With all of Florida's Cotton Bowl absences, Kyle Trask can silence any remaining skeptics
There shouldn’t be any left, but inevitably, they’re still out there.
It’s the people who insist on discrediting the year that Kyle Trask has had. They would rather give credit to the likes of Kyle Pitts, Kadarius Toney and Trevon Grimes than Trask.
You know, the guy who had 43 touchdown passes and became Florida’s first Heisman Trophy finalist since a certain left-handed quarterback. Trask is the guy who had 375 passing yards per game with 70% accuracy and 10.1 yards per attempt. He’s also the guy who just put up 46 points on Nick Saban’s defense, which we somewhat discredited because it came in a losing effort. We used to throw parades for dudes who did that.
Well, if Trask goes out and does what SEC teams usually do to Oklahoma in the postseason — throw for a ton of yards and turn it into a video game — then any of those remaining skeptics should do the Homer Simpson GIF thing and just fade into the bushes.
Why? Well, sticking on the theme of overused GIFs/memes, Trask in the Cotton Bowl is essentially Will Smith in the empty room at the end of “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” Pitts, Toney and Grimes are all cashing in early on their NFL riches and skipping the New Year’s 6 Bowl. That in itself is a ton of production lost. Then also add to the equation that this was a Florida team who had 4 receivers earn 2020 opening day NFL roster spots.
I mean, Florida could easily have 6-7 receivers in Year 1 or Year 2 in the NFL by opening day 2021:
- Kyle Pitts
- Kadarius Toney
- Trevon Grimes
- Van Jefferson
- Freddie Swain
- Tyrie Cleveland
- Josh Hammond
(That also doesn’t include tailback La’Mical Perine, who had 40 catches and 5 touchdown grabs in 2019, and is now in a timeshare in the New York Jets’ backfield as a rookie.)
So yeah, none of those guys will be able to help Trask. Instead, it’ll be guys like Justin Shorter and Jacob Copeland. Check that. Copeland tested positive for COVID-19 and he won’t be out there, either.
That means all 4 of the Gators’ leading receivers are out. Florida’s leading receiver for the Cotton Bowl is … a running back. That’s no slight to Malik Davis, who probably just took another wheel route for 60 yards against Kirby Smart’s defense by the time I finished typing this sentence. But Davis isn’t doing this:
This is the last catch of Kyle Pitts’ college career.
— Connor O’Gara (@cjogara) December 20, 2020
Trask will have to adjust and know that it’s probably not wise to throw into triple coverage to target Davis or tailback Nay’Quan Wright, who are 2 of Florida’s top 3 pass-catchers going into this one.
The good news for Dan Mullen was that he spun this as a prime opportunity for Florida’s next wave of pass-catchers. In addition to Shorter, 6-4 freshman Xzavier Henderson will take on a much bigger role, as will Pitts’ understudies Kemore Gamble and Keon Zipperer. All 4 of those guys will be back next year, and even though they won’t be catching passes for Trask, they still stand to gain all sorts of offseason momentum if they can help their prolific quarterback continue his dominance in his final college game.
Trask’s absurd touchdown pass pace in his breakout senior season was why the Joe Burrow comps came in bunches. It was Burrow who essentially laughed in the face of that Oklahoma defense in a bowl game last year. This year, the Sooners have the No. 31 scoring defense in FBS. Unlike last year or really any of the 3 consecutive postseason losses to SEC teams, Oklahoma finally has this thing called a “pass rush.”
In a stunning turn of events, Oklahoma held its final 6 opponents to less than 30 points. Of course, Florida hit the 30-point mark in all 11 games it played this year. Now is the part where I fire up the old “something’s gotta give” cliché.
If Trask and the Florida offense were to be the thing to “give,” it would give many of his skeptics a chance to piggyback on this notion that he was a product of his loaded weapons and nothing else. Those same people would fail to mention that most quarterbacks who basically get a week to prepare without their 4 best pass-catchers usually aren’t their best selves, especially when they have to face what’s being billed as a decent Power 5 defense.
A disappointing Cotton Bowl performance wouldn’t suddenly make Trask a fraud. Some would point to 3 consecutive losses and say that he “collapsed,” and they’d fail to mention that Florida’s 2020 defense has never even been good enough to be dubbed a fraud. The Gators being without Marco Wilson and Shawn Davis suggests that all the pressure will be on the Florida offense to keep pace with Lincoln Riley’s improved offensive attack. If Trask doesn’t somehow rally the troops — the troops being the 60 scholarship players left on Florida’s roster — to beat Oklahoma, it shouldn’t take away anything from what he did this year.
Against only SEC competition, we watched him throw for 43 touchdown passes in 11 games. He wasn’t going to touch Burrow’s mark of 60, but Drew Lock is the only other SEC player with more touchdown passes in a season than Trask. Lock, however, had just 26 touchdown passes in 10 games against Power 5 competition that year (2.6 per game). That’s nowhere near Trask’s mark of 3.9.
Including those 3 rushing scores, Trask is 4 Cotton Bowl touchdowns away from hitting 50 in 12 games. Here’s the entire list of SEC quarterbacks who had 50 combined touchdowns in a season:
- Joe Burrow, 2019 (15 games)
- Cam Newton, 2010 (14 games)
- Tim Tebow, 2007 (13 games)
For what it’s worth, Tebow was the only player of that group who hit the 50-touchdown mark in 12 games … and 13 of those scores came in 3 games against Group of 5 teams.
That’s not my way of saying Trask is better than Burrow, Newton or Tebow. He’s not. But he deserves to be remembered for having one of the great SEC seasons we’ve ever seen at the quarterback position, regardless of what happens against Oklahoma.
It’s weird that we do this thing with preseason confirmation bias where if something catches us by surprise and exceeds expectations, we like to put that player or that team back in its place the second that opportunity presents itself. It could very well present itself with Trask against the Sooners, especially now with Florida’s top 4 pass-catchers out. Or it can instead serve as another reminder that Trask has learned to adapt to his surroundings unlike few we’ve seen in recent memory.
As for me, I’ll prepare to be amazed by his 2020 brilliance one more time.