Florida suffered one of its worst losses of the Dan Mullen era on Wednesday night. The Gators entered the game a shell of their former selves after many of their top playmakers chose to opt out of the game. With the absence of Kyle Pitts, Trevon Grimes, Kadarius Toney, and Jacob Copeland, Florida was missing the 2,778 yards of production and 34 receiving touchdowns that made the offense so prolific.
Full disclosure, I thought that the combination of Kyle Trask and Dan Mullen would be able to overcome this hurdle and, at least, be able to keep it close. However, as news continued to come in on Wednesday of new additions to the list of players that would not play, my optimism waned. By the time kickoff rolled around, the Gators were down 17 players, 9 of which were starters.
As expected, Oklahoma got off to a quick start, capping their opening drive with a 27-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Mims. That lead was doubled just two plays later when Kyle Trask threw a 45-yard pick six to Tre Norwood. Unfortunately for Florida, this was just the first of 3 interceptions that the Heisman finalist would throw in the first quarter.
The Gators’ first two red zone possessions ended in an interception and a field goal that followed a couple of very questionable designed runs by Kyle Trask. As a result, Florida trailed 17-3 at the end of the first quarter. The defense managed to slow the Oklahoma attack during the second quarter, allowing the offense to pull to within four.
If there is a bright side to the blowout loss, it is that many of next year’s players were able to gain live game experience. The only Gators’ touchdowns came from Emory Jones and true freshman quarterback, Anthony Richardson. Of course, that means that Kyle Trask went without a touchdown pass for the first time in his career.
After all that has been accomplished by Trask, it’s difficult to see such a performance in what is likely his final game as a Gator. So, how did we get here? Well, the obvious answer is that 17 players either opted out or were sick/injured. But a Heisman finalist should just roll with whoever he’s got, right? Not when they are only given three practices with a group of receivers that have had little (if any) live game reps.
In the end, Trask would finish 16 of 28 for 158 yards and 3 interceptions. Like the finish to the Gators season, Trask’s swan song was a disappointing climax to such a promising year. Trask finished with the Florida single-season records for passing yards, passing touchdowns, completions, and 400+ yard games.
Similarly, the Gators were playoff contenders until losing the final game of the regular season. Still they fought hard in a thriller against Alabama for the SEC championship. But alas, the core of this team decided to opt out for the NFL Draft when their season goals were no longer an option. As a result, Florida heads into the off-season with a 3-game losing streak and the most successful 8-4 season ever recorded.
Although the Sooners fans reveled in their first win against the Gators (and an SEC opponent) they didn’t truly face Florida. Perhaps the game would have played out similarly, but I doubt it. Regardless, it is up to the players on the field to not be embarrassed and the Gators weren’t able to prevent the blowout.
Spencer Rattler finished the night with a respectable stat line. The Oklahoma quarterback went 14 of 23 passing for 247 yards and 3 touchdowns. But it was the Sooners running game that really stole the show. Rhamondre Stevenson led all Oklahoma rushers with 186 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Marcus Major also eclipsed the 100-yard mark, recording 110 yards and a score on just 9 attempts.
All told, the Oklahoma ground attack accounted for 435 of the Sooners 684 yards of offense. Lincoln Riley’s squad outpaced the Gators by 163 yards and 35 points, despite running 19 fewer plays.
For Florida’s part, they managed to be pretty balanced offensively. The Gators ran 45 passing plays to 39 running plays and split yardage nearly identically, gaining 271 through the air and 250 on the ground. Emory Jones and Dameon Pierce led all Florida rushers with 60 yards a piece. Freshman quarterback Anthony Richardson added 42 yards on 3 carries.
The Gators’ receivers accounted for 25 receptions amongst 12 pass catchers. Rick Wells led the way with 6 catches for 43 yards. But it was Jordan Pouncey, the transfer from Texas that pulled in Florida’s lone touchdown reception, a 27-yard bullet from Anthony Richardson.
Dan Mullen will have to sit down with his staff and think long and hard about what works and what doesn’t. If that means making some administrative changes, so be it. The program has come so far so fast but there won’t be much patience for another wasted opportunity. Both sides of the ball will have to be held to the Gator Standard moving forward.
It has been a strange and emotional season. Florida simultaneously took major steps forward while having the worst win-loss record since Dan Mullen arrived on campus. It may be a hard pill to swallow, finishing the season in such a way and knowing what could have been, but there’s still a lot of talent in Gainesville. I know that it hurts, Gator Nation. But it’s still great to be a Florida Gator!