The Missouri Tigers allowed 418 rushing yards and 42 points in their last game against LSU and hope to improve on that performance Saturday at Florida. (LSU) 

Five games into the season, the Missouri Tigers’ offense has shown signs of improvement from the struggles that persisted all of last year.

The team’s defense, however, has been another story.

Despite returning seven starters from a unit that excelled in 2015, Missouri’s defense has been slow to adjust to changes in their style of play instituted by new coordinator DeMontie Cross.

The unit had its worst performance in the Tigers’ most recent game, allowing 42 points and 418 rushing yards against LSU two weeks ago in Baton Rouge. In their three losses, to West Virginia, Georgia and LSU, Missouri has allowed an average of 32 points a game.

Heading into Saturday’s game against Florida at the swamp in Gainesville, coach Barry Odom knows there are at least two ways the Tigers can improve their performance – by playing better run defense and being able to get off the field on third down.

The game begins at 3 p.m. St. Louis time and will be televised on the SEC Network.

The Tigers have allowed an average of 189 rushing yards per game so far this season and have given up 11 rushing touchdowns. The yardage ranks Missouri 90th in the country among Division I teams.

When given an opportunity to get off the field on third down so far this season, Missouri instead has allowed its opponents to convert 33 of 82 chances. That 40 percent conversion rate ranks the Tigers 83rd among the nation’s Division I defenes.

“You look at our third-down percentage, we’re not very good right now,” said Odom. “I think if you could get that number to where our goal wants to be, then we’re talking about some different things. But that third-down percentage goes into being pretty good on first and second down, where you’ve got a third and longer amount. Overall just the consistency of getting off the field, getting the ball back. I think we’ve defended the pass and had some interceptions that obviously have helped.

“But we have to play more consistent offensively and defensively. That’ll help more than anything.”

The good news for Missouri is that Florida’s offense has not been great so far this season, averaging 21 points a game. The Gators are ranked 18th in the country with a 4-1 record, but their two SEC wins are over Kentucky and Vanderbilt, with the loss coming when they blew a fourth-quarter lead against Tennessee.

The Gators will get starting quarterback Luck Del Rio back on Saturday after he missed the last two games because of a knee injury.

The strength of the Gators so far this season, in contrast to the Tigers, has been their defense. The team leads the SEC in scoring defense at 11 points a game and is among the top defenses in the country in several categories.

Florida was scheduled to play LSU last Saturday, but that game had to be postponed because of Hurricane Matthew so this also will be the first game for the Gators in two weeks.