Missouri, Florida scuffle on field at halftime; Gators go on to win

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GAINESVILLE, Fla.  — Kadarius Toney scored three times, Kyle Trask became the first player in school history with four touchdown passes in four consecutive games and No. 10 Florida returned from a three-week layoff to handle Missouri 41-17 on Saturday night in the Swamp.

The Gators’ easiest win of the season came after a COVID-19 outbreak forced the Southeastern Conference to postpone two of their games. It also included a benches-clearing scuffle at halftime that involved both coaches.

Several players threw punches during the melee, but just three were ejected. The conference could hand down more punishments following a review.

It could be costly for Florida (3-1), which plays rival and fifth-ranked Georgia next week in nearby Jacksonville. The game is likely to decide the winner of the East Division.

The fight started when Missouri’s Trajan Jeffcoat delivered what looked like a high, late hit on Trask after he released a Hail Mary at the end of the second quarter. The ball fell incomplete, and Trask landed hard on his back. His linemen came to his defense. So did coach Dan Mullen, who started screaming at the officials and the opposing sideline.

Players from both teams converged near Missouri’s sideline, and wild punches could be seen flying and connecting.

Mullen had to be pulled away several times and was so irate by the end of the exchange that he came back out of the tunnel for a rousing curtain call.

Officials and coaches eventually regained control. The referee huddled Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz and Mullen near the goal line and then announced the ejections. Missouri defensive lineman Tre Williams, Florida defensive end Zach Carter and Florida linebacker Antwuan Powell were tossed.

The rest of the players received unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, meaning another would get them ejected.

Florida coach Dan Mullen, right, is held back by coaches and law enforcement after a fight broke out at the end of the first half of the team’s NCAA college football game against Missouri in Gainesville, Fla., Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020. (Associated Press)

The Gators were up 20-7 at that point, mostly because of the Trask-to-Toney combination.

Florida started slow — showing the rust Mullen anticipated after a two-week quarantine shut down practices and in-person meetings — but found its rhythm with consecutive scores that spanned 33 seconds late in the second.

Toney was on the receiving end of both, turning a screen pass into an unlikely touchdown after slipping out of linebacker Nick Bolton’s grasp. Florida forced a fumble on the ensuing play, and Toney was at it again. He burned safety Joshuah Bledsoe at the line of scrimmage and Trask found him running wide open down the middle for a 30-yard score.

Toney added a 16-yard TD run in the third quarter. He finished with four receptions for 60 yards and three carries for 23 more.

Trask completed 21 of 36 passes for 345 yards.

The Tigers (2-3) scored their first touchdown on Jarvis Ware’s 59-yard interception return in the second quarter. Trask was hit on the play. They scored again in garbage time.

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