COLUMBIA — Six weeks ago, Missouri giving up 23 points at home to an opponent was enough to win games, let alone against a ranked opponent.
It's no longer good enough.
The Tigers dropped their fourth straight conference game Saturday, and now stare at a record of 5-5, 2-4 in the Southeastern Conference after No. 11 Florida came to town and sat on a 23-6 win at Faurot Field.
Missouri managed 256 total yards, and just 72 yards on the ground when factoring out sacks. Florida had 386 total yards, but ran for just 85, not counting sack yardage.
For the second straight week, the defense played well enough to stand up a top-15 caliber opponent, and for the fourth straight week the offense cast around for answers without much success.
"We've got good enough players. We've got to find a way to be able to move the ball offensively," Missouri coach Barry Odom said. "We're struggling. There's no — I wish I had a great philosophical answer for you on exactly what that one reason is. It's not one. We're not functioning at all offensively."
Quarterback Kelly Bryant started and played the entire game, completing 25-of-39 passes for 204 yards. He was intercepted with :32 left, sacked three times and constantly under pressure from the Gators' defensive line, forced to extend plays with his legs but often unable to find an open receiver downfield after plays broke down.
Jonathan Nance and Jalen Knox caught four passes each for 58 and 53 yards, respectively, and Albert Okwuegbunam had four catches for 26 yards. Johnathon Johnson did not play for the second consecutive game with a strained shoulder.
"It's frustrating, because our defense is playing well," Okwuegbunam said. "Obviously they can create some things too, but as a whole, they've pretty much done everything you ask of a defense in this league, as far as how they play. It's frustrating, as an offense, that we can't produce like we need to. It all just goes (back) to getting it fixed, not just talking about the changes we need to make but actually making them."
Odom said he was proud of the defensive effort, but stood by the old coaching maxim the defense has to hold an opponent to one less than the offense scores.
"I think he's right," safety Khalil Oliver said. "You know, if we had the opportunity to hold them to zero points we need to do that. It's on us. It's on the players. It's not on coaches, it's not on anything else. We need to go out and execute."
Not counting the 20 yards lost on those three sacks, Bryant was also the team's leading rusher, with 12 carries for 49 yards. The Tigers had just two drives extend into Florida territory — excluding the final drive of the game — and settled for field goals both times. Bryant connected on a deep shot to Knox to set up the first field goal, but the offensive line could not keep a clean pocket for Bryant to connect on much of anything else.
"I don't feel like it's complacency," said defensive end Jordan Elliott, who had a sack and four total tackles. "I just feel like, it's just a thing of identity. I'll say that. In all three phases, when you look through a season, you're supposed to identify your strengths and your weaknesses. I just think it's a thing of identity. We've got to find who we are, that's all it is."
According to the CBS broadcast, Missouri punted nine or more times in consecutive games for the first time since 1999. The Tigers punted nine times against Georgia and 10 times Saturday, with six three-and-outs.
The Tigers were also flagged six times for 55 yards, including an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty by Okwuegbunam (pulling a player off the pile after a late hit out-of-bounds on Bryant) and personal fouls on offensive lineman Case Cook and defensive lineman Tre Williams, who also had a sack.
"The biggest difference is people gotta look in the mirror," said cornerback Christian Holmes, who had five tackles, including a tackle for loss, and a pass breakup. "We built a culture around we don't lose in November, we built a culture around we don't lose at home, so it really hurts to see everything unfold. People gotta look in the mirror, man, that's all it is.
"They need to address what they bring to the table," he added when asked to clarify. "They need to address what they offer to the team, what more can they offer, what more can they do. That's what they need to do."
The Gators were just 3-of-14 on third downs, had to punt eight times and Missouri recorded four sacks — two by Kobie Whiteside — and eight tackles for loss. The defense also had a chance at at least four interceptions: one a bad miss by Kyle Trask that hit an unprepared DeMarkus Acy in the chest, another a good break on a route in the red zone by Acy that would have been a tough play, and one a drop by Nick Bolton that could have been returned for a touchdown.
"If I got that interception and turn it into a touchdown, I mean, it's a walk-in touchdown, that makes it, what, 10-13?" Bolton said. "The complexion of the game is completely flipped. If I consider myself a play-maker, I gotta make that plays, and as a whole we have to find ways to make plays down the stretch."
The game unraveled for Missouri at the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth quarter. Trask completed a pass to tight end Kyle Pitts at the Missouri 32, but Oliver looked like he wrestled the ball away as both players went to the ground. An official review determined Pitts completed the catch and was down by contact.
Odom reinforced his belief in SEC officiating, but said his view from the sideline, a few yards away from the play, he thought it was an interception.
Three plays later, Trask threw a pass to running back Lamical Perine that looked a lot like the second touchdown George Pickens caught for Georgia a week ago. It was initially ruled out of bounds, but after review it was called a touchdown, as Perine got a foot in-bounds despite coverage from Bolton and safety Tyree Gillespie.
Missouri went into halftime trailing 6-3, but never looked capable of threatening the Gators on offense in the second half.
The Tigers host Tennessee (5-5, 3-3 SEC) at 6:30 p.m. next Saturday looking to end a four-game losing streak on Senior Night.