John Raoux/Associated Press
The No. 6 Florida Gators kept their College Football Playoff hopes alive Saturday with a 34-10 win over the Kentucky Wildcats at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida.
Although he didn’t put up massive numbers, Florida quarterback Kyle Trask remained in the Heisman Trophy hunt as well, throwing three touchdown passes to tight end Kyle Pitts in the win.
Florida improved to 7-1 overall and in SEC play this season, meaning it remains in the driver’s seat to win the SEC East and face the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship Game.
With the loss, Kentucky fell to 3-6 both overall and in conference action. With just one game remaining on their schedule, the Wildcats will not be bowl-eligible.
Kyle Trask, QB, FLA: 21/27 for 256 YDS, 3 TD, 0 INT
Kyle Pitts, TE, FLA: 5 REC for 99 YDS, 3 TD
Kadarius Toney, WR, FLA: 3 REC for 38 YDS, punt return TD
Terry Wilson, QB, KEN: 10/18 for 62 YDS, 1 TD, 2 INT; 11 CAR for 25 YDS
Asim Rose, RB, KEN: 15 CAR for 58 YDS; 1 REC for 2 YDS
Keaton Upshaw, TE, KEN: 3 REC for 28 YDS, 1 TD
Trask Remains in Heisman Race with Strong Showing
Trask overcame a slow start Saturday to put forth a strong showing and perhaps remain the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy.
Florida scored just one offensive touchdown in the first half and 14 points in all during the first 30 minutes, although that offensive touchdown was a spectacular one with Trask hitting Pitts for a 56-yard score:
SEC Network @SECNetwork
Welcome back, Kyle Pitts 🐊 https://t.co/hnLPhtCxUI
The Florida offense didn’t score again until the third quarter, but that had more to do with the Gators’ defensive struggles than anything Trask and the offense did.
As pointed out by John Clay of the Lexington Herald-Leader, Trask and the Florida offense could barely get on the field in the first half:
John Clay @johnclayiv
Kentucky keeping Trask and Pitts on the sideline. #bbn #ukfootball
Kentucky ran the ball successfully and possessed the ball for over 22 minutes in the opening half, which is why the Wildcats trailed by only four points at the break and held the Florida offense in check.
The fact that Florida led at the half despite so much going wrong likely gave the Gators confidence, and that much was apparent in the third quarter when Trask and the offense finally started to take over the game.
Trask and Pitts hooked up for their second touchdown connection of the game early in the third, which moved Trask past Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow for the fourth-most passing touchdowns in a single season in University of Florida history:
Gators Football @GatorsFB
TD2⃣ for QB1⃣
@ktrask9 has now moved past @TimTebow for the 4th most passing touchdowns in a single season in school history with 33.
It also gave Trask multiple passing touchdowns in 15 straight SEC games, per Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times, which is no small feat:
Matt Baker @MBakerTBTimes
15th consecutive SEC game with multiple passing TDs for Kyle Trask
After a field goal extended the Florida lead to 14, Trask essentially put the game out of reach late in the third quarter with his third touchdown pass of the day, and it was once again to Pitts from seven yards out.
That extended Trask’s streak of games with three or more touchdown passes to eight, which put him in some elite company, according to ESPN Stats & Info:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Kyle Trask has 3+ pass TD in all 8 games this season, tied for the longest active streak in the FBS.
It’s also tied for the longest streak by a Power 5 QB in the last 15 seasons. https://t.co/p1NKPvdPEF
Trask has benefited from having the best tight end in the nation in Pitts during that streak, and that was true once again as Kentucky had no answer for him.
Even so, it doesn’t diminish what Trask has accomplished this season, and if he maintains this pace over the next few weeks, it will be difficult for the Heisman voters to pick against him.
Special Teams Miscues Sink Wildcats
Kentucky seemed poised to pull off a big upset with a 10-7 lead late in the first half, but poor execution on special teams completely turned the tide.
It started with the Wildcats allowing Florida to down a punt at the 1-yard line with 1:13 left in the half, which put Kentucky in a tough spot.
The Florida defense stiffened and forced Kentucky to punt, which is the play that changed the game, as Florida wide receiver Kadarius Toney returned it 50 yards for a touchdown, which put the Gators on top 14-10 entering halftime:
SEC Network @SECNetwork
5️⃣0️⃣ YARD PUNT RETURN TD 😤
Kadarius Toney puts @GatorsFB on top at the half! https://t.co/yIUBI8Vh98
Jon Ledyard of Pewter Report pointed out that punting to a player as electric and dangerous as Toney was a questionable decision:
Jon Ledyard @LedyardNFLDraft
So you decided to kick it to Kadarius Toney….here’s why you shouldn’t have
Mark Story of the Lexington Herald-Leader later reported that Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops said the play was a result of punter Max Duffy shanking the kick:
Mark Story @markcstory
Mark Stoops tells UK Radio’s Dick Gabriel that the last-minute punt return Kentucky gave up was ‘a shank’ by All-America punter Max Duffy. ‘We were kicking dead left and it was a total shank. Max is a great punter and it doesn’t happen often, but he just missed it.’
That mistake from Duffy proved disastrous, as Florida entered the second half with momentum firmly on its side and proceeded to dominate the Wildcats the rest of the way.
The final score looked one-sided in Florida’s favor, but it really came down to that one play since it may have been an entirely different game had the Wildcats been leading at the half.
Florida will attempt to clinch a spot in the SEC Championship Game when it goes on the road to face the Tennessee Volunteers next Saturday.
Meanwhile, Kentucky will look to end its season on a high note next Saturday when it hosts the struggling South Carolina Gamecocks.
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