Blown out. Stomped. Shellacked. Mollywhopped. Embarrassed. Any of these fits to describe what happened to Florida on a long Wednesday night in Texas. After a while, or maybe once victory was clearly not an option, it took on a scrimmage-like nature for Florida.
So let’s go ahead and evaluate an opportunity clearly taken by Dan Mullen to evaluate his own team.
Florida’s offense didn’t play well from the jump. Each of its first three drives ended the same way: Kyle Trask throwing it to the other team. One of them went back for six points. Trask played his worst game of the year with three interceptions, no touchdowns and 158 yards on 16-for-28 passing. Then its next three drives ended like this: field goal, touchdown, field goal. And just like that they were back in the game. However, the offense did almost nothing points-wise the rest of the way. The drops hurt almost as much as the picks. Seemingly because of the sheer number. One of them even caused a pick coupled with an inaccurate throw by Trask. After seeing Florida’s receivers make so many spectacular plays all season, those left couldn’t seem to make one. Whether it was Kemore Gamble, Justin Shorter or Keon Zipperer. The Gators didn’t gain more than 25 yards on their trio of drives to start the second half. In terms of other numbers, it wasn’t good outside of total yards (521). Florida finished 4-for-13 on third down, posted 13 points on five redzone trips and didn’t score after hitting 13 points until three minutes were left in the game!
On the other hand, the Gator offense showcased some bright spots in the form of Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson. Jones and Richardson showed what they bring to the quarterback position: their legs. Jones might’ve been 8-for-16 for 86 yards but he threw in 60 yards on 10 rushes. Richardson ripped off 43 yards on three carries plus completing his only pass for a touchdown to Jordan Pouncey. With Jones or Richardson at the helm, it’ll likely result in a vastly different offensive scheme than what fans saw with Trask the last two years. One focusing on what Mullen likes to do: a balanced attack running the football with the QB.
I thought about this grade for a while because I really wanted to give the Gator D credit for forcing two turnovers in the first half. But I think the rest of the game overshadowed that. However, what else is there left to say here? Almost 700 yards allowed, the third time a team eclipsed 600 yards this season, a near-50 burger (48 points w/o the pick six) and over 400 yards rushing allowed alone. Wednesday marked the sixth time a team threw up 30+ on the defense. Oklahoma ran 19 fewer plays and outgained Florida by 160, especially on the ground. The Sooners had one more attempt than Florida but ran for 435 yards! Missed tackles, defensive backs out of position and seemingly gashed every time a running back took a handoff. I do get it though. The whole team was depleted and losing guys like Ventrell Miller and Kyree Campbell makes a defense go from bad to worse. Not having seemingly any bodies (let alone quality ones) can wear down any defense. But players like Mohamoud Diabate said it’s on to the players themselves to get it right, not just the defensive coordinator.
Although, a guy who caught a lot of people’s eye was sophomore Khris Bogle. The linebacker from Cardinal Gibbons made plays whether getting to the quarterback, forcing turnovers or even getting out to defend the pass. Number eight for Florida beat his man several times on pass rush and even stripped Spencer Rattler to get Florida the ball back late in the first quarter. Another positive fans could look at is a lot of young defensive players got reps like linebacker Ty’Ron Hopper, cornerback Jahari Rogers, lineman Princely Umanmielen, corner Kamari Wilcoxson and defensive back Mordecai McDaniel. Yes even those guys got beat badly. However, those are valuable reps for young players to see.
Special Teams: B+
A quiet night for the Gators special teamers. But still enough to grade. Evan McPherson made two out of his three field goal attempts. His lone miss came on a monstrous 58-yarder he just didn’t quite have the leg for. Punters Jacob Finn and Jeremy Crawshaw posted nearly identical stat lines. Both averaged about 49 yards on their two punts with at least one downed inside the 20 and a 50-yard punt each. Finn actually boomed his punt a whopping 59 yards. With either Finn or Crawshaw, punting will be just fine for Florida. However, Florida did have some lapses on kickoff. Shorter hesitated to take a ball out and got clocked on the return and the coverage team allowed a 40-yard Charleston Rambo return after a McPherson field goal cut the deficit to four.
The Gators were outmanned and outclassed on national television. An embarrassing third straight loss to end the 2020 campaign. However, I find it interesting to judge. The 2020 Cotton Bowl was more akin to a glorified spring game for Florida than it was an actual competitive game. We saw a lot of young players and a sneak peek into the future of the Florida Gators offense in regards to scheme and personnel. Maybe Mullen saw the writing on the wall and it’s why he punted so quickly on the entire thing. Seems if he was going to get toasted in front of America with a shorthanded team he’d at least get his young guys quality reps and playing time. Florida obviously wanted to play this game because it showed up despite being under threshold. But maybe the Gators not being where they wanted to be (the Playoff) changed the attitude toward it for some. Still some good moments, you just really have to look for them. But the best thing fans can say about the game now is it’s over.