Missouri beats Florida by two-point conversion in OT 24-23
Columbia, Mo. – Missouri quarterback Conor Basilak heard the boos from home team fans as he trotted to the sideline after his fruitless drive on Saturday. He was nothing but cheers after he hoisted a two-point conversion pass to Daniel Parker Jr. to lift the Tigers to a 24-23 overtime win over Florida.
“I’m proud of Connor,” said Missouri coach Eli Drenkwitz. “He gets a lot of criticism, he takes a lot of boos, but when we needed him he went up.”
The Tigers (6-5, 3-4 SE Conference) tied within one point at 13 yards from Tyler Badie, and Drinkwitz elected to go for 2 rather than sending the game into a second overtime with a PAT kick.
Last week, Drenkewitz took Basilak off the bench in the final round of victory over South Carolina after throwing his second interception. Missouri fans seemed excited to see a backup of Brady Cook throughout Saturday’s game, but Drinkewitz stuck with Bazillac. The play-and-move pass was designed to go to Badie on the right flat, but when he was covered and so was the second choice, Bazelak turned to his left and fired the pass to Parker before he got injured.
Bazelak completed 15 of 26 passes for 165 yards and touchdowns. Badi’ lunged 27 times for 146 yards.
“He showed a lot of grit and passion for the game,” Badi’ said of Baslak. “He came out victorious too. The last play, he had the ball in his hand and he handed it to our team.”
Florida (5-6, 2-6 SEC) got the ball first in overtime, and Emory Jones got a 6-yard touchdown pass from wide receiver Trent Whitmore in a trick play to give the Gators a short lead. Jones completed 20 of 32 passes for 261 yards and touchdowns.
“This is our seventh straight loss in one game,” Florida coach Dan Mullen said. “This is on us as coaches to create the mental toughness of the players to make sure we have the right players in the right place to play when the game is on the line.”
Missouri entered the game with the 118th-ranked defense in the country, and Florida had 92 points in its last two games. Did not matter. Defenses dominated in a scant battle between field positions and field targets. Missouri led 9-6 in the first half on Harrison Mavis Square’s three goals.
Florida finally broke the relegation drought in its first drive of the second half. Jones hit Jacob Copeland in a 49-yard pass for Dameon Pierce for 2 yards. Missouri answered early in the fourth quarter when Bazelak called into a tight end Nikko Ho for a 41-yard touchdown.
Missouri missed an opportunity to advance with 1:04 remaining in the standings when Mavis – who has made 17 of 18 field goal attempts this season – pushed 46 yards to the right. Florida responded by running the ball three times in a row and leaving. Mullen said he initially called the equalizer to take advantage of the Missouri playing the pass, but when Nye Kwan Wright slipped on the field and lost 4 yards, he chose to run out of the clock rather than throw the ball.
In overtime, Drenkewitz chose to put his faith in the quarterback to win the match.
“Everyone has a right to their opinion,” said Drenkewitz, acknowledging the boos of Basilak, who has thrown 10 interceptions this season. “These guys are playing as hard as they can. They’re not perfect. None of us. Quarterback’s #1 requirement is: Ignore the noise. You could have one of the worst games I’ve ever had, but with two minutes left, you have to be a rock and you have to Believe in yourself. Connor does it.”
What can’t he do?
Badie is the SEC’s leading racer with 1,385 yards, which isn’t bad as a play-related either. Drenkewitz said Buddy suggested the call in first play and 25 which resulted in a touchdown pass to Hea. Badi was a partner in the play.
“I said, ‘No, that’s a crazy idea,'” Drinkewitz said. “But we called him, and he hits a touchdown.”
Drinkwitz hits the back
Last year, Missouri and Florida played Halloween in a match marred by a halftime brawl. After that match, Mullen appeared at his post-match press conference dressed as Darth Vader. This season, Drenkewitz concluded his post-match press conference by raising his hood and raising his light saber, saying, “I hope the Force is with you.”
Florida: With the Gators’ fourth consecutive loss at the Securities and Exchange Commission, speculation about coach Dan Mullen’s job security will only intensify. Florida is 2-9 in its last 11 games against Power 5 competitors. Mullen said he met with athletic director Scott Stricklin to discuss the program’s future.
“We had meetings last week about where we need to go in the future with the assistant coaches, who we’re going to bring in, who the candidates are, and the changes we should be looking to make,” Mullen said.
Missouri: The Tigers earned their second eligibility to play in Eli Drenkewitz’s two-year tenure. Missouri had higher hopes of a six-win season, but after losing their first three SEC games, Drinkwitz deserves credit for keeping the team together and saving the season.
Florida: The Gators finished the regular season at home against Florida State on November 27.
Missouri: The Arkansas Tigers play Friday in the regular season final.
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