Oklahoma came in with a plan to win the Cotton Bowl. Florida came in with a plan to get a lot of reserves and freshmen playing time. OU being a legit top ten team, the results matched what you’d guess from those two premises.
As such, I’m not going to do a full advanced stats review of the game, because there isn’t much point to it. UF accomplished its goal of seasoning some players for next year, so they got that much done at least.
I am not counting the drives that ran out the clock at the ends of each half in anything below.
That was Kyle Trask’s TD-INT ratio. This was by far the worst outing of his career, and I don’t have a good explanation for it.
Yes, his top four targets were out. However, he threw picks early on while targeting Rick Wells and Kemore Gamble, two guys who’ve played plenty this year. The pick Wells’s way was entirely Trask’s fault. Gamble probably didn’t stop his route and sit down in the zone as he should have on his deflected pick. Even so, a pair of completions had no chance for yards after catch earlier on in the second drive because the receivers couldn’t catch the ball without going to the ground in the process. UF’s Heisman finalist was off all around.
Trask was pressing by the third one. It looks like his hand and the ball may have been hit while throwing, but OU’s corner was completely ready for the stop-and-go route that Ja’Quavion Fraziars ran. That throw was never there.
If Trask had played at his normal level, this game would’ve been far closer for longer. I don’t know if Florida ever wins this game in light of all the opt outs even if Dan Mullen had not emptied the benches after halftime, but Trask’s poor showing meant that UF well and truly had no shot. The LSU loss showed that the rest of the Gator team couldn’t make up for a subpar outing from Trask, and that was with a team far closer to full strength than the one in Arlington.
That was Oklahoma’s rushing success rate for the game. Success rate is basically a measure of whether an offense is staying on schedule, to use the coaching parlance. The national average is around 42%, so the Sooners nearly doubled that.
It’s hard to put into words how bad that is. It wasn’t just a function of garbage time either, as OU’s rushing success rate was 81.3% at the half. UF had a passing success rate of 69% against FCS Towson last year. Joe Burrow hit 75% in his win over UF in ’19. I can’t think of a specific time when I’ve seen a success rate above 80% in the five or six years I’ve been calculating it for every Gator game plus some others of scheduling relevance.
Mullen said after the game that Florida was so down on numbers on the defensive line that this game probably wouldn’t have been played if it was the regular season. I have no way to specifically second-guess that.
Still, there were plenty of snaps where UF’s front consisted of Tedarrell Slaton, Zachary Carter, Brenton Cox, Gervon Dexter, and/or Khris Bogle. Those aren’t third stringers or walk ons. Oklahoma ran at will, its offensive line making UF’s front seven look small, weak, and slow.
Of all the ways this game was bad for Florida, none get worse than this. None. Not even three first-quarter interceptions.
Florida scored 1.54 points per drive. For how many chances the Gators had, that’s terrible.
The Gators had 13 drives to the Sooners’ 12 thanks to the pick-six. Both teams had eight scoring opportunities, defined as drives where the offense got a first down inside the opponent’s 40-yard-line. Oklahoma cashed its eight in for six touchdowns and two field goals.
Florida came up empty in half of its good chances: two Trask interceptions, Evan McPherson’s missed 58-yard field goal attempt, and the late turnover on downs. The Gators managed 20 points off of their eight scoring opportunities, including just 13 points on five red zone trips.
Florida’s 6.2 yards per play on the game isn’t stellar, but it isn’t bad either. It was the fourth-most OU allowed in a game all year. Gaining yards doesn’t mean a whole lot if you can’t turn them into points.
The number of Florida wide receivers who made it to just seven yards per target, excluding Jordan Pouncey’s 27-yard catch on the team’s final offensive play. Trent Whittemore caught both his targets for 47 yards, giving him a game-high 23.5 yards per target. That’s it, and that’s all.
Rick Wells led all Gators with nine targets and six catches, but he managed just 4.8 yards per catch. He walked on Senior Day, so it seems unlikely he’ll be back. Expectations have been creeping up for Justin Shorter for next year; he caught two of his four targets for 5.5 per target. Xzavier Henderson is the most talented young wideout on the team, but he caught one pass on three targets for 4.0 yards per target.
Jacob Copeland will be one of the top guys next year, but with him sidelined with a COVID positive test, no one really used this game to show out in his stead. Billy Gonzales has a lot of work to do this spring, provided there is a practice session, to get his position group ready. There are no Trevon Grimeses or Kadarius Toneys waiting in the wings with obvious breakout potential.
I can’t leave this section without noting how disastrous Gamble’s day was as a pass target, even though he’s a tight end and not a wide receiver. He caught just one of eight targets, which is almost hard to do.
Finally one silver lining: four different Gators managed at least five yards per carry when having multiple rushing attempts on the game.
Dameon Pierce had one of his best games at hitting the right hole and not cutting back into traffic, and he ended north of 5.0 yards per carry. So did Emory Jones, and it’s never a surprise when he runs the ball. He did a good job at reading the defensive front too; I can only think of one time where it appeared he checked into a run play after diagnosing the defense and it went poorly.
Nay’Quan Wright was terrific in limited opportunities, with his one rush for a loss really being a badly-blocked screen pass that went sideways instead of forward. Anthony Richardson got to show some flashes and ran for no fewer than six yards on each of his three attempts. If you want to, I’ll even let you celebrate Lorenzo Lingard’s sole 13-yard carry, even if it got wiped out by an illegal block flag. He needed that block in the back to gain all 13 yards, but he showed nice patience and vision against the Sooners’ backup defense.
It’s no secret that the best use of Jones’s skills is with an offensive attack that runs far more than it has with Trask behind center. UF has been just plain bad at running the ball the last two years, but it fared all right with the same players against an improved Oklahoma defense. The threat of a quarterback run really does make that big a difference, so there’s hope for next year given what we saw in the Cotton Bowl.