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Cotton Bowl 2020: Five takeaways from Florida Gators' blowout loss to Oklahoma Sooners

Zach Abolverdi
Gainesville Sun

Florida’s once-promising 2020 season ended in embarrassing fashion Wednesday in the Cotton Bowl at Arlington, Texas. 

No. 6 Oklahoma jumped out to a 17-0 lead with three Kyle Trask interceptions, cruising to a 55-20 win over an undermanned UF squad. It was the third consecutive loss for the seventh-ranked Gators (8-4), who were missing 14 scholarship players due to opt-outs, injuries and COVID-19 cases.

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“That wasn’t the 2020 football team that you saw,” Florida coach Dan Mullen said. “A lot of the guys out there playing tonight were on the scout team most of the year for us.

“A lot of guys got some really good experience out there for us tonight. I think the future is really bright.”

The Sooners (9-2) rushed for a whooping 435 yards, while quarterback Spencer Rattler scored three total touchdowns and threw for 247 yards on 14 of 23 passing. 

Here are five takeaways from the game:

Florida defensive back Donovan Stiner is unable to stop Oklahoma wide receiver Marvin Mims (17) from reaching the end zone on a touchdown reception during the first half Wednesday of the Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas.

OU picks on Stiner

Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley saw on film what fans and media members have been seeing all season: safety Donovan Stiner is the weakest link in Florida’s secondary. 

The Sooners went right after him from the start, completing passes to Charleston Rambo (25 yards) and Marvin Mims (27-yard touchdown) on their opening drive with Stiner giving up way too much cushion on both plays. 

On Rattler’s second touchdown pass to Theo Wease in the second quarter, Stiner took a terrible angle and let him run into the end zone untouched to put Oklahoma back up by double digits. 

Stiner did chase down Seth McGowan on his 73-yard run to save a touchdown in the second half, but was flagged for a horse-collar tackle. Nonetheless, OU still had to settle for a 20-yard field goal.

More:Gators linebacker James Houston hears trash talk of Sooners bite back

Trask’s horrid start

Florida quarterback Kyle Trask is taken down behind the line of scrimmage by Oklahoma linebacker Nik Bonitto during the first half of the Cotton Bowl on Wednesday in Arlington, Texas.

The opening period was a nightmare for Trask, who threw three interceptions after entering the bowl game with five interceptions all year. 

Three of those five were returned for touchdowns against Missouri, Georgia and LSU, and Trask’s first offensive drive Wednesday resulted in his fourth pick-six of the season. 

Oklahoma defensive back Tre Norwood stepped in front of his pass to Rick Wells and took it to the house for a 45-yard score, putting the Sooners ahead 14-0 less than three minutes into the game.

More:Gators fall behind 17-0 after just 7 minutes

Trask’s second interception could have been a completion to Kemore Gamble, but it went through his hands and into the arms of outside linebacker Brian Asamoah.

The third turnover for Trask was a severely underthrown jump ball to freshman Ja'Quavion Fraziars, which was picked off in the end zone by cornerback Woodi Washington. 

Trask settled down after that, but could never find his groove in the second or third quarter. He finished with just 158 yards passing and no touchdowns for the first time in his career as a starter.

“Kyle’s a competitor. He wanted to go out there and play,” Mullen said. “It was a little bit different (without his top targets), but he’s going to be playing with a bunch of new receivers next year in the NFL.”

Florida quarterback Emory Jones (5) runs the ball as Oklahoma linebacker Brian Asamoah (24) and defensive end Marcus Stripling (33) give chase during the first half Wednesday of the Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas.

Jones provides spark

Florida’s first three possessions ended in Trask interceptions, then he couldn’t score a touchdown in the red zone after a forced fumble by the defense. 

Mullen turned to backup quarterback Emory Jones in the second quarter and it led to the Gators’ first touchdown drive. 

Jones converted a pair of third downs and then scored from a yard out to make it a one-score game. For the series, he completed four of six pass attempts for 48 yards and carried the ball four times for 17 yards. 

But Jones had one issue during the drive: ESPN cameras showed him repeatedly vomiting on the field.

“He’s gotta get in shape or something. You gotta play those long drives now. He’s used to going in for a couple plays here and there and getting a breather and some water,” Mullen said jokingly of Jones. “But he got in and he hit a couple plays.”

Jones took over for Trask in the third quarter and had 146 total yards, including 86 through the air. He also helped Florida rush for a season-high 250 yards. 

More:Emory Jones leads Gators to points but loses his lunch

Red-zone woes

Jones’ touchdown run was the only time UF scored six in the red zone. 

The Gators’ first two trips inside the 20 produced interception No. 3 and Evan McPherson’s 21-yard field goal after Trask was stopped on back-to-back quarterback runs. 

Florida’s second forced fumble also set up Trask in OU territory, but he was sacked in the red zone on second down and McPherson had to kick another field goal from 35 yards. 

Jones led the offense on another drive inside the 20 in the second half, but his fourth-and-goal pass to Rick Wells was stopped for no gain. 

Oklahoma wide receiver Theo Wease sprints to the end zone after a reception and scores a touchdown ahead of Florida linebacker James Houston IV (41) during the first half of the Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas, on Wednesday.

684 total yards

Florida’s defense has struggled throughout the year and closed out the season with its worst performance of 2020. 

The Gators gave up more than 50 points and 600 yards of total offense for the second game in a row. No. 1 Alabama gained 605 yards in the SEC Championship Game and the Sooners finished with 684 yards. 

Prior to their 435 rushing yards, including 186 yards on 18 carries by Offensive MVP Rhamondre Stevenson, the most Florida had allowed on the ground this season was 208 yards against Arkansas.

Wednesday marks the third time UF has surrendered over 600 yards after Ole Miss put up 613 in the opener.

“We had a very young defense out there, but I’m really excited that guys got some experience out there to go play,” Mullen said. “I’m looking out there and Kamar Wilcoxson should be finishing up his senior year in high school and he’s playing corner in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl. And so, I think there’s a lot of things we can grow off of.”