Trask Force: No. 9 Florida rallies past Kentucky 29-21 in SEC opener

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Florida quarterback Kyle Trask flips the ball in the air after running in for a touchdown during the second half Saturday against Kentucky in Lexington, Ky. Florida won 29-21. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Uh oh, Wildcats, look who’s apparently ready to go streaking again.

A year after ending Florida’s 31-game winning streak in the series with a stunning victory in The Swamp, the Kentucky Wildcats could not make it two in a row after failing to protect an 11-point fourth-quarter lead against the Gators and backup quarterback Kyle Trask on Saturday night.

In what will go down as one of the greatest SEC road comebacks in school history, the Gators overcame the Wildcats to pull out a 29-21 victory, with Trask, who replaced injured starter Feleipe Franks in the fourth quarter, leading Florida on two clutch touchdown drives to put UF up for good.

“We found a way to win, and we didn’t do that last year,” UF coach Dan Mullen said. “We made some mistakes, but we believed we were going to win the game.”

The UF rally left what had been a raucous crowd of 63,076 stunned and silent at Kroger Field.

Trask completed nine of 13 passes for 126 yards and ran for a touchdown, as the Gators piled up 19 points and 222 total yards in the fourth quarter after having only 10 points and 216 yards through the first three quarters.

“That’s what we expect from him,” Mullen said of Trask’s performance.

Said Trask: “We were expecting to finish like that. I’m really proud of the guys for the way they played.”

No. 9 UF (3-0 overall and 1-0 in the SEC) sealed the victory with a 76-yard touchdown run by wide receiver Josh Hammond on a jet sweep with only 33 seconds left in the game.

Franks sustained a season-ending dislocated ankle late in the third quarter and had to be carted off the field.

“I told him we love him and we will all be there for him,” Mullen said.

Florida now has a new starting quarterback. And it looks like he has a chance to be a very good one.

At least that’s the first impression Trask left everyone with.

Trask came off the bench and was an instant success executing the Gators’ passing game and moving the offense up and down the field.

He entered the game with UK leading 21-10 and quickly changed the tone.

In his first series, Trask completed his first four pass attempts for 54 yards, setting up an 8-yard TD run by Lamical Perine to cut the deficit to 21-16 with 12:41 remaining.

In his third series, his 30-yard completion to tight end Kyle Pitts led to his four-yard TD run one play later to give the Gators a 22-21 lead with 4:11 remaining.

The Wildcats (2-1, 0-1) had a chance to retake the lead with less than a minute remaining, but Chance Poore’s chip-shot field goal attempt from 35 yards sailed wide right with 54 seconds to play.

Kentucky, still holding on to all three timeouts, was still in position to possibly pull out a late victory. But on a third-and-six play from the UF 24, Hammond took a handoff from Trask and raced around right end for 76 yards and a touchdown to leave little doubt about the final outcome.

“We were in a zero blitz trying to stop them, but it got on the perimeter and he just ran away,” UK coach Mark Stoops said. “There’s a lot of good things we did against the No. 9 team in the country. But it hurts.”

For much of Saturday night, the Gators appeared determined to help the Wildcats win their second in a row in the series for the first time since 1976-77.

For the first three quarters, the Wildcats were clearly the better team, dominating both lines of scrimmage.

Just like a year ago, the Gators did not help themselves in those first three quarters, turning the ball over twice, having two touchdown runs by Franks called back by holding penalties and losing starting safety Donovan Stiner to a targeting foul in the second half.

But then just when it appeared things were going to get even worse with the Franks injury, the Gators came to life behind Trask and pulled out an improbable victory.


Up next

Who: Tennessee (1-2) vs. No. 9 Florida (3-0)

When: 12 p.m.

Where: Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium

TV: ESPN

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850

16 COMMENTS

  1. When the OL can’t control the line of scrimmage against a lower echelon SEC team, you know you’re in trouble…….

    When the DL can’t control the line of scrimmage against a lower echelon SEC team, you know you’re in trouble…….

    When the Defense frequently keeps forgetting they’re playing tackle football instead of touch football, you know you’re in trouble……

    When you keep committing stupid, costly penalties at exactly the worst moment, you know you’re in trouble……

    When you do all the above plus forget to play pass defense, you may wonder how you’re ever going to beat Towson let alone keep your ranking.

    But if you suddenly lose your quarterback for the season at the most terrible time possible and give the most patient Gator in history a chance, you might just feel like the sun will shine again!

    • 1. UK is no longer a “lower echelon” team. If I’m wrong, and I’m not, that would mean that WE are a “lower echelon” team, as we were outplayed for 45 out of 60 minutes.

