GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Mike Gillislee took a screen pass and went 45 yards for a touchdown, and No. 8 Florida survived a scare to beat Southeastern Conference newcomer Missouri 14-7 on Saturday.
The Gators rebounded from a turnover-filled loss to rival Georgia and kept alive hopes of winning the SEC’s Eastern Division. They need the Bulldogs to lose one of their remaining games, against Mississippi on Saturday or Auburn next week, to clinch a spot in the league title game.
At times, Florida looked less than interested in staying in the SEC hunt. The Gators (8-1, 7-1) were shut out in the first half, managing just 111 yards and failing to contain Missouri quarterback James Franklin.
Like so many other games this season, though, Florida played considerably better in the second half.
The Gators turned two short fields into touchdowns, with Omarius Hines scoring on a 36-yard jet sweep to tie the game in the third before Gillislee put Florida ahead for good in the fourth.
Jeff Driskel lofted a pass to Gillislee in the right flat, and with two blockers out front, Gillislee made one cut and went untouched for his eighth score of the season.
Florida’s defense did the rest, shutting down Franklin and the Tigers (4-5, 1-5) over the final 13 minutes.
Josh Evans sealed the victory, intercepting Franklin’s fourth-down pass in the end zone with 5 seconds remaining. The Tigers drove to the 21-yard line, but had to try to make something happen as the clock wound down.
Franklin finished with four interceptions.
Franklin, who sprained his left knee against Vanderbilt on Oct. 6 and sat out all or part of the last two games, completed 24 of 51 passes for 236 yards. He overthrew open receivers much of the day and had less mobility than normal.
Still, he ran for 29 yards and burned Florida several times with scrambles.
The Gators were flat to start the game, no surprise since it was a noon start and came after a disappointing loss against Georgia. Florida turned the ball over six times in the 17-9 loss that left coach Will Muschamp needing help to get to Atlanta.
The Gators vowed to play better against Missouri, but it didn’t happen early.
It didn’t help that they were without left tackle Xavier Nixon and defensive end Lerentee McCray. Place-kicker Caleb Sturgis also was limited, leaving the game after a blocked field-goal attempt in the second quarter.
Florida also lost starting guards Jon Halapio and James Wilson in the second half.
Gillislee ran 16 times for 68 yards – his fourth consecutive game under 70 yards. Driskel completed 12 of 23 passes for 106 yards. Florida’s defense was on the field for 86 plays, but allowed just 335 yards.
The Gators totaled 276 yards, but made enough big plays on both sides of the ball to eclipse last season’s win total.