- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
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Even though 2012 is a distant memory, the same questions Florida's offense had last season have returned heading into Saturday's game with No. 14 Missouri (6-0, 2-0 SEC).
After quarterback Tyler Murphy efficiently led the Gators for two-plus games, the offense sputtered in last week's 17-6 loss to LSU. The more pressure the Tigers brought, the more Florida's offense crumbled, as the Gators registered just 240 yards and averaged a season-low 3.5 yards per play.
The No.22-ranked Gators (4-2, 3-1) were 6 of 17 on third downs and of Murphy's 15 completions, 11 went for less than 10 yards. Making matters worse, Florida lost running back Matt Jones for the season with a torn meniscus. The Gators mustered just 111 rushing yards and 2.8 yards per carry against the Tigers.
Now Missouri is waiting, and so is that high-flying offense that is scoring almost 46 points per game and is churning out 516 yards per game. These Tigers will be without starting quarterback James Franklin (shoulder), but there are enough weapons around backup Maty Mauk for the Gators' defense to have its hands full.
That means the offense has to be ready to score some real points. Florida is 13th in the SEC in scoring (21.8 points per game) and has hit 30 points just twice this season. On the road, Florida has yet to score more than 24 points (two losses). So if Florida is going to leave Columbia, Mo., with a win, the offense has to take some of the pressure off of the defense and get into the end zone.
The weird thing about this offense is that it actually has been better through the air. The Gators are one of only three teams to have three players with more than 300 receiving yards and Murphy is fourth in the SEC and seventh nationally with an adjusted QBR of 86.9. But Florida's performance against LSU raised some major red flags. When the Tigers brought pressure, Florida's offense wilted. The running game never really got going and the passing game was never a threat.
The Bayou Bengals didn't respect the passing game, so why should these midwestern Tigers? Florida is facing a defense that is second in the SEC in sacks (17) and has two NFL-types at end in Michael Sam (six sacks) and Kony Ealy (2.5 sacks). Even if Mizzou can't duplicate what it's done in its first two SEC games, Florida's offense will have to prepare for a game in which it has to score more than 20 points. Can Florida win a game 21-17 or 24-21?
It sounds like Florida will be changing things up protection-wise, which is a good start, but if the Gators are going to win Saturday, they need to have a more balanced attack. Running backs Mack Brown and Kelvin Taylor have to open things up for Murphy, and the offensive line has to play tougher.