On Kyle Trask, and what this Cocktail Party means for his Gators legacy

Kyle Trask has never shied away from a challenge. It’s not in his nature.

Kyle Trask’s accomplishments at Florida almost never happened, a classic tale of hard work meeting opportunity.

As a 10th grader, Trask lost the starting quarterback job on his varsity football team in Manvel, Texas. When it happened, his parents asked him if he wanteed to transfer to a different high school where he’d get to live out the Friday Night Lights Texas dream as QB 1 in small town, Texas, USA. Two of his teammates had done the same. Trask elected to stay, even if it meant only playing sparingly behind the sensational D’Eriq King, a coveted national recruit who signed and starred at Houston before transferring to Miami. Trask demurred, telling his dad “competition is a way of life and there’s no sense in running from it now.

“I always believed if I was patient, and prepared myself like the next game was the biggest game I’d play, an opportunity would follow,” Trask told the media earlier this summer.

It did, but not in the usual way. King was a star, and Trask was left hoping college coaches that came to see King or someone else paid notice to the tall backup with the big arm. Initially, that didn’t happen. Local schools Lamar and Houston Baptist offered, but hardly anyone else paid much mind.

But Trask kept working, and eventually, he got a break.

Randy Shannon, then a defensive assistant under Florida’s Jim McElwain, noticed Trask while watching a Texas defensive prospect the Gators were pursuing. He told Florida’s offensive coordinator, Doug Nussmeier, and Florida offered. Trask signed up immediately.

In Gainesville, Trask again stuck around when others thought he’d never earn a chance to play.

Sure, there were whispers out of camps from Trask’s first days that the big Texan had moxie and knew the playbook, and that the team tended to move when he was under center. But Feleipe Franks moved the team too, and the rocket arm and way the locker room gravitated toward Franks always kept Trask in a familiar spot: backup quarterback. Again, Trask’s family asked if he wanted to transfer somewhere he’d have the chance to play. Again, Trask declined.

His persistence paid off when Franks was injured and lost for the season against Kentucky last fall.

Trask stepped in and, despite having not started a football game since 9th grade, he led Florida to an 11-win season and an Orange Bowl victory over Virginia. In 10 starts, Trask threw for nearly 3,000 yards and 25 touchdowns, helping Florida to its most successful season offensively since the Tebow era.

As a senior, Trask has improved almost every facet of his game, according to his head coach.

“He’s made as much progress from one year to the next as almost any guy I’ve ever coached,” Mullen told the media this August. “We’re on kind of graduate-level stuff with Kyle. I mean he understands the offense and the reads and all of that. It’s how fast he’s getting to everything, the ability to check and change plays. The ability to extend the game plan where he has automatics that he can get us to, ‘Hey, we like this play against this look. His understanding of the offense is so good and allows us to be versatile. He’s not done getting better.”

Trask isn’t done facing down big challenges either.

The latest challenge?

Conquering Georgia. Florida’s bitterest rival (sorry, FSU people, but this game is older and more important), the Dawgs are 3-time reigning SEC East division champions and have reasserted control in the Cocktail Party under Kirby Smart. Georgia has also out-recruited Florida for the past 4 seasons, building a significant talent gap that has only recently begun to narrow (because Florida is adding more to its roster).

The Gators still have less talent than Georgia, but a great quarterback is the ultimate equalizer in college football, and Trask is the first game-changing Gators quarterback to start a second Cocktail Party since Tim Tebow.

Already the most accurate and effective short route passer (1-10 yards) in college football, Trask can also spread the field vertically, as he is 2nd in the SEC in accuracy on throws of 16 yards or more and leads the SEC in accuracy on throws of over 20 yards, per SEC Stat Cat.

Put differently, you could say Trask heard the rumor he’s a “dink and dunk” quarterback and answered the challenge as he always does — with actions and not words.

