First start in 7 years, huh?

Clearly Kyle Trask had been saving up.

Trask came out hot Saturday. He went 2-for-2 on Florida’s opening drive. He hit Trevor Grimes for 43 yards and found Kyle Pitts for a 19-yard TD.

He wasn’t perfect the rest of the way, but he was plenty good enough as No. 9 Florida took care of Tennessee 34-3 Saturday in The Swamp. The 31-point margin was notable. The last time Florida beat Tennessee by more? Tim Tebow’s Heisman season of 2007, which included a 39-point beatdown over the Vols.

One sequence summarized Tennessee’s performance. On Florida’s 2nd possession, the Vols stripped Trask and recovered at the Gators’ 19. On 3rd-and-goal at 3 with a chance to tie the score at 7, Jarrett Guarantano’s pass slipped through Jauan Jennings’ hands and was intercepted by Trey Dean in the end zone.

It was the Vols’ 16th turnover against Florida in the past 6 games. More were on the way.

How bad was Tennessee’s offense in the opening half? The Vols had 5 possessions and gained 88 yards and 4 first downs. Their drives ended like this:

  • Punt
  • Interception
  • Interception
  • Punt
  • Punt

Trask, meanwhile, directed the Gators to a 17-0 halftime lead.

He was 12-for-14 for 204 yards with a TD pass. None of it was particularly flashy, but it was perfectly functional.

Especially against this Vols offense.

Eventually Vols coach Jeremy Pruitt had seen enough. He benched Guarantano and opened the second half with Brian Maurer, a lightly-regarded 3-star prospect from nearby Ocala.

Maurer provided a bit of a spark. He completed 3 passes for 46 yards to set up Tennessee’s first points: a 40-yard field goal from Brent Cimaglia.

Trask answered on the ensuing drive. Continuing to operate from a clean pocket, he followed a Tennessee unsportsmanlike penalty with a pretty throw to Freddie Swain for a 29-yard TD to make it 24-3. He finished with 293 yards and those 2 TD passes.

The Vols’ next possession ended in a diving interception, Tennessee’s 17th turnover against Florida in the past 6 games. That’s been the story of the rivalry for an entire graduating class, and it’s the primary reason the Gators have won 14 of the past 15 in the series.

The silver lining if you’re a Vols fan? Tennessee is entering the bye week before the schedule turns unfair. After the break, the Vols host Georgia (and Mississippi State) and travel to Alabama.

Down 24-3, Pruitt went back to Guarantano. It didn’t matter. The Vols fumbled, their 4th turnover of the day, which led to Florida’s 4th TD and a 31-3 led. It seems obvious that Guarantano isn’t capable of getting the Vols to a bowl game. Is Maurer the answer? Pruitt will have a week to find out.

Florida doesn’t have any such dire QB questions. Its backup, Trask, made mistakes but ultimately proved up to the task, just like he did in rallying the Gators last week at Kentucky.

The biggest takeaway Saturday: Florida’s effort mirrored its season: Not handshake-to-handshake dominant, but plenty good enough to stay undefeated.