COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) Nothing about Kyle Trask’s path to becoming Florida’s starting quarterback was easy. Something as trivial as a sluggish first half doesn’t rattle him.
Trask threw two touchdown passes in the third quarter to help No. 11 Florida shake free of Missouri 23-6 on Saturday.
The former high school backup, who took over for the Gators after an injury to Feleipe Franks earlier this season, completed 23 of 35 passes for 282 yards. That was plenty of offense for Florida (9-2, 6-2 Southeastern Conference), which held Missouri to 204 total yards.
“My whole journey to get to where I am, I’ve definitely learned a lot of lessons that have sharpened my character. Patience is one thing I’ve learned along the way,” Trask said.
Linebacker Jon Greenard spent most of the day in the Tigers’ backfield, finishing with two sacks and five tackles for loss. The Tigers (5-5, 2-4) have lost four straight games and haven’t scored a touchdown in the last two.
“Didn’t do enough, pass game or run game,” Missouri coach Barry Odom said. “Converting on third downs, we came up short. Lot of questions. We’ve got answers, but we’ve got to go execute.”
Florida led 6-3 after a first half in which the teams combined for 10 punts. The Gators struggled up front offensively in the first half, allowing four sacks to a team that had only 14 sacks on the season entering the game. They gained just 29 yards on the ground before intermission and finished with 56 rushing yards.
It was a similar story for Missouri, which welcomed Kelly Bryant back at quarterback after he missed last week’s game at Georgia with a hamstring injury. Bryant repeatedly slipped out of the arms of blitzers to extend plays, but the Tigers struggled to put drives together without any help from its running game. Bryant completed 25 of 38 passes for 204 yards and one interception. Missouri’s only scores came on two Tucker McCann field goals.
The Gators finally got going in the third quarter when Trask connected with Josh Hammond for a 34-yard touchdown pass and hit Lamical Perine for a 15-yard TD. Van Jefferson finished with six catches for 82 yards, and Trevon Grimes had three catches for 66 yards.
“We’ve had a couple games like this where it was a little bit of a slow start this season,” Trask said. “It taught our guys to stick with it. That’s why we’re never panicking, even in a situation like this where it’s so low-scoring at halftime and it seems like there’s not a lot positive going on.”
Florida: The Gators stayed in the hunt for a 10-win season, a New Year’s Six bowl berth for the second year in a row and an SEC East title if Georgia losses two more conference games. Second-year coach Dan Mullen is 19-5 at the school, putting Florida’s program on its firmest footing since the end of the Urban Meyer era in 2010.
Missouri: The Tigers had been two different teams this season based on the location of the game. Entering Saturday’s game, they averaged 40.4 points in five home victories and 13 points in four road losses. The performance against the Gators showed Missouri’s offense has bigger problems than location.
Missouri: The Tigers will play Tennessee on Saturday in their home finale.
Florida: The Gators have a week off before finishing the regular season on Nov. 30 at home against Florida State.