It was a gutsy win in Lexington on Saturday night for the Florida Gators.
The game felt an emotional roller coaster similar to the previous two meetings. Despite the crushing loss of quarterback Feleipe Franks, Kyle Trask was able to provide an immediate spark and deliver a come from behind victory.
The Trask Train: While nobody in the Gators fan base was prepared for a doomsday scenario, a large portion (myself included) thought if an injury ever occurred, Emory Jones would be the guy.
Trask has been a backup for nearly seven years; dating all the way back to high school. Saturday night he put the entire country on notice, showcasing his balls of steel and providing comfort to fans when he’s under center.
Entering the game down 21-10 in the third, Trask quickly displayed his passing ability. He finished the night 9-for-13 with 126 yards. He was directly involved in an option touchdown to LaMical Perine and scored the go ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter during a 19-0 run. There’s always room to get better at the quarterback position when you play for Dan Mullen and the University of Florida, however Trasks performance in his first meaningful action since high school, delivered a lot of hope for a team itching to get back to Atlanta.
The Bomb Squad: Summer lies amongst this fanbase are a tradition unlike any other. One thing we did not lie about was the wide receivers.
Florida’s wide receiver room is everything we imagined it to be and more. While they don’t have the names and stats like Alabama and Clemson, Billy Gonzales’ unit is hands down the best group on the field. The amount of dropped balls is down dramatically, guys are getting open in key situations and every one of them seems to have a different role.
Van Jefferson had 7 catches for 93 yards, aiding the comeback while Josh Hammond continued to be the most clutch player to wear the logo in damn near a decade when he called game on a 76 yard jet sweep touchdown in the final minute.
The room continues to deliver in clutch moments and that’s a good thing and that’s exactly what Florida is going to need with Kyle Trask and Emory Jones at the helm the rest of the season.
#FYMF: Saturday was the full Todd Grantham experience. Sacks, forcing turnovers, a couple dreaded “third and granthams”, bend but don’t break and a whole lot of second half adjustments.
During Florida’s seven game win streak, they have won the fourth quarter a combined 99-19.
Kentucky scored 7 points the entire second half. Their only scoring drive was largely aided by incompetence and a targeting penalty from Donovan Stiner. It’s not pretty at times but the shit works. We have also somehow still not seen a Grantham defense with the best eleven all healthy/available at the same time in a meaningful game since his arrival in Gainesville.
DBU: The other revelation of Saturday was competent safety play. Nobody has been a bigger critic of the safety room than I have.
The whole offseason and especially after the performance vs Miami and moments against UT Martin, led me to have serious concerns. For the first time all season, Florida was able to throw out Shawn Davis with Brad Stewart. The results did not disappoint.
Davis had two interceptions while Stewart had a fumble recovery. Despite giving up a touchdown, Stew showed how bad he was missed Saturday. Even with Kaiir Elam’s strong performance in place of an injured CJ Henderson, the secondary has still yet to be seen at full strength.
Play Calling: Dan Mullen is damn good at what he does. The only exception is when he gets stubborn. We saw it against Miami and we saw it before being down 11 prior to Kyle Trask entering the game. The run game simply did not work on Saturday yet Florida refused to abandon it.
Excluding Hammond's jet sweep, Florida had 26 carries for a grand total of 62 whole yards. That is simply terrible. Franks had so much time in the pocket, even too much time occasionally, he could play simple pitch and catch. It took being down 11 and losing the starting quarterback for Dan to start calling what should’ve been called in the first half.
Clock Management: A one-word summary of how bad this was on Saturday: atrocious. Timeouts don’t carry over to the next week, contrary to popular belief. The usage at the end of the first half was baffling, while on defense one was questionable at best as well. This isn’t the first time with Mullen at Florida it has been an issue. It didn’t cost him this time but vs Auburn, Georgia, and LSU it will.
Personnel: Watching Ron English spin a roulette wheel to decide who gets to play is truly baffling. It’s clear as day who the two best safeties are.
Despite this, he overly relies on the yes man that is Donovan Stiner and Jawaan Taylor, who is essentially playing with one arm.
Shawn Davis had two picks and then proceeded to get benched the next drive. The linebacker rotation was just as confusing. Florida really needs Amari Burney back because as good as David Reese was around the line of scrimmage, he was getting Mia Khalifa’d in the passing game on third down. Despite Burney out, James Houston and Ventrell Miller are still available and are sometimes missing on the field at crucial moments which is concerning itself.
The Offensive line: Dan Mullen needs to embrace the air raid. This Florida offensive line can’t block four of me in the run game if their lives depended on it. Nothing going right works, nothing under center works, pulling guards is hit or miss and the tight ends attempt at blocking someone is hilarious in itself.
Along with the run struggles, Saturday showed the screen game is compromised due to the inability to get down the field.
With that being said, I have to give them props to pass blocking. Aside from the one weak link on the line, everybody else gave Franks and Trask all kinds of time in the pocket. All offseason it’s been said the season goes as far as the O-line takes us.
That is still the case.
The line has two weeks to improve before Auburn comes to town in what will be a defining test to see if Florida is an 8-4 football team, or can squeeze out 10 wins and be in the hunt for a trip to Atlanta.
The End of an Era: Feleipe Franks getting hurt was one of the saddest moments in Gator football history. The quarterback is in the center of the biggest twitter Civil War this fanbase has ever seen.
He’s gone from someone everyone wrote off to completely turning the corner and being well on his way to being drafted after a strong close to the 2018 season and an impressive 10 quarters to start this year.
If this is it for Franks at Florida, he will go down as the most misunderstood quarterback ever. Going from a unready redshirt freshmen in a disaster of a season where nothing went right, Franks became the heart and soul of this team by leading Florida to a ten win season, a New Year’s six bowl win, with wins over LSU, Tennessee, Michigan, Florida State and beating Miami to start the season.
He will forever be the quarterback that brought Florida back from the dead at 4-7 to a consistent spot in the top 10 in college football.
Thank You, Feleipe.
The rest of this season is for you.
(Above pic via: OnlyGators)