5 takeaways from Florida-Arkansas: Kyle Trask too much for Franks, Arkansas
Arkansas quarterback Feleipe Franks had a nice performance in his return to The Swamp on Saturday night, throwing two long touchdown passes and leading the Razorbacks to 28 points.
But nice isn't nearly good enough when your counterpart has yet another passing performance pretty much off the charts. Florida quarterback Kyle Trask, the man who took over Franks' starting role at Florida last season, continued his torrid touchdown streak, throwing six touchdown passes, five in the first half, to lead the No. 5 Gators to a convincing 63-35 victory Saturday night in The Swamp.
“I think guys did a great job," UF coach Dan Mullen said. "You’re talking about guys being prepared when their number is called, come in and perform and make plays. That’s such a huge deal for us.
"The wideouts did a really nice job and Kyle Trask did a really good job distributing the ball, not getting panicky, taking what they were going to give us all night. They played a lot of dime, three down, soft dime defense. That’s not where we’re going to get explosive play after explosive play. You’re going to have to kind of execute your way down the field and we were able to do that most of the night.”
The victory moves the Gators, who are solidly in control in the SEC East, to 5-1 on the season.
Here are five takeaways from the game:
Trask, Trask and more Trask
With the Gators facing the best pass defense in the SEC, many were thinking this might be where Trask's streak of throwing four or more touchdowns in a game might come to an end. Well, no, it didn't. Didn't even come close. He threw his fourth touchdown pass of the game in the second quarter. Then added a fifth in the closing minutes of the first half to run his total to five. Then he added a sixth early in the fourth quarter.
So, Trask's SEC record is now six consecutive games with four or more touchdown passes. Trask now has 28 touchdown passes.
"Stats are cool, but we're here to win games," Trask said. "We're trying to win a national championship."
Trask was especially hot in a decisive second quarter, throwing four TD passes to give the Gators a commanding 35-14 lead.
No Pitts, no problem
Mullen said earlier in the week that the offense would not change even if star tight end Kyle Pitts was unable to go Saturday night due to a concussion he sustained against Georgia last week.
Well, Pitts was, indeed, out — and the offense still flew up and down the field, almost effortlessly at times on the strong, accurate arm of Trask — and with his receivers and running backs making plays for him.
Trask threw touchdown passes to four different receivers — Trevon Grimes, Justin Shorter, Jacob Copeland and Keon Zipperer — as he spread the ball around to the UF playmakers. Back-up quarterback Emory Jones threw a TD pass to a fifth different receiver in the fourth quarter.
"It's awesome," Trask said. "We're known since fall camp how many weapons we've got."
Pitts or no Pitts, this offense appears to have the weapons to pile up yards and points. That was clearly evident in the one-sided win.
Running game sets it up
The way the Gators opened the game on offense, it appeared the offense was going to take the steady, methodical approach against what has been a sound Arkansas defense whose strength is the secondary.
On the game's opening drive, the Gators ran the ball, and ran the ball and tossed in an occasional short pass and ate up almost half of the quarter before putting a touchdown on the board.
The early success on the ground was big, because it brought the play-action passing game into play — and Trask and his receivers lit it up for most of the rest of the way.
New TE rising
When Pitts left the Georgia game in the first half with a concussion, back-up tight ends Kemore Gamble and Keon Zipperer both came in and made plays and flashed their potential.
With Pitts out Saturday night, the game belonged to them at what has been a highly productive position, and it was Zipperer, a true sophomore, who shone. He caught two touchdown passes — one in the first half and one in the second — and had a 31-yard reception.
Even with Pitts out of the mix, the Gators have shown they still have playmaking ability at the position.
"A lot of times it's next-guy-up mentality, and go make plays," Mullen said. "You’re down Kyle Pitts, great playmaker, but Gamble and Zipperer step up and have really good games."
Defense still leaking
It turned out to be a comfortable win, thanks to the offense, but the Florida defense continues to show it is vulnerable at times and prone to giving up big, explosive plays.
"I think we just need to clean up a few things," safety Donovan Stiner said. "Little things that can make big plays. I think we need to stay consistent, no missed assignments and things like that, because as you see, one missed assignment can result in a big play."
Franks threw a 47-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Mike Woods midway through the first quarter. Then, after the offense had pushed the lead out to 21-7 midway through the second quarter, the defense gave up an 83-yard touchdown run to Trelon Smith on the very next offensive play.
And Smith's dash was even easier than Zamir White's 75-yard TD run for Georgia the previous Saturday. Smith took a handoff and ripped through a big hole in the middle of the defensive front, going the distance untouched on a play between the tackles.
Then, in the fourth quarter, the defense gave up another one-play TD drive, with Franks throwing an 82-yard touchdown pass. The game was basically over when that play was made, but it's still a major concern for a Florida defense that gives up so much so easily at times.
Who: No. 5 Florida (5-1) vs. Vanderbilt (0-6)
When: 12 p.m. Saturday
Where: Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, Tenn.
TV: ESPN or SEC Network
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850