Florida, Missouri battle for bowl eligibility after up-and-down seasons

Sports

The Florida Gators and Missouri Tigers will be battling for bowl eligibility when they meet Saturday in Columbia, Mo.

The Gators (5-5 overall, 2-5 SEC) snapped a three-game losing streak last Saturday with a 70-52 victory over FCS opponent Samford.

The Tigers (5-5, 2-4) are coming into the pivotal game at Faurot Field after posting a 31-28 victory over South Carolina.

“Obviously it’s going to be a very difficult game,” Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz said. “(The Gators are) very talented on both sides of the football, and know that they’re not where they want to be from a season standpoint, but when you watch the tape, it’s hard to exactly pinpoint why. They’ve got really good football players on both sides of the ball and on special teams. Their defensive line is as good as anybody that we’ve played.”

Both teams have used multiple quarterbacks. Florida coach Dan Mullen expects to start Emory Jones there this week while limiting Anthony Richardson to certain offensive packages.

Jones passed for 464 yards and six touchdowns against Samford. He also ran for 86 yards and a touchdown.

Mullen praised Jones’ leadership and perseverance through Florida’s recent struggles. The Gators trailed Samford 42-35 at halftime.

“Instead of, ‘Hey defense, you need to pick it up’ (it was), ‘Don’t worry about that. I’m going to go execute at a high level, we’re going to go score points on offense and that will encourage and elevate the level of play in the defense eventually,'” Mullen said.

“You just go perform and make plays. And when you do that, you will elevate everybody around you.”

Richardson has recovered from a concussion and a knee injury and he has resumed practicing at full strength.

“He’s 100 percent as far as I know at Monday at 1:30, so he’s available to play this week,” Mullen said. “But I mean, Emory’s been playing really well.”

With Connor Bazelak injured, Missouri split the quarterback duties between Tyler Macon and Brady Cook during their 43-6 loss at Georgia two weeks ago.

Bazelak returned to start against South Carolina and passed for 180 yards and two touchdowns, but he had two costly interceptions. Cook relieved him to close out the game.

Drinkwitz entered this week undecided about which quarterback will start against the Gators.

“We’re going to compete today in practice, today and tomorrow, see where we’re at and who gives us the best chance to win,” Drinkwitz said at his Tuesday news conference.

Florida will be seeking a much stronger defensive effort after allowing Samford to score 35 first-half offensive points and pile up 28 first downs and 530 yards overall.

The Gators will be focused on Missouri running back Tyler Badie, who has 1,239 yards and 12 touchdowns rushing and 337 yards and four touchdowns receiving this season.

–Field Level Media

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