      2. Kentucky’s O’line and ‘line are as good, or better, than any team in the SEC, save Alabama and UGA.

      3. Our O’line had a total of 22 starts under their belt. They will get better as the season continues, but they are doing EXACTLY what green O’lines do … we knew they were our Achilles heel heading into the season.
      4. Our top ten ranking is gone, we didn’t deserve it anyways. We are a good top 25 team, but we have a ways to go. I believe we will continue to get better every year, a sentiment I haven’t had in quite some time.
      5. Lose to Towson? Now you’re just being dramatic …

      • Where have you been for the past 7-8 years, Florida has been a mediocre program for all that time, Kentucky football is what it has always been, occasionally puts a decent team on the field, but no where ready for prime time, it’s a basketball school, not sure what Florida is, but it’s no where near competing for a football SEC title, Gator-6 is spot on, the Gator O-line continues to disappoint, I don’t care how many great offensive threats you have, if the O-line can’t run or pass block, you’ll barely beat Miami and KY, and lose to LSU, Auburn, UGA and probably Missouri, TN is gonna be tough too, happy for Trask to finally get a shot, Franks wasn’t gonna take us to Atlanta

      • Agree about the O-line. We knew it would likely be an issue coming into the season, yet we are 3-0. Last year we lost this game, this year we won it. Are we going to win a national championship? Heck no, but I think the O-line will get better as the season progresses, as will the rest of the team. Then a good recruiting class, next year a more experienced O-line, maybe get a star QB, and the next few years could be great. Just give it some time. If we had this same schedule last year, we would probably be 1-2 right now. I think we lose 2 out of 3 in the LSU/AU/UGA stretch but beat Missouri, UT, and USC, and finish with a win over FSU. A good season for a team like this and much to build on for next year.

    • Well said, 6. But I can’t help but remember that UK dominated both our lines last season, too, and yet the Gators still went on to win 10 games and put a beatdown on a supposedly “tough” Big 10 team. What I’m getting at is that despite Mac’s 2017 assertion that “They’re still “bleeping” Kentucky!”, these are not your fathers ‘Cats. They won 10 games last season themselves and legitimately established themselves as the third, if not second, best team in the East. Just maybe, we need to give UK and Mark Stoops credit for taking that program to another level.

      In that case, it’s not unreasonable to think that the Gator OL may be able to repeat last year’s result. They may be able to grow and develop throughout the season and end up being a pretty good unit. The next two games give them an opportunity to get better, and despite what kevin says, I just can’t see the Vols team which I witnessed get humiliated by Georgia State, being all that tough in the swamp. If I’m wrong, I’ll recant and properly apologize to kevin, but two more weeks of practice and game time should have the OL ready for Auburn. In the overall outlook for that game, is there any reason to believe that Auburn, with a true freshman QB, is going to pose any bigger problem for the Gators in the swamp than LSU did last season? Let’s let Mullen and Hevesy work their magic and hope for the best. Go Gators!

  2. Florida needed a spark and they got it. Trask certainly is not a running quarterback but maybe the offense needs to throw more to the receivers and tight ends until the line can grow enough to set up a descent running attack. The pass of course can assist the running game and Trask looks like the guy for the job. I hate that Franks is injured but he will heal and the team now has a little different dimension, maybe one that it needs. As far as the defense/secondary, I don’t know why they insist on playing flag football most of the game and them at 3 and 21, they play tackle football so well that they tackle the receiver before the ball gets there. Timing is off. Tackle! Just do it after the ball gets there, or try to go for the ball itself! More stuff to “clean up” . By now they should have a lot of film on themselves of what not to do. The SEC schedule is upon them. Go Gators!

  3. JUST WIN BABY! And these Gators keep on doing it! Heal up Franks! Great job Trask!
    Florida needs work, yes. But a ‘W’ is a ‘W,’ and these Gators are still undefeated!
    For some reason U.F. has to play to the closing seconds to win in Lexington most times. But we still won this time! So Go Gators! And, JUST WIN BABY!

  4. Great posts everybody. I especially enjoyed 6’s, the way he built up to “the sun may shine again”.
    I know it might sound like an “I told you so” but I always thought Trask was the better QB as did many others.
    Now we’ll get to see if we were right or not.
    I’m sorry Trask is getting his chance because of Franks’ pain. Get well soon and come back strong Feleipe. We love you man.

    • Jack, I agree with everything you said. I greatly enjoy the articles and the comments here. For me, they’re a welcome distraction from life’s unpleasant issues. And how ’bout that 6, huh? He’s got a way of turning a phrase that sets him apart. I’d pay the $60 just to get to read his posts.

    • Correct as far as the opposing backfield, Sergeant Major, but unless our big uglies can move their big uglies, there just aren’t going to be any openings on the line to run thru. Think of it as akin the the old Warsaw Pact doctrine of making a hole, widening the gap, and pouring thru. Unless, of course, we use Pearce on every run play — that joker can make his own holes.

  5. Extremely happy to get the W on the road and I thoroughly enjoy reading the comments on here. I agree with the posters that the O-Line seems to be a weak link in the Gator chain and hope they can improve on their run blocking. I knew we would probably need to make some plays in the passing game to win this game. I was mildly surprised however with the lack of physicality on our D-line. Based on the performance thus far this year, I hoped they would be stronger against the run and apply more pressure on their pass rush. It appeared Savage has some more work to do on both lines of scrimmage. Last year and this year, I thought Kentucky had excellent game plans for us and we seemed a little slow to adjust. Just super glad we won. I really thought going into the 4th quarter this game was lost. I’m so hurt for FF and pray he has a speedy recovery. I don’t think I could ever appreciate enough the mental toughness it took for Mr. Trask to come into a game like that, a hostile environment, victory in doubt, and perform with calm and precision as he did. My deepest respect for the team to rally around him and keep fighting and pull out this victory. Remarkable! Great to be a Gator.