COLUMBIA, Mo. - Missouri took another step towards claiming the SEC East title with a 36-17 win against Florida before a sellout crowd of 67,124.
The Tigers (7-0 overall, 3-0 in SEC play) also knocked off Georgia 41-26 a week ago. Missouri has home dates left with South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas A&M plus road trips to Kentucky and Ole Miss.
Tennessee beat South Carolina 23-21 on Saturday while Vanderbilt knocked off Georgia 31-27. Along with Florida's loss to Mizzou, that gives the Gamecocks and Bulldogs two losses in league play.
The Gators (4-3, 3-2) on the other hand, looked like a broken, battered program with eight of their preseason projected 22 starters on offense and defense on the sideline Saturday, the last coming when defensive back Cody Riggs was ejected for a targeting penalty on the first play of the game.
Things went bad for Florida, which is now 1-3 on the road this season, right away in its first ever visit to Mizzou - in its second season in the league. The first offensive play of the game was a 41-yard pass from Missouri backup quarterback Maty Mauk (18 of 36 for 295 yards) to L'Damian Washington, who used a seven-inch height advantage to pull the ball in.
Riggs was called for targeting on the play and ejected from the game. The Tigers finished off the drive with a 20-yard pass from Mauk, playing in place of injured James Franklin (shoulder injury vs. Georgia last week) to Bud Sasser on the very next play.
Florida cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy recovered a fumbled punt return to give Florida the ball deep in Missouri territory. The Gators settled for a 23-yard Frankie Velez field goal to make it 7-3.
The Tigers added field goals of 43 and 19 yards by Andrew Baggett and it was 13-3 at the half.
The Gators had just 61 yards total offense on 29 first half plays. Missouri rolled up 200 yards in the first 30 minutes and actually could have put Florida away by halftime but 2 of 7 third down conversions slowed the possible quick blow out.
It was the second game in a row in which the Gators have given up 200 yards in the opening half. Florida has allowed 45 points in the first quarter this season after giving up a combined 54 in all 13 games in 2012.
Florida got within 13-10 when Solomon Patton returned the opening kickoff of third quarter 100 yards but Missouri quickly responded with a 75-yard drive finished off by Henry Josey (18 carries, 136 yards) on a 6-yard run. Baggett added a 39-yard field goal to make it 23-10 with 6:40 left in the third quarter.
The Gators got a touchdown back on a long drive consisting mostly of Kelvin Taylor runs, which he finished off with a 20-yard score, making it 23-17. Taylor finished with 12 carries for 74 yards. Baggett's fourth and fifth field goals, from 33 and 28 yards out, advanced the margin to 29-17 with 8:04 remaining in the game.
Baggett tied a Missouri school single game record.
Florida had a streak of 13 straight SEC games in which it had given up 20 points or fewer. Missouri came into the game No. 2 to Texas A&M in scoring offense (45.7).
The Gators couldn't really mount any kind of offense once it fell behind as Tyler Murphy was sacked six times in the game. That gave Florida opponents 10 sacks in the last two games and 17 for the season. Mizzou finished with 500 yards total offense.
David Jones also writes for Florida Today.