at least three legitimate chances at turnovers in the game, including the Oliver-Pitts play, but couldn’t turn the tide.
“It’s a tough locker room to be in and I feel for our guys that are winding down here, specifically our senior class,” Odom said.
Missouri's wait to reach the bowl-threshold of six wins will reach at least 42 days. Missouri looks to avoid falling below .500 next Saturday night in its home finale against Tennessee.
Both teams enter the game with even 5-5 records. The winner earns bowl eligibility — pending MU’s ongoing NCAA appeal of sanctions that include a postseason ban.
The Tigers have defeated the Volunteers two straight seasons by identical scores of 50-17.
Odom said after the game that receiver Kam Scott didn’t play because he didn’t “have the right habits” in order to have a successful game against Florida.
Tigers safety Tyree Gillespie exited the game in the fourth quarter and didn’t return with a shoulder injury. Odom expects him to be fine going forward.