Trask’s other numbers are staggering. He just set an SEC record for touchdowns by a quarterback in their first 4 SEC games (18). According to Pro Football Focus, he’s the top-rated passer in the league on 3rd down, 5 full points ahead of Alabama’s Mac Jones from an efficiency standpoint. His 68.3% completion rate is on pace to be the highest for a Florida quarterback since Tebow’s 67.8% mark as a senior in 2009. And he’s almost a shoo-in to be the first Gators QB to throw for 3,000 yards since Tebow’s Heisman winning campaign in 2007. Steve Spurrier, the HBC or the Evil Genius himself, depending on which side of the Cocktail Party your allegiance falls, has said that the Trask ought to be a Heisman candidate.

Trask is a poster for everything that’s right about college football, the kind of kid who waits his turn, works hard and seizes his opportunity when it comes. His legacy as a wonderful story and one of the key pieces who brought the fun back to Florida football after a decade in the wilderness is secure. It’s really just a question of scale.

The greatest Gators quarterbacks are remembered for what they did against Georgia.

Steve Spurrier couldn’t beat the Dawgs, and it cost him multiple chances at the SEC championship he thirsted for as a player. He never forgot those failures and carried them with him to Gainesville as a head coach, where he went 11-1 against Georgia. Spurrier took the same “beat Georgia” energy to South Carolina too, and was a thorn in Mark Richt and Georgia’s side in Columbia too, winning his fair share despite talent disparities.

Danny Wuerffel won 4 SEC Championships and a Heisman Trophy, and is on a list of one when it comes to quarterbacks who were undefeated in multiple games against Tennessee’s Peyton Manning. Wuerffel is remembered for winning the 1996 national championship, but he also went 4-0 against Georgia, including one game where he helped Florida hang 50 on the Dawgs in Athens.

Rex Grossman’s legacy should include the 2001 Heisman Trophy, but “way back” in 2001, no sophomore had ever won. Grossman finished a close second to Nebraska’s Eric Crouch. As a consolation, Grossman never lost to Georgia, going 3-0 against the Dawgs, including a stunning victory in 2002, where he played on a sprained knee and threw for 339 yards. The legendary Larry Munson said this of Grossman’s final game against Georgia: “The quarterback, Grossman, ripped out our hearts. He broke our hearts again. He took our heart and our best chance at a national championship (since 1980) and he doesn’t care.” That win is perhaps the biggest part of Grossman’s Florida legacy.

Chris Leak played for three different offensive coordinators and two head coaches but managed to go 3-1 against the Dawgs. His final win in that game, in 2006, put Florida on the path to the program’s second national championship.

Tim Tebow was also 3-1 against Georgia, including the 2006 game that Leak started but Tebow featured prominently. Tebow, who always seemed to play his best in rivalry games, tortured the Dawgs, accounting for 10 overall touchdowns and winning his final 2 games over ranked Georgia teams by an average score of 45-13. For good measure, Tebow broke Herschel Walker’s all-time SEC rushing touchdown record in the Cocktail Party in 2009.

Kyle Trask is up next. If he is the quarterback who pushes Florida back over the top against Georgia, it will be the crowning achievement of an unlikely, special Gators career. It will also join him at the hip in Florida football history with Mullen, who was plenty successful against the Dawgs as a coordinator but hasn’t figured out this game — or Kirby Smart — as a head coach.

Saturday, Kyle Trask will be the best quarterback on the field by a country mile. Often times, that’s enough to tip the scales in a big rivalry game. It might just be enough to tip the scale of an already sizeable legacy for Trask, too.

View Comments

  • I think the gators offense will be too much for the dawgs in this one. QB play could well be the difference.

    • Take out the “could well be” and replace with “will be” and I agree 100%. I think thUGA’s defense will cause some problems (and Uga will be able to run against that crap FL defense), but - as our Dear Lord Nick Saban himself recently decreed: “ Good defense doesn’t beat good offense anymore.”

    • UF has a very one-dimensional offense with some obvious weaknesses.

      In and of itself the UF offense won't be too much for UGA.

      However I think UF will be able to score and UGA's offensive production (or lack of) will decide the game.

      • If its so 1-D then teams wouldn't let the Gators put up the points they have. The only thing blatantly obvious is that UF knows how to score. Idk where you get your opinion from.

