Abolverdi's answers: Florida didn't have enough against Oklahoma

Zach Abolverdi
Gainesville Sun
Florida wide receiver Justin Shorter (89) catches a pass Wednesday in the first quarter of the Cotton Bowl against Oklahoma in Arlington, Texas.

Before every Florida game, Gainesville Sun college football beat writer Zach Abolverdi comes up with five pertinent questions and then answers them after the game. Here's the Cotton Bowl edition:

How does Kyle Trask perform without his top pass catchers? 

Trask’s last outing in orange and blue was a disaster without Kyle Pitts, Kadarius Toney, Trevon Grimes and Jacob Copeland. The lack of chemistry and rhythm between the backup receivers and Florida’s Heisman Trophy finalist was evident from their opening drive, as Trask threw his fourth pick-six in 2020. He had three interceptions on his first three possessions and failed to score a touchdown on two trips inside the red zone, which could have kept the Gators competitive early on. UF coach Dan Mullen gave Trask one more series to start the third quarter, but the offense went four plays and out. Trask finished with 158 yards on 16 of 28 passing. For the first time in his career as a starter, he threw three picks in a game and didn’t have a touchdown pass. 

Florida quarterback Emory Jones throws a pass in the first half Wednesday of the Cotton Bowl against Oklahoma in Arlington, Texas.

Can Florida’s rushing offense generate some production?

If there’s one bright spot from UF’s 55-20 loss, it was the running game. The Gators had their most successful performance of the year on Oklahoma’s rushing defense, which was ranked No. 3 nationally and had allowed an average of just 90.6 yards per game. Florida eclipsed 200 yards for just the second time in 2020, rushing for a season-high 250 yards against the Sooners. Tailback Dameon Pierce (11 carries) and backup quarterback Emory Jones (10 carries) both led the way with 60 yards apiece. Nay’Quan Wright had 44 yards rushing on four touches and Malik Davis carried the ball seven times for 31 yards. Freshman QB Anthony Richadson also added 42 yards on three runs. 

Up next

Who: Florida Atlantic at Florida

When: Sept. 4

How many sacks will the Gators give up against Oklahoma? 

The Sooners, who ranked No. 6 in the country in sacks per game (3.6), only brought down Trask once in the backfield, but it was a costly sack. After Jones’ touchdown run cut the deficit to 17-10, Oklahoma lost its second fumble on the ensuing series and the Gators took over at the OU 29. Their offense reached the red zone, but Trask was sacked for a three-yard loss on second down and his third-and-9 pass to Kemore Gamble fell incomplete. Florida couldn’t capitalize on the turnover and had to settle for a 35-yard field goal by Evan McPherson instead of tying the game. 

Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler (7) keeps the ball for a long gain as Florida defensive back Tre'Vez Johnson (16) attempts to make the stop in the second half Wednesday of the Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas.

Can Florida keep QB Spencer Rattler under 300 yards passing?

Rattler threw for 247 yards, but UF didn’t necessarily “keep” him under 300. The Sooners just had no need to throw the ball after they built a big lead and started gashing the Gators on the ground to the tune of 435 yards, a Cotton Bowl rushing record. Rattler set the tone for the night on Oklahoma’s first series, marching the offense 79 yards in five plays and throwing a 27-yard touchdown to Marvin Mims. After three unsuccessful possessions, including a pair of fumbles, Rattler led the Sooners on a pair of touchdown drives right before the half to take a commanding 31-13 lead. He finished with three TD passes and ran for a fourth score. 

Will UF’s defense hold the Sooners below their scoring average?

This last question was posed before we learned the Gators would be missing four defensive starters (Kyree Cambell, Ventrell Miller, Marco Wilson, Shawn Davis) and senior defensive tackle Marlon Dunlap in the Cotton Bowl. With those five players out of the lineup, there’s no way Florida was holding the Sooners under their scoring average of 41.8 points per game. Their offense had actually been held to a season-low 27 points in each of the last two contests, but doubled that amount against UF. It marked the second game in a row where the Gators have allowed more than 50 points and the sixth time this season they’ve given up 35 points or more.

Oklahoma running back Rhamondre Stevenson goes past Florida linebacker Andrew Chatfield Jr. on the way to a touchdown during Wednesday's Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas.