Kyle Trask's early struggles spark No. 6 Oklahoma's Cotton Bowl blowout of No. 7 Florida

Kyle Trask had a horrific start to Wednesday night’s Cotton Bowl.

The Florida quarterback threw three interceptions on the Gators’ first three drives. Those picks led to 17 points for Oklahoma as the No. 6 Sooners cruised to an easy 55-20 win over the No. 7 Gators to end the season on an eight-game winning streak.

To Florida’s credit, the Gators scored 13 unanswered points after Oklahoma’s early blitz to cut the lead to 17-13 and give UF fans a glimmer of hope that the game could be salvaged. But Oklahoma responded with two quick touchdowns ahead of halftime thanks to an ill-advised Florida field goal attempt.

The Gators decided to try a 58-yard field goal down 24-13 with 2:50 to go in the second quarter. Evan McPherson’s kick fell short and Oklahoma (9-2) took over on its own 40. The Sooners scored nine plays later for an 18-point halftime lead and an easy second half ahead in the first postseason win of coach Lincoln Riley’s tenure.

Oklahoma defensive end Ronnie Perkins (7) celebrates after sacking Florida quarterback Emory Jones, center left on knee, during the second half of the Cotton Bowl NCAA college football game in Arlington, Texas, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
Oklahoma's defense shined on Wednesday night. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Kyle Trask’s worst game of 2020

Things weren’t going to be easy for Florida’s Heisman finalist QB on Wednesday night.

The Gators (8-4) entered the game without All-American tight end Kyle Pitts and star wide receiver Kadarius Toney after the two players had said they were prepping for the NFL draft. No. 2 wideout Trevon Grimes also declared for the draft before the game and No. 3 wide receiver Jacob Copeland was out because of COVID-19 protocols.

That left Trask without a receiver who had more than 250 receiving yards in the first 11 games of the season. And it showed as the Florida players who played were plagued with drops, especially in the first half.

It doesn’t explain Trask’s interceptions, however. His first pick came on Florida’s second offensive play of the game. Oklahoma scored on its first drive to make the game 7-0 right away and it was 14-0 seconds later after Tre Norwood got a pick-six after stepping in front of a Trask pass and taking it to the end zone.

Trask finished the game 16-of-28 passing for 158 yards and no touchdowns. Whether it was by pregame design or adaptation because of the blowout, Trask ended up splitting time throughout the game with backup QB Emory Jones. He’ll be returning to the Gators in 2021 as Trask is off to the NFL after finishing in the top four in the Heisman voting.

Wednesday night’s game marked the first in Trask’s career where he hadn’t thrown for a TD pass as a starter. He finishes the 2020 season with 4,283 yards passing and 43 TDs and eight interceptions.

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - DECEMBER 30: Quarterback Kyle Trask #11 of the Florida Gators throws against the Oklahoma Sooners during the second quarter at AT&T Stadium on December 30, 2020 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
Kyle Trask had his worst game of the season on Wednesday. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

Oklahoma’s run game dominates

The Sooners let Florida back into the game in the first half thanks to two fumbles. But once the fumbling problems ceased, Oklahoma’s superiority was evident. Especially against a depleted Gators defensive front.

Florida was missing significant contributors on both sides of the ball and Oklahoma took advantage.

Oklahoma rushed for a Cotton Bowl-record 435 yards as Rhamondre Stevenson had 18 carries for 186 yards and a TD. Stevenson rushed for over 650 yards in just seven games after he was suspended for the first half of the season. His presence boosted Oklahoma’s offense over the second half of the season as the Sooners were hardly challenged after early season losses to Kansas State and Iowa State.

The Sooners entered Wednesday night’s game with no rushing attempts for more than 30 yards this season. Stevenson, Seth McGowan and Marcus Major all had carries for over 30 yards against the Gators.

Where will Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham be coaching in 2021?

Oklahoma will be a preseason playoff contender

Get ready for Oklahoma to be a top-four team ahead of the 2021 season. The Sooners return QB Spencer Rattler, WR Marvin Mims, WR Theo Wease and a host of others along with a defense that improved significantly as the season went on.

Seriously. Oklahoma’s defense got really good as the season progressed. The OU defense has been a convenient punching bag throughout Lincoln Riley’s tenure with the school. But OU allowed five yards a play in 2020 — down from 5.6 in 2019 — and no one scored more than 30 points against the Sooners since Texas put up 45 in a thriller in October.

Rattler looks like he can be a Heisman finalist sooner rather than later and the OU defense has now shown it can be competent. It’s not unfair to start thinking about an OU defense that actually slows playoff teams down after the Sooners failed to give up fewer than 45 points to any playoff opponent in any of the last three seasons.

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