Feleipe Franks must have felt right at home when a smattering of boos welcomed him and the Arkansas Razorbacks to The Swamp on Friday night.
Franks, as he did during the 2017 South Carolina game, told Gator fans to shut up with 47-yard touchdown pass but it was all Kyle Trask after that.
Florida’s quarterback, who took over for Franks in 2019, continued a Heisman campaign that grows stronger with each throw. Trask threw for 285 yards and five scores in the first half against the SEC’s second-best pass defense. He had more touchdowns (5) than incompletions (4). Trask threw for more yards in the first half than the Razorbacks’ defense allowed on average per game coming in.
Saturday night may have been Franks’ reunion but it quickly turned into the Kyle Trask show.
“Kyle did a good job and the offensive staff a good job of getting us into play calls to attack what they were, what they were doing defensively,” Dan Mullen said.
Early it appeared the Gators would exploit a porous Arkansas rush defense. Arkansas won the toss and deferred, giving the ball to the Gators. Florida ran the ball on 9-of-14 plays, throwing three screen passes into the mix on an opening touchdown drive. After that it looked like Dan Mullen was actively trying to win Trask the Heisman by throwing the ball all over the field. Florida dialed up flew flickers, screens, bombs, anything, and everything and Trask made Sunday throws on Saturday night.
When the dust settled, Trask had completed 79% of his passes (23-29), for 356 yards, and six touchdowns. His 28 touchdowns on the season lead the entire country, he trails Alabama quarterback Mac Jones by just 56 yards for the most in the conference as well.
The biggest takeaway on the night is what Florida was able to do without star tight end Kyle Pitts. The Mackey Award frontrunner sustained a concussion against Georgia and wasn’t available Saturday night. That didn’t matter to the Gators, Trask, or Mullen. Florida completed passes to 10 different receivers, rushed for more than 200 yards for the first time in 2020, and dominated the game from start to finish. This was a legit Arkansas defense and Florida made them look like a Division II team.
There was a point in the game where Mullen was seen animatedly talking to Kyle Trask after Trask’s fifth touchdown of the game. With a mask over his face, it was impossible to see what Mullen was saying to Trask exactly, but his body language didn’t read as “ good job son.”
“I love it. You can never be too good. You can never – you strive for perfection, but it’s really hard to get there,” Trask said of the exchange. “Even after I threw my fifth touchdown, I love to have a coach that’s always striving for more and more, trying to get the most out of me.”
And that’s probably why Trask is playing as well as he is, and it’s certainly why the Gators are 6-1 and controlling their own destiny on a collision course with Alabama in the SEC Championship.
Even while Trask puts up video games numbers and breaks records his eye remains on a different statue and a different trophy.
After the game, Franks embraced Mullen, Trask, and most of his former teammates. He jogged off the field one last time, undoubtedly wondering what could have been. Trask went on to do media and was even asked if he ever thought what would have happened if Franks never got hurt in 2019. He doesn’t think about it, in case you were wondering.
“I think Kyle shows the character that he has. It’s one of the great learning things for people, which is you know, in what he was able to do. In high school, he probably could have transferred and done something, but he stuck it out with his team, helped his team, and was really successful, got an opportunity to go to college. Really could have been a grad transfer for a year, and stuck it out. And all of a sudden his number was called,” Mullen said of Trask. “You see he was completely prepared for the moment his number was called, and from that moment forth he’s done nothing but work even harder, continue to prepare even more. And today’s world, you look at guys, you know the transfer portal, it’s not going well, I want to jump in the transfer portal in college football. But you look at life, oh I want to quit, I want to leave, I want to try something new, I want to give up. Instead of ‘you know what, I’m going to continue to prepare because when my moment comes I’m going to be ready for that moment’. If that’s not one of the greatest life lessons you could ever learn, I don’t know what is.”
Saturday night in the Swamp, Kyle Trask broke records, he heard “Trask for Heisman” chants and he continued to keep a level head.
“Stats are cool, but we’re here to win games,” Trask said. “Whatever’s going to help us win games. That’s all I’m focused on. We’re here to win a national championship. That’s the team’s goal, just like a lot of other teams’ goal, is a national championship.”