        • What's the best defense UF has played to date in 2020?

          Different season and different teams but Kirby and company shut UF out for three quarters in 2019. UF only scored when UGA went into a prevent/soft defense.

          It's not out of the realm of possibility that UGA holds UF to 14 - 21 total points.

        • 18 TD's on 4 SEC teams is an accomplishment worthy of praise whether you like it or not. I am the first to admit when Georgia has a good defense, and they do. The dogs are good. Dont be a delusional fan and say Florida is 1-D just because you're praying Trask doesn't drop the yards Mac Jones did

        • UF is the 3rd overall offense in SEC - 2nd in passing and 9th in rushing.

          Compare UF to Bama and Ole Miss

          Bama: No. 1 ranked SEC offense; 1st in passing and 4th in rushing.
          Ole Miss: No. 2 ranked SEC offense; 1st in rushing and 4th in passing.

          UF - 18 TD's passing and 3 TD's rushing; 342.8 yards per game passing and 133.8 yards per game rushing.

          Yes, UF offense is "1-D."

        • I guess an old dog cant learn new tricks. If you consider UF 1-D thats on you. I assure you Kirby isn't telling his guys that our offense is something that can be considered as trivial. Lets see if Georgia can handle this "1-D" offense or else you'll just sound worse than you already do. We shall see this weekend

      • No, TDOW does have a point. It's one dimensional; they score points on nearly every drive. It's quite simple.

        • Seriously, what’s the best offensive opponent UGA has faced? Oh that’s right Bama, and we all saw what happened there. Hell Tenn’s vaunted offense put up 21pts. If you don’t think the Gators can score more than Tenn against a depleted defense, then you’re more delusional than I thought.

        • TDOW are you really questioning avoidance of questions? That’s pretty hilarious! Does it really matter that they haven’t faced a great defense yet? They’ve faced plenty of teams over the last 10 years without great defenses and weren’t putting up these type of numbers. Just because Mullen hasn’t scored more than 17pts or whatever is it as a head coach against Smart, doesn’t guarantee he never will. I don’t think you understand that concept. Mullen has never had an offense this good as a head coach. We’ll see what happens, and remember if it’s a blowout, I don’t want to hear any excuses the way you’re running your mouth now.

        • All that BS and babble and you still had to admit UF has yet to play against a good defense.

          Now I remember why turds are also called crackheads, and why it sticks.

          Lol

        • First off, how is pointing out the fact that UF scores on nearly every drive prideful? It's literally a fact. They simply haven't punted much this year. Nearly every drive results in some sort of points.

          Second, you're mentioning pride before a fall, while literally saying that UGA's defense is the best thing in the league. So when UF is happy about their offense, it's unrealistic and boastful, but when UGA brags about their defense, it's warranted?

          Third, one dimensional would be if it was just the Kyle-to-Kyle Connection. The receiving core is legit with multiple weapons. Ask UGA what it's like to face down 3+ receivers that can burn you.

          Finally, UGA D vs UF O is strength on strength. UGA O vs. UF D is weakness on weakness. The question will be which will break first.

        • @Joemarks
          Tennessee’s offense only dropped 14 on UGA in the first half. The first score was a fumble recovery for a touchdown. Also, Tennessee’s vaunted offense only gained 71 total yard on a whopping 39 plays in the second half. That’s .55 yards per play.

      • UF's offense isn't 1 dimensional because they're very successful at the run. The yards and touchdowns may not show it because they don't do it nearly as often as other teams. Hell, florida doesn't run as many plays as most teams (namely because the defense hasn't gotten off the field most games). With that, plus the fact they recognize their strength is the pass game so they lean more towards showcasing it, the obvious stats won't show how well they've run the ball. Check the yards per carry stats and the run success rate. That'll show that Florida isn't one dimensional

        • Not only is UF's offense one dimensional, within its single dimension of passing, UF is one dimensional

          nickel and dime passing, slant city, no real vertical threat like Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson etc.

