Florida takes season opener at OIe Miss, 51-35
Gators tear apart Rebels for 642 yards of offense
OXFORD, MISS. (WCJB) -Florida kicked off the pandemic-delayed 2020 football season with an historic offensive performance, defeating Ole Miss, 51-35 on Saturday afternoon at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Kyle Trask, the SEC’s leading returning passer, threw for 241 yards and four touchdowns in the first half alone and finished 30 of 42 for 416 yards and six scores as the Gators piled up 642 yards of total offense, their most all-time against an SEC opponent.
Four of Trask’s touchdowns went to tight end Kyle Pitts, who finished with eight receptions for 170 yards.
“I just feel we had a great game plan,” said Trask. “We had answers for every look they were throwing at us, and we had some checks that we executed well. Overall, it’s just a great team game, everybody executed from start to finish.”
Florida won for the 30th time in their last 31 season openers. The ten-game all-SEC schedule meant that Florida kicked off the season with a conference matchup for the first time since 1992.
After the Florida defense started the game by forcing a turnover on downs at their own 23, Trask and the offense took over. Trask completed four of six passes on the Gators' opening drive, culminating with a one-yard touchdown pass to Pitts. Florida marched 77 yards in 13 plays.
“He (Trask) did a great job of managing the offense, managing the game, and getting us into the right plays," said head coach Dan Mullen. "All of the adjustments we made on the sideline, he did a great job getting those adjustments, and finding the mis-matches on the field, I think we did a good job of that all day.”
The Rebels, under first year head coach Lane Kiffin, answered quickly. Matt Corral tossed a 46-yard touchdown to Dontario Drummond on the next Ole Miss possession and the game was tied.
Freshman Gervon Dexter made instant impact for the Gators on the defensive line, picking up a tackle for a loss and an interception in the first quarter. The turnover sparked an explosion out of the Gators. Kadarius Toney went 50 yards on a jet sweep to set up a Trask-to-Trevon Grimes touchdown pass. Florida led 14-7 after one quarter.
With the game tied 14-14 late in the second quarter, Florida went 78 yards in nine plays to take the lead. Trask threw his third touchdown of the half, a 16 yard connection to Toney to make it 21-14. Toney had 115 all-purpose yards on his first five touches.
Then with five seconds left in the first half, Trask found Kyle Pitts for another 16 yard touchdown and Florida entered the locker room up 28-14 with 337 yards of total offense.
Florida received the second half kickoff and Trask fired his fifth touchdown pass, a 71 yard completion to Pitts to break the Rebels' spirits. Pitts' third score made the score 35-14.
Evan McPherson booted three field goals spanning the third and fourth quarters, including a career-long 55 yarder. Trask then hooked up with Pitts for the final time with 5:14 remaining to close the Florida scoring.
“You always hope for that,” said Pitts. “It was just something we’d seen in practice, looks and certain things, and I felt like we’d have a great week this week.”
Defensively, linebacker Ventrell Miller led the way with 13 solo tackles, including one sack and one other tackle for a loss. Linebacker Brenton Cox had two and a half tackles for a loss among his eight stops and also deflected the pass that led to Dexter’s interception.
The Gator defense overall was spotty, however, and allowed 613 total yards. Ole Miss receiver Elijah Moore tallied 227 yards on 10 receptions.
13 Gators were unavailable for the game, including projected defensive starters Jeremiah Moon, Kyree Campbell, and Brad Stewart. Senior safety Shawn Davis was also lost on the opening possession of the game due to a targeting penalty.
Attendance at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium was capped at 16,000 fans out of concern for COVID-19 spread.
The Gators opened with a true road game for the first time since 1987.
Florida plays its home opener next Saturday versus South Carolina at noon.
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