THE SUNDAY EVENING QUARTERBACK: SEPTEMBER 22, 2019
The obvious story of the day Saturday was Kyle Trask, who made a rather smooth transition from backup to starter. If he was nervous, he certainly didn't show it the way he led the Gators down the field for a touchdown on the opening drive. It wasn't anywhere close to a perfect performance, but it was good enough to offer the promise that things will get better as he grows more comfortable in game situations.
He finished 20-28 passing for 293 yards. Dan Mullen joked post game that Trask really only threw six incompletions since he completed two to the Tennessee Vols but even those interceptions weren't terrible throws. Were there open receivers elsewhere on both of them? The answer to that is yes, but on both interceptions if it's a perfect throw, it's a completion and one of them is for a touchdown. In assessing the two interceptions, Mullen called them both “coachable moments” and offered up the fact that neither of the picks hit an opposing DB in the chest, the sure sign of a bad throw and an even worse decision.
At best, Trask is an adequate runner so it's unlikely he's going to be able to take off and pick up 20 yards when the field opens up in front of him. On Florida's first drive, he made a nice eight-yard run on an RPO that showed he's enough of a threat to keep defenses honest. It's entirely possible that Feleipe Franks would have gotten deep into the secondary on the same play but consider it a tradeoff. What Trask may lack in running skills, he will make up by spreading the football around and getting big plays in the passing game without a high risk factor. Unlike Franks, who tends to let his emotions sometimes carry the moment, Trask is more of an even keel. He won't get too high when he makes the good play nor too angry with himself when something doesn't go his way. He has a short term memory which enables him to move on to the next play almost immediately.
Franks has such a big arm that he sometimes will try to fit a football into a very small window. When it works, it can be spectacular but if it doesn't it can be borderline disastrous. Other than the two interceptions Trask threw, there was only one other pass well defended by the Vols. That's because rather than try to make the big throw, he was quite content to find who was open and get the ball to him.
Maybe the best compliment paid to Trask was that you would have never guessed by his play Saturday that the last time he started a game at quarterback was when he was in the ninth grade. He wasn't perfect but didn't have to be. What he needed most was experience and he got that, put up very good stats and did it all against an SEC team. Yes, it was Tennessee, but still it's an SEC team and that does count for something.
SOME GOOD THINGS
Ten different receivers caught at least one pass and seven caught two or more. The Gators averaged 9.2 yards per pass attempt and 13 yards per completion.
Defensively, the Gators held Tennessee to 239 total yards. The Vols averaged just 5.3 yards per pass attempt and only 3.3 per rush.
The Gators snuffed out a Tennessee drive inside the UF five when Jonathan Greenard batted down the first of the three passes he deflected. On the next play Trey Dean made a nice diving interception of a ball that was thrown too high and too hard for Tennessee's Jauan Jennings to catch.
In addition to the three passes he batted down at the line of scrimmage, Greenard also forced a fumble in the fourth quarter that Amari Burney recovered. Burney also got an interception off a pass that Marco Wilson deflected in the third quarter.
The drive at the end of the first half that resulted in a Lamical Perine touchdown on the very last play was outstanding. The Gators used all 4:56 of the clock, overcame a holding penalty, moved the football 61 yards on nine plays and wound up with a touchdown.
When Tennessee drove for a field goal on its opening drive of the third quarter, the Gators did a great job answering with a touchdown to make the score 24-3. The 29-yard touchdown pass from Trask to Freddie Swain on a post pattern was as pretty a pass as you'll see.
Kyle Pitts is going to be the weapon in the middle of the field the Gators haven't had in a long time. He's as fast as a lot of wide receivers and at 6-6, 240 too big and physical for the safeties. Saturday he caught four passes for 62 yards and spent the day running wide open in the middle.
For the second straight game, the O-line had a better than average game in pass protection (only two sacks allowed) and did a good job run blocking in the fourth quarter.
The Gators were flagged for only five penalties for -44 yards. There were no personal fouls or pass interference calls and only one false start.
Marco Wilson had his best game with a tackle for loss, an interception and the deflection that Amari Burney turned into an interception.
SOME NOT SO GOOD THINGS
The Gators let too many scoring opportunities slip away. Realistically, the Gators should have scored somewhere between 49-60 points.
There was the sack and fumble by Trask at the Tennessee 30 on Florida's second drive. That drive should have gotten at least three points. The right side of the O-line totally collapsed on that one. Maybe Trask should have unloaded the ball but his O-line didn't give him any help.
There was the fourth and three at the Tennessee 30 on the next drive that the Gators didn't convert because the right side of the O-line didn't move anyone. I don't necessarily disagree with the choice to go for it on fourth down, but the way Florida's receivers were getting open, a throw was called for. Points avoided.
The Gators settled for a field goal on their next drive when Trask was hurried on third-and-goal from the Tennessee five. Kyle Pitts basically whiffed on a chip block so Trask had a defender in his face.
On the play prior to Trask's first interception in the third quarter, Trask was sacked for a 4-yard loss because he held the ball far too long. On the next play Trask underthrew Lucas Krull on the sideline and was picked at the UT 15. There was an open receiver short and over the middle.
Trask took a shot at the end zone on the next Florida series but the Vols had safety help so Trevon Grimes was sandwiched and the ball picked. Had Trask looked underneath he would have found an open receiver about the 15.
On Florida's first play of the fourth quarter, Trask got perfect protection and let fly with a ball that should have been an easy catch for Jacob Copeland but instead of a 69-yard touchdown pass, Copeland let the ball slide off his fingertips at the Tennessee 24.
There was a time when Florida-Tennessee was the hottest ticket in town whether the game was played in Gainesville or in Knoxville. Saturday, some of the few Vol fans who made the journey to Gainesville hawking tickets for $5. A best guess estimate is there were fewer than 1,200 in the entire stadium. When the Vols played the Gators in Gainesville in 2007 they sold their entire ticket allotment and there were probably 5,000 UT fans looking for tickets outside the stadium in the hours before the game.
It's also disturbing to see big gaps in the East stands of BHG where the students sit. There were places where you could fire a shotgun with very little chance of actually hitting someone.
The timing of an opponent from D1AA couldn't be more opportune as it will give the Gators an opportunity to rest some banged up guys while getting more experience for some of the younger guys who are going to be increasingly a part of the rotation as we get into the meat of the schedule. Trask will get the start at QB and will have a chance to get more comfortable in that role, while Emory Jones should get extended playing time in the second half. We know he can run the football and has good timing on the option, but this game should allow him to throw more and that's a necessity. It will be important for the second unit offensive linemen to get as many snaps as they can. The Gators haven't had to deal with an injury to the starting five so as many reps as the second unit can get in real game situations could prove helpful down the line.