Florida branded a 34-3 beatdown on Tennessee in Kyle Trask’s first career start. While the Gators contributed a dominating performance, there were plenty of miscues in this seven turnover contest.
Here are how the Gators graded out in each phase of play:
Trask responded strongly to the pressure of his first start. He fueled the UF offense with a statline of 20 for 28, 293 yards and two touchdowns (albeit two interceptions), finding eight different receivers. He showed a special connection with tight end Kyle Pitts over the middle of the field, as Pitts led all Florida receivers with four catches for 62 yards and a touchdown.
However, Trask struggled a little in the second half when he threw interceptions on back-to-back drives. Both picks were underthrown into double coverage, so he needs to learn not to force passes, although it’s good to see he already trusts his receivers.
The Gators also need to pick up their running game. This may sound like a broken record, but 71 of the team’s 128 rushing yards came in the fourth quarter. The victory was all but in hand as Florida entered the final frame with a 24-3 lead.
The run game thrived mostly behind the direction of Emory Jones in the fourth quarter; however, the offense stifled under his direction in the first half. Coach Dan Mullen supplemented Trask with Jones. Jones’ introduction seemed to stop the momentum Trask was building, although it didn’t hurt in the long run.
Anytime you hold a conference opponent to under 250 yards of total offense and just three points, you’re defense deserves a high grade.
Yet again, edge rusher Jon Greenard led the brigade. He had a monster day, compiling a sack, two tackles for loss, three batted passes and a forced fumble.
Four huge turnovers by the Florida defense helped stretch the gap in the scoreline, as UF scored 10 points off of them. Spectacular diving interceptions on tipped passes by corner Trey Dean and linebacker Amari Burney in UF territory (Dean’s was in the end zone) were back-breakers for the Volunteers.
Linebacker James Houston also committed the only defensive penalty for the Gators (holding), a fantastic improvement on a normally penalty-plagued unit.
Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham also brought the heat on UT’s quarterbacks, as UF had four sacks.
This is the level that Florida’s defense can play at, and it did so without leaders Jabari Zuniga and CJ Henderson on the field. Impressive.
Special Teams: B
Evan McPherson improved to five-for-six kicking field goals on the season, knocking a 22 and 37-yarder in the win. He continues to be a solid, reliable kicker in a season where college kickers have made or broken many games.
Punter Tommy Townsend had one punt for 43 yards, and the coverage was good as Marquez Callaway had no return.
Freddie Swain returned only one punt for 10 yards even though the Volunteers punted five times. There was also a holding call against Josh Hammond on a punt on the second quarter, negating another nice return by Swain.
Coaching: B +
There’s negative and positives here, so let’s start with the negatives.
Fumbling continues to be an issue with Malik Davis. Yes, he needs to hold onto the ball better, but he also needs to be coached to handle the ball better. Maybe have him walk around campus with a football at all times, something Tom Osborne did to players who fumbled at Nebraska.
Also, the two quarterback system Dan Mullen ran was not fruitful. Stick with the hot hand in Trask. Luckily, turnovers kept the momentum on Florida’s side.
Now to the positives:
The offense was curated beautifully for Trask, who picked apart Tennessee’s defense. The coaching staff prepared Trask especially well against the zone blitz.
Dean and Burney’s tip-drill interceptions were also tremendous examples of coaching. Each player displayed awareness and hustle to the football.
Most impressively, Florida had only five penalties, as it’s normally a heavily penalized team. The offensive line, one of UF’s most heavily penalized units, only attracted three flags for 24 yards.
I give the coaching a plus because we saw steady improvement in all facets of the game against Tennessee. This staff did not let its players take the struggling Volunteers lightly, and this team looks very motivated for success, as it’s primed for a top-10 matchup with No. 7 Auburn in two weeks.