Notebook: Florida overcomes playing short-handed on defense

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South Carolina quarterbck Ryan Hilinski gets sacked by Florida's Zachary Carter in the first half Saturday in Columbia, S.C. [Mic Smith/Associated Press]

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Once again, Gators defensive linemen Jonathan Greenard and Jabari Zuniga traveled with the team for Saturday’s 38-27 victory over South Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium. But as warm-ups commenced under overcast skies, UF’s top pass-rushers weren’t dressed out in uniform, and Florida coach Dan Mullen would soon confirm on ESPN’s College GameDay that the two would miss the contest.

The Gators were still able to manage three sacks, in addition to seven tackles for a loss, but it was clear UF’s pass rush was suffering from their absence. 

After the game, Mullen said he expected the duo to heal up during the bye week, with the intention of getting both players ready for a full week of practice prior to Florida’s upcoming match-up with Georgia.

“I’m extremely optimistic (they’ll return), you know, it’s been, how many weeks now? So, by medical standards and timing, I’m very optimistic that they’ll be good to go,” Mullen said. “I’m optimistic, honestly, that they’ll be good to go for next Monday’s practice. Game week, Tuesday at least the absolute latest, a practice for Georgia.”

Gators manage to avoid other serious injuries

While the Gators seemingly managed to avoid any long-term injuries, the rainy contest had more than its fair share of ailments. 

Five UF players went down with injuries, including wide receiver Jacob Copeland, who took a nasty hit to the jawline on a second-half reception. Copeland would return to the game soon after, but he was one of the more fortunate ones. Defensive lineman Marlon Dunlap was seen banging his fist on the turf after suffering an injury late in the fourth quarter, linebacker Jeremiah Moon left briefly before returning, and Trevon Grimes came up hobbling on a late onside kick recovery. And starting defensive tackle Adam Shuler went down with an apparent knee injury, although he was also able to return for Florida. 

While he wouldn’t elaborate on any maladies, Mullen did harp on the importance of the upcoming bye week when it comes to the health of Florida’s roster.

Chance to hopefully get some guys healthy, you know what I mean? It’s good credit to the guys, our team, of next guy up to get us in this position with all the injuries we’ve had to deal with this year,” Mullen said. “But hopefully we get healthy. We’ve got a big break and have got a big three-game stretch after the bye to try to win the SEC East.”

UF makes a change up front

Likely looking to shore up the protection, the Gators made a change along the offensive line. Brett Heggie slid over to right guard in place of redshirt freshman Chris Bleich, allowing redshirt freshman Richard Gouraige to start at left guard. While not directly the cause, the result was 154 rushing yards, Florida’s most yards on the ground against an FBS opponent this season. 

We’re getting there, you know what I mean? Obviously you want a little more consistency out of it, but we are hitting explosive plays,” Mullen said of Florida’s run game. “I think just how people are playing us for those things it gives opportunities for explosive plays, in how they’re defending the run and trying to bracket different receivers and take receivers away from you, that you end up getting explosive plays.”

Said explosive play sets program record

Dameon Pierce’s 75-yard dash nearly accounted for half of Florida’s rushing total, and, despite Mullen stating the Gators are “getting there”, it put Florida’s rushing attack in the record books. 

Pierce’s run was the 24th rush of 75 yards or more in the history of the football program, and it marked the third such run this season for the Gators. Coming into the 2019 campaign, the Gators had never strung together more than two runs of 75 yards or more in a single season.

Trask passes his way into elite company

Redshirt junior quarterback Kyle Trask continued his solid play, helping lead Florida to a 11-point victory on the back of 200 passing yards and four passing touchdowns. For a Gators offense that has lacked a strong aerial attack in the past decade, it seemed like a sight for sore eyes. As it turned out, Trask’s performance was as rare as it likely seemed to Florida fans. Trask became the first quarterback since Tim Tebow to throw four touchdown passes in a road game for the Gators. 

“I would say just with reps and experience, you just gel more, you know, get better timing with the guys,” Trask said of his progression from back-up to starter. “We started clicking here in the second half, and I think some of that showed.” 

14 COMMENTS

  1. Graham, I’m glad to see the Gatorsports staff is beginning to notice that what Kyle Trask is doing since taking over in the 4th quarter of the UK game is really, really special. That recognition will be important going forward because, regardless of how well Trask does the rest of this season, there will be a Gator QB competition come next spring and summer.

    There are still many clueless members of the national sports media out there, like Ben Kercheval at CBS Sports, who’ll see that QB competition this way, “…Trask does not have some of the same physical attributes that Franks possesses, but he’s been solid this season, and Mullen leaned on his arm again against South Carolina…”

    It will be up to the Gatorsports staff, who’ll closely watch every single Gator game this season, to set the “woke” members of our national sports media straight on the valid reasons why Kyle Trask will eventually win that offseason QB competition. There should be no misunderstandings in the sports media about it. The Gators don’t need any confusion such misunderstanding may create in their locker room next season.

    You see, “physical attributes” are NOT everything when it comes to playing the QB position. Franks “does not have some” mental and leadership “attributes” that Trask “possesses…” like KNOWING how to throw receivers open over the middle of the field, or the PR difference between shushing the opponents’ fans vs. shushing HIS OWN!!!

      • Great post again Sly, a win is a win, no need to crap on the other players that put their mental and physical health on the line while not living up to a couch potato’s heartless comments or as ‘Champ might say “gutless.” I Love ‘Champ another Gator that shouldn’t receive all the hatred from Gators “fans.”

      • Sly, I take your point regarding bashing current players, comments from the peanut gallery aside, but I don’t think that was StL’s intent at all other than to call attention to the lack of attention that Trask is receiving for stepping up and showing us what he can do. A lot of us were in his corner all along and as far as him appearing to eclipse Felipe, I don’t think that’s an illusion either. We were also always in Frank’s corner too, which is not contradictory in the least. One of them is better than the other at some of the same aspects of quarterbacking is all, or at least it appears so right now. It’s a shame that one had to get injured for another to rise and shine, but that’s the way it is sometimes.

        For others to escalate two Gator buddies disagreeing to one of them being a couch potato making heartless and gutless comments is beyond me. Of course, silly me — I’d rather be a couch potato than a potato head. 😜

      • I respect your viewpoint where it comes to enjoying what we have now and worrying about the future later, but fact is that Gator coaches were NOT winning all the games they were supposed to win with Franks at QB.

        Sometimes, it’s hard to predict what might have been. However, there is zero doubt in my mind that our beloved Gators would have lost that UK game had Franks not been injured and Trask not come in to saved the day.

        There’s also no doubt in my mind the Gators would have lost yesterday with Franks at QB. He just doesn’t have a 4 TD pass performance on the road, in the rain in him. We haven’t seen such a performance around Hogtown since Tim Terrific turned in his Gator jersey.

  2. Kyle Trask’s consistency overall has been very good – a few flubs early in the game, but that was Trask getting used to playing in the rain. As the game progressed, so did Trask and his receivers. Credit an improved O-line performance (I was worried about the potential mismatch with SC’s D-line – thank God this was not the case). Just figure Georgia will be up for the cocktail party in Jacksonville two weeks from now – my good friend Peter Wells will be there with his RV and customized Gator golf cart (I can’t go – it is VAB season where I work). GO GATORS, STOMP THEM DOGS!!!

    • You’ve noticed one of the peculiarities of college football that few fans ever notice IAM. Pass blocking and run blocking are two VERY different skills and very few college OLs are really good at both. Being consistently good at both is one of the skills that sets NFL teams above college teams.

      The Gator OL, which has been terrible at run blocking, has actually been pretty good at pass blocking. That is another reason why the QB change and correspondingly higher emphasis on the passing game has raised the Gators’ profile in the esteem of AP Poll voters. They’re back at #7 just one week after losing to LSU.

  3. Another thing to be happy about regarding QB play is Jones. He isn’t looking bad himself when put into the game. I love the fact that Mullen hasn’t hesitated to call passing plays with Jones. This could work out pretty good with Trask starting next year and then two years of Jones after that. Hopefully we can recruit a good one this year and redshirt him.

    While I was critical of Franks’ play in the past, I was always hesitant to endorse Trask simply because we didn’t know if he would be any better when it came to game time. You all know the old saying, “everyone loves the backup.” Now that we have seen him in action, Trask is clearly shining. Looking forward to another year of him and a few more years of Jones.

    • Excellent observation Patrick! Emory Jones is coming along really well as the next Gator QB. And he has so much upside! This season, Jones has flashed real potential to be the next coming of Baker Mayfield or Deshaun Watson, just in a Gator uni!

      Jones just needs another year under Savage to “put some meat on his bones.” SEC defenses are brutal, NFL defenses are even worse and Jones still looks too skinny to absorb a full season of that kind of punishment. And just ask Will Grier what can happen when one tries to “artificially” accelerate that process.

      • I saw some posts the other day that somehow derided Jone’s development to date, so there are at least two sides to every assessment. As for me, I think he’s made great leaps from where he was last year in the time allotted to play, and am impressed so far this season. To the extent that it’s not hard to see why people see him as the future. Glad we got him and glad we’ve kept him (so far).

        • Jones appears to be a level headed young man who takes advise well and waits his turn, like Kyle Trask did. The only problem I have with his performance to date is the small sample size. 17 completions in 28 passing attempts so far is not much to judge anything more than form.

          I can tell you this much. He already throws over the middle of the field with more confidence than Franks ever did.