5 takeaways from Florida-Georgia game: Kyle Trask's arm carries Gators offense
That seemingly impenetrable barricade Kirby Smart and the Georgia Bulldogs constructed between Gainesville and Atlanta has been breached by the Florida Gators.
The No. 8 Gators didn't knock it down. They flew over it Saturday in Jacksonville with quarterback Kyle Trask and a potent passing game. Trask threw for 474 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Gators to a 44-28 win over the No. 5 Bulldogs that puts UF in the driver's seat in the quest to win the SEC East and advance to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game.
"It means so much, having that (three-game) losing streak that we had with them the past couple years," Trask said. "It just means the world to this team to finally get over that hump and get a win against this very good, and well-coached Georgia team. I can't be more proud of our guys right now."
UF, trailing 14-0 early in the first quarter, took command of the game with a dominant second quarter in which the Gators (4-1) outscored the Bulldogs 24-7.
"We have such an explosive offense, such a great team, top-down," Trask said. "We just had a lot of confidence, a lot of energy. We went down 14-nothing early, and this team had no panic. That kind of shows the character of this team. We're never going to get down and panic in any situation, we're always going to fight. Take one play at a time, and that's what we did."
Here are five takeaways from the game:
More history for Trask
This sounds familiar, but here we go again.
It was yet another history-making day for Trask. He threw four touchdown passes in the first half alone, giving him four or more touchdown passes in five consecutive games. He’s the first quarterback in the SEC’s long history to do that.
"It’s cool and all, but at the same time, that’s just a reflection of how this offense is working," Trask said. "The O-Line is playing great, they are communicating very well. They’re picking up all sorts of blitzes and the receivers are doing a great job of being on the same page with me and finding the holes in the defense. That just represents how well this offense is working right now.”
Pitts knocked out
In a second quarter that saw the Gators outscore the Bulldogs 24-7 to take a commanding lead, just about everything went right for UF. One thing that didn’t was a blow to the head of star tight end Kyle Pitts that knocked him out of the game.
Pitts was unable to return due to an undisclosed injury. But it appeared to be a possible concussion as a result of a targeting foul being called on Georgia safety Lewis Cine.
His status is uncertain for Saturday's game against Arkansas.
"We’ll see," UF coach Dan Mullen said. "That was a big hit, so the trainers said that he would be out the rest of the game. We will check out how that goes the rest of the week."
Pitts was having another big game before he was injured, catching a 25-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter.
The Gators do have depth at tight end, and it showed. Almost immediately. Two plays after Pitts departed, No. 2 tight end Kemore Gamble caught a 24-yard touchdown pass.
Nice defensive rebound
In the opening minutes of the game, Florida's defense, which showed great improvement a week earlier in a win over Missouri, reverted to its porous form from earlier in the season.
On the first play of the game, Georgia (4-2) running back Zamir White took a handoff around left end and raced 75 yards for a touchdown on the game's first offensive play. He went the distance without being touched by a single defender.
A few minutes later, the Gators gave up a 32-yard TD pass that put the Gators down 14-0 less than five minutes into the game.
But from there on, seemingly out of nowhere, the defense helped take control of the game, getting off the field on third down and giving the ball back to the high-scoring offense.
When the game was on the line in the second quarter and early in the third, the Gators shut down the UGA offense. And for the game, the defense produced three takeaways — all interceptions.
One obvious change in the offensive game plan for the Gators in this game was getting the running backs more involved in the passing game. Not just on screens or short dumps over the middle or in the flat, but down the field.
The running backs — Dameon Pierce, Malik Davis and Nay’Quan Wright — all produced explosive plays in the passing game. Wright had a 50-yard reception. Davis had a 37-yard reception. And Pierce caught passes of 22 and 27 yards.
The backs combined to have 212 yards in receptions.
“I don’t know all the stats, but that’s a good day for them," Mullen said. "I know everybody says whoever runs for the most yards wins, but maybe it’s whose running backs get the most yards wins. When you look at match-ups. Kyle Trask does a great job. He’s not going to force the ball. They’re going to bracket and take away and double people. He’s going to go to who you’re not bracketing or double-covering.”
The return of McPherson
The Gators welcomed back one of their best offensive weapons Saturday — place-kicker Evan McPherson, who was unavailable for last week's game against Missouri.
McPherson made his presence felt with his strong and accurate leg.
He drilled a 50-yard field goal late in the first half and went one yard better early in the third, hitting from 51 yards to give the Gators a 41-21 lead.
McPherson also was true from 34 yards to put the game away with 1:19 left in the fourth quarter.
Who: Arkansas vs. No. 8 Florida
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850
Online: For more coverage of the Florida-Georgia game that includes analysis, notebook, features, photo gallery and video, click to Gatorsports.com