As he did in his first career start, Gators quarterback Kyle Trask came out strong against the Tigers. The redshirt junior went 7-for-7 passing for 64 yards on Florida’s opening drive, which saw Florida jump out to an early 7-0 lead just 5:32 into the game. And, just like on the opening drive of Florida’s 34-3 victory the previous week against Tennessee, it was Kyle Pitts hauling in the first score of the game in Saturday’s 38-0 victory.
But Trask wasn’t done after just one drive — far from it, in fact.
Trask completed his 15th consecutive pass in the opening minutes of the second half, which marked his 18th straight completion dating back to UF’s 34-3 win over Tennessee — a Florida program record for consecutive completions. His first incompletion would come several minutes later, with the Gators deep in Towson territory following Jon Greenard’s interception, and Trask would finish the game 18-for-20 passing for 188 yards before Emory Jones entered in the fourth quarter.
Although Trask’s performance was literally one for the record books, some were less impressed — namely his teammates. While making sure not to belittle his achievement in any way, center Nick Buchanan said Saturday’s showing was business as usual after seeing Trask perform in practice over the previous three years and counting.
“Well, he comes out here on Saturdays, but what you guys don’t see is that we’ve seen it every day in practice. He’s a guy that comes out there, puts his head down and works. We see it, so I’m not surprised that he’s coming out here and setting records because he’s just doing what he’s supposed to do,” Buchanan said of Trask. “He’s supposed to come out here and run the offense and make throws, and that’s what he’s coming out to do. So kudos to him, kudos to his preparation throughout the week.”
Two unexpected injuries at kickoff
The Gators weren’t expecting to play starting cornerback CJ Henderson against Towson, nor were they anticipating using standout defensive lineman Jabari Zuniga, but two other players were unexpectedly ruled out prior to kick off.
Senior wide receiver Freddie Swain served as one of the team’s three captains, but he was in street clothes as he approached midfield for the coin toss.
And starting safety Shawn Davis, one of the bright spots of UF’s defense through its first four games this season, was held out with an undisclosed reason. After the game, Mullen assuaged fears that the ailments would keep said Gators off the field against Auburn.
“Hopefully we get a bunch of guys back next week, you know what I mean? There were some guys that were on the edge this week, we sat them all injury-wise. They were right on the edge, we were going to stretch to get them in there to go play but we didn’t. But hopefully we get everybody back going next week,” Mullen said. “The only guy that would be a question next week still is going to be Kadarius Toney. We won’t get him for two or three weeks. We expect him back after the bye. But we expect everybody else back next week.”
Towson misses early scoring chances
The Gators went into the locker room at halftime with a comfortable 17-point lead, but it wasn’t built with ease.
Towson’s offense was able to establish early momentum against Florida’s defense, with the Tigers managing to get deep into UF territory on consecutive drives. The first ended in a botched snap fumble that UF senior linebacker David Reese recovered on Florida’s 25-yard line, while the second led to an unsuccessful 32-yard field goal attempt. While the Tigers offense couldn’t put any points on the scoreboard, the opposition did manage to gain 143 yards in the first half, which led Florida to make several adjustments at halftime. It seemed to pay off, as the Gators held Towson to just 101 yards in the second half.
“I think everybody knows Todd (Grantham) is a great defensive coordinator, a great defensive coach. He does a great job with in-game adjustments. Our guys have come out and played hard in the second half. I get on our guys all the time. What matters is do we have 11 guys playing as hard as they can every single snap. If we do that we’ll be ok. We won’t get worn down. People aren’t going to wear us down over the course of the game,” Mullen said. “We’ve got the opportunity to continue to play for four quarters. Just go hard every snap. We roll guys through a bunch. I think Todd’s bought in and you see the ability to play a bunch of guys on defense. That keeps other guys fresh and keeps you fresh as the second half goes on and allows you to continue to make plays.”
Offensive line changes once again
Florida’s offensive line has been a work in progress all season, and Saturday’s shutout of Towson was no different. The Gators allowed three sacks and struggled to move the ball efficiently on the ground, prompting Mullen to shake up the rotation. Brett Heggie moved from left to right guard in place of redshirt freshman Chris Bleich, allowing fellow redshirt freshman Richard Gouraige to slide in between center Nick Buchanan and left tackle Stone Forsythe for much of the second half. The Gators seemed to move the ball more efficiently after the move — Dameon Pierce’s 37-yard rushing touchdown in the third quarter served as Florida’s longest run by a running back this season — and elicited questions whether the move was a permanent one.
“I feel as though every day we can get better at our technique and our fundamentals, the little things that go into being great offensive linemen,” Buchanan said. “Richard (Gouraige) did a great job today, and that just goes back to his practice. He’s a guy who comes out every day at practice, he’s honing in on his technique, learning the offense and everything like that, so it’s not a surprise when guys come out here and execute on Saturdays, because we’ve seen it all week.”