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Gators cannot overcome early turnovers, fall to Sooners in Cotton Bowl

OU batters Florida for 435 rushing yards
Florida defensive back Donovan Stiner (13) is unable to stop Oklahoma wide receiver Marvin Mims...
Florida defensive back Donovan Stiner (13) is unable to stop Oklahoma wide receiver Marvin Mims (17) from reaching the end zone on a touchdown reception during the first half of the Cotton Bowl NCAA college football game in Arlington, Texas, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)(Michael Ainsworth | AP)
Published: Dec. 30, 2020 at 11:53 PM EST
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ARLINGTON, TX. (WCJB) -A Florida Gator football season that held so much promise and contained historic performances ended with some sloppy play and a rare blowout loss in Wednesday’s Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas.

No. 7 Florida lost its third straight, a 55-20 defeat to No. 6 Oklahoma to finish the season 8-4 overall.  The Sooners wrap up at 9-2.

Heisman Trophy finalist Kyle Trask threw three first quarter interceptions and was held without a touchdown pass for the only time in his career.  His final numbers were 16-for-28 passing and 158 yards.

Florida didn’t have its usual personnel on either side of the ball.  Offensively, First Team All-American tight end Kyle Pitts and wide receivers Trevon Grimes and Kadarius Toney opted out to focus on NFL draft preparations.  Receiver Jacob Copeland missed the game as well due to a positive COVID-19 test.

Defensively, cornerback Marco Wilson and safety Shawn Davis opted out of the matchup, while linebacker Ventrell Miller and defensive tackle Marlon Dunlap were also unavailable.

The Sooners, winners of six straight Big 12 titles, wasted no time taking advantage of a depleted Gator defense.  Freshman quarterback Spencer Rattler drove the Sooners to the end zone in five plays to start the game and connected with Marvin Mims for a 27-yard touchdown pass 2:01 into the opening quarter.  Oklahoma led, 7-0.

Things didn’t improve for the Gators.  On their second offensive snap from scrimmage, Tre Norwood picked off Trask and returned it 45 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead.  It was Trask’s sixth interception of the season but the fourth that has been brought back for a touchdown.

Florida’s first three drives all ended in interceptions.  Brian Asamoah picked off Trask deep in OU territory to set up a field goal that made it 17-0.  Woodi Washington then intercepted Trask in the end zone late in the first quarter to negate a promising Gator drive.

The Gator defense gave Florida some life. Khris Bogle forced a fumble by Rattler and Trey Dean recovered at the Sooner 36 yard line to set up an Evan McPherson 21-yard field goal.  The Gators trailed 17-3 after one quarter.

Sophomore quarterback Emory Jones came in for Trask and gave the Gators a lift.  Jones scored on a one-yard touchdown run to cap a 16-play, 88 yard drive that got Florida within 17-10 midway through the second quarter.  Jones ended the game completing eight of 16 passes while adding 60 yards rushing