Kyle Trask won't back down, and he's become the epitome of Florida's unbeaten start
As Kyle Trask laid on the turf at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, I was ready to write the obituary on Florida’s 2019 season.
The backup Florida quarterback took the offense and ran with it since he took over for Feleipe Franks when he went down with a season-ending injury against Kentucky 3 weeks ago. For some people, Franks’ injury was when the obituary rough draft began. For others, the feeling was that Trask was going to execute Dan Mullen’s system and keep the offense afloat.
But when Trask got his knee awkwardly twisted up on a hit from Marlon Davidson on Saturday against Auburn, you can bet a lot more people like myself were willing to get the obituary rolling.
That feeling, however, lasted roughly 10 minutes. Right on cue, Trask jogged (somehow) to the sidelines and returned to the task he set out to accomplish when the day began — make sure the Gators don’t let a quarterback injury decide their 2019 fate.
Trask wasn’t perfect Saturday (the Derrick Brown strip sack showed a lack of pocket presence at a key moment). But he was everything Florida needed him to be in its biggest game of 2019.
A leader, a signal-caller, a winner.
And to be clear, that’s not my way of saying Trask’s best attribute as a quarterback is that “he just wins games.” That’s an overused stat that’s usually meant to paint a positive picture of a mediocre quarterback.
There was nothing mediocre about Trask’s performance against that Auburn defense. That Auburn defense that had held all 3 Power 5 opponents it faced to 23 points or fewer with that All-World defensive line. For what it’s worth, that defensive line still looked All-World. It was clearly the superior unit against Florida’s inexperienced offensive line.
Dealing with that banged up knee, Trask played fearless. Like, to the point where he was still running keepers in the final minutes to put Auburn away. That, of course, is not Trask’s game. His game is hitting open receivers in stride.
You know, like he did on Florida’s first series on that long touchdown pass to Freddie Swain:
“SAY GOODBYE FREDDIE!” pic.twitter.com/4xefTK4eVm
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) October 5, 2019
Now that’s a statement start.
You’d never know that Saturday was Trask’s first start against a Top 25 team. Go figure that Trask had fewer career starts than his counterpart, Bo Nix, who had a much different experience Saturday.
That’s not necessarily a knock on Nix, but it was easy to forget that in terms of game reps, it was actually pretty even for the signal-callers. Trask didn’t take horrendous, put-the-team-out-of-field-goal-range sacks, nor did he misread coverages that resulted in a red zone interception. Every time Nix made a mistake, the words “true freshmen” were sure to follow.
After every play that Trask made, the last thing on my mind was “career backup.”
You’ve already heard that storyline a billion times over, but don’t take for granted how horribly things could be going for Florida right now. There’s no guarantee that Emory Jones could be doing what Trask is. In fact, based on the limited sample size we’ve seen, I wouldn’t bet on Jones making the type of reads and throws that Trask is.
Here’s something to consider. There’s a decent chance that the Gators are ranked somewhere around 6-8 come Sunday. Look at the list of quarterbacks who Trask would be in company with:
- Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
- Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
- Jake Fromm, Georgia
- Joe Burrow, LSU
- Justin Fields, Ohio State
- Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma
- Kyle Trask, Florida
Hmmmmmmm. Which one doesn’t belong?
Some will view that as a reason that Florida can’t compete and maintain its spot in the Playoff hunt. Those people would be doubting Trask’s ability to make plays, and they’d also be doubting Florida’s elite defense.
If there are 5 better defensive units in the country, I haven’t seen them. And that’s despite the fact that Jabari Zuniga didn’t make his expected return Saturday. But with that defense, Florida doesn’t need Trask to put up the gaudy numbers that quarterbacks like Burrow and Hurts are.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that since Trask took over, Florida outscored teams 115-16 in 13 quarters. Trask might not have the mobility or the arm of Franks, but the guy is averaging 9.1 yards per attempt and he’s yet to complete fewer than 61% of his passes in a game. I was hesitant to say it, but I’m officially buying the belief that Trask is moving the offense better than Franks did.
Maybe, just maybe, Florida has a different kind of confidence with Trask under center. Players won’t actually admit that, but it’s hard to argue with that.
Florida is 6-0 for the first time since 2012, and it boasts the SEC’s longest active winning streak dating to the Missouri game last year. That day was when Trask finally got his chance to shine. In relief of the benched Franks, Trask stepped in and did enough to be the starter … until he broke his foot in practice the following week. That was seen as the moment when Trask’s window closed.
On Saturday, it briefly looked like Trask’s window closed again, and perhaps, Florida’s window would close with it. Nope. Not at all. The Gators might just be finding their groove offensively. And hey, Lamical Perine even had a long run!
At a place where the words “won’t back down” are belted by 90,000 people, Florida followed suit yet again. Trask seems to be making a habit of that these days.
All the more reason to stop my habit of writing premature obituaries.