        • Ok, now this is just ignoring facts. Or maybe you didn't read the article. I'll put a quote from directly above here so you don't have to bother looking...

          "Trask can also spread the field vertically, as he is 2nd in the SEC in accuracy on throws of 16 yards or more and leads the SEC in accuracy on throws of over 20 yards, per SEC Stat Cat. "

      • Florida is averaging 4.8 yards per carry vs Georgia's 4.2 yards per carry. Georias offense is zero dimensional.

    • Wait Georgia has a QB now? I couldn't tell, he must be hiding behind the offensive line or something.

  • Nice article on a person who exemplifies the values we desperately need to showcase in this country. Stop looking to blame others for your situation or failures and WORK your way to where you want to be.

    Regardless of what happens in this game Saturday, I’ll always remember and be thankful for having Trask at UF.

      • Don't think we're even noticed. We were predicted to get 2 wins this season so if we lose from here on out, we've met expectations. You guys are suppose to win the East according to a lot of pundits. I'm confident we'll exceed expectations. Are you guys confident?

        • Naw, we're just looking to build expectations to build going forward. You guys manhandled us. A win over Mizzou would not be my foundation for winning the East. Georgia hasn't looked solid this season so if you do lose to them it's brings up all the questions about Florida.

  • “Steve Spurrier, the HBC or the Evil Genius himself, depending on which side of the Cocktail Party your allegiance falls...”

    Or Ole Ball Coach, if you think you know about college football but really don’t know what you’re talking about. Plenty of announcers fall into this category.

    • The Ole Bourbon Coach

      If he's awake, he's three sheets to the wind. If he's not awake then he's sleeping in it off.

      He's the Otis Campbell of College Football.

    • Steve Spurrier didn't even need to be awake to kick poodle ass!! Just like your mascot, a useless dog that is only good for kicking!! LOL. Bend over ugly british dogs, gonna get your ass kicked hard!!

  • I almost always root against UF as a team, but Trask himself is a great story and easy to root for.

  • I think this one's a toss up and I could even see it getting lopsided for either team.

    We know UF has a good offense, UGA has a power run game but little else, and UGA has a great defense, primarily stopping the run.

    If UGA can string together a few stops, they might be able to run it down our throats while controlling the clock and keeping the ball away from the Gator offense.

    On the other hand, if UF can stack the box and get off the field on 3rd down on D, we might be able to get a lot of possessions and pull ahead with our passing attack, similar to what Bama was able to do. A couple gifts from the "mail man" wouldn't hurt either.

    Not sure what to expect but excited to find out. Go Gators!

    • It's not beyond Bennett and UGA to re-establish an effective passing game.

      UGA's passing game was very effective up to the 2nd half of the UGA/Bama game.

      Let UGA average 6 ypc and UF will have to stack the box which would open up passing opportunities.

      • Watching Bennett the last few weeks, I'd be ok with stacking the box and letting the DBs play man. That's where UF plays their best anyways

      • That's right, the passing game was for the most part sufficient enough to keep things moving forward. Until the 2nd half of the Bama game. I'm optimistic it will return, I just really hope it happens this weekend.

  • Neil-I'm guessing you don't think Florida has a shot at the SEC championship or the CFP since you said if Trask wins this game it will be the crowning achievement of his college career. Weird take.

  • Barely recruited, doubted in college, waited his turn, worked, and made the most of it when given the opportunity. Stetson Bennett IV ladies and gentleman. :)

      • Why is this matchup not the prime time game? Instead of the UT-Arkansas slopfest, we should have this one as the night time game.

        • Because stupidly, the 3:30 CBS game is the prime slot most weeks. Should change soon with their contract expiring.

    • He needs to be in that stupid air conditioning cage with your ugly mascot!! He kind of gets winded after 2 quarters!!!

  • The team that has the superior running game has consistently won this game the last 20 years....this year will not be different.The Florida defense will get gashed and worn down by the Georgia’s methodical running game and it will open up enough of space for the receivers to hit a couple of big plays.I look forward to being there and watching a Great game.

Published by
Neil Blackmon

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