Florida football score, takeaways: Kyle Trask makes Heisman statement as Gators rout Arkansas

By Adam Silverstein
November 15, 2020
Florida football score, takeaways: Kyle Trask makes Heisman statement as Gators rout Arkansas

Image Credit: @GatorsFB / Twitter

Leading the SEC East and clearly on a course to the SEC Championship Game and a potential College Football Playoff appearance, the No. 6 Florida Gators have little to prove as they run through the final games of the 2020 regular season. Redshirt senior quarterback Kyle Trask, on the other hand, made a statement Saturday night.

That statement? Trask is not only one of the top quarterbacks in the nation, he’s arguably the Heisman Trophy favorite more than midway through the season. More on that in a moment as Trask’s incredible showing was just one facet of Florida’s dominant 63-35 win over an Arkansas Razorbacks team led into Ben Hill Griffin Stadium by former Gators quarterback Feleipe Franks.

By the time the final whistle sounded, Florida scored its most points against an SEC opponent since 2008 and its most points ever against an SEC West opponent. Yes, ever. This despite the Gators being down their best offensive playmaker.

Let’s take a look at what went down Saturday night in The Swamp.

1. Trask breaks records, turns heads: It’s difficult to fit everything Trask accomplished Saturday night or has already achieved this season into a small space. The short of it is that Florida’s starting QB completed 23 of 29 passes for 356 yards and six touchdowns, including five in the first half. He became the first Gators signal caller to throw for 6+ touchdowns twice in a single season and the second to do it in his career (Danny Wuerffel). His 28 TD passes this season are also tied for most by any FBS player through six games in the last 20 seasons (Graham Harrell, 2007). Trask also has 4+ touchdowns in all six games this season.

Ultimately, those achievements are relatively meaningless. Here’s something meaningful: Trask should be the Heisman Trophy favorite. Trask is exceeding the pace set by LSU’s Joe Burrow in his record-breaking 2019 season, and his stats are better than any Power Five quarterback to date. Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence (due to a positive COVID-19 diagnosis) and Ohio State’s Justin Fields are both impressive but will not play as many games and neither they nor Alabama’s Mac Jones can truly compare stat-wise.

It’s not just the stats that tell the story of Trask’s success but how well he manages the game and spreads the ball around. It is not uncommon for Florida to see 10+ players catch the ball in a game, and Trask uses his tight ends and running backs just as well as his receivers. Without junior tight end Kyle Pitts, the most NFL-ready player on the team and the Gators’ top offensive weapon, Trask had arguably his best game of the season.

2. Dan Mullen’s legendary pace: For all the grief Florida’s head coach has gotten this season — some of it deserved — there’s no questioning his results on the field. The Gators are now 26-6 in Mullen’s first 32 games, the exact same mark posted by national championship winners Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer in their first 32 games at Florida. This with Mullen having posted double-digit win totals and New Year’s Six bowl victories in his first two seasons. This is not even mentioning the fact that he’s completely turned the program around.

Is the Gators defense struggling a bit? Sure. The offense is operating at levels not seen since Spurrier was walking the sidelines in his visor — and it may be on pace to exceed those numbers. Florida had 63 points and 593 yards of offense against Arkansas. It controlled the clock for 38:48, converted 9 of 12 third downs and doubled the visitors in first downs (36-18). Ten players caught passes, senior wide receiver Trevon Grimes set a career-high with 109 yards receiving and two touchdowns. Sophomore tight end Keon Zipperer, in for Pitts, posted 47 yards receiving and two touchdowns. Three other WRs — redshirt sophomore Justin Shorter, redshirt sophomore Jacob Copeland and freshman Xzavier Henderson — caught touchdowns, and redshirt sophomore QB Emory Jones even got in on the action with two touchdowns (one passing, one rushing).

The Gators scored eight offensive touchdowns on Saturday night, giving them 139 through 32 games under Mullen compared to 93 in 38 games from 2015-17. Florida has now scored 24+ points in 21 of its last 23 games and 36+ points in eight straight games. Honestly, the statistics are endless. The point is that Mullen has lived up to his promise: He’s made Gators football exciting again. He’s provided the offense that Florida fans have desired since Tim Tebow left town. And on top of it all, he’s winning games.

3. Jekyll and Hyde defense: While the Gators offense is seemingly unstoppable, their defense struggles to get stops. Outside of the Texas A&M game — a contest that Florida would likely win if it were to be played next week now that the team has gelled more — it has largely been decent enough. As LSU proved last season, you can win the SEC and a national championship without a stellar defense. But in order for UF to get to that level, it will have to get past Alabama and possibly play a Clemson or Notre Dame or Ohio State in the playoff. Will it be able to do so with the defense the way it is playing? That’s doubtful.

Forget the 35-point total as that included some garbage-time touchdowns against a second-string defense. The biggest issue Saturday night is that Florida allowed three potentially game-changing explosive plays: an 83-yard rushing touchdown and receiving touchdowns of 82 and 47 yards. If Franks had made the correct read on another play in the first quarter, there would have been an additional explosive touchdown on the evening. No team can survive with its defense getting gashed like that.

Now, one could argue that there was an uncalled holding penalty on one of those touchdowns and an uncalled offensive pass interference on another. To put it bluntly, shit happens, and those are just excuses that don’t change much in the long run. The Gators have made some improvements defensively. Namely, the pass rush has stepped up massively with senior defensive tackle Kyree Campbell creating push inside and redshirt junior defensive end Zachary Carter coming into his own. Florida had four sacks and eight tackles for loss on the evening along with a touchdown return off a fumble recovery by Carter.

However, the secondary remains a liability. And on top of that, the linebackers leave much to be desired even if the Gators were without three of them on Saturday night. (They were declared inactive shortly before kickoff.) Still, they held the Razorbacks to 3 of 10 on third and fourth down and are now holding opponents to 9 of 35 on third down over the last three games (.257). That is indeed an improvement and not one that should be overlooked. Still, it would be nice if opponents had to work harder for points.

4. Odds and ends: Franks finished 15 of 19 for 250 yards and two touchdowns in his return to The Swamp … Jones completed 4 of 6 passes on a late-game drive and ran six times for 37 yards … freshman RB Nay’Quan Wright was impressive with nine carries for 50 yards … junior RB Dameon Pierce took 12 carries for 69 key yards … sophomore LB Mohamoud Diabate had 2.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble

Florida improved to 10-2 all-time against Arkansas and 5-0 in The Swamp … under Mullen, the Gators are 19-1 when scoring first, 22-1 when leading after the third quarter and 20-0 when outrushing their opponent … UF is now 20-2 against unranked teams under Mullen … the Gators have scored in 404 consecutive games, an NCAA record

5. What’s next? Florida will hit the road to face Vanderbilt next Saturday at noon in a game that will air on either ESPN or SEC Network. The Gators are 41-10-2 all-time against the Commodores with six straight wins and victories in 28 of their last 29 meetings. Vanderbilt is allowing 35.8 points per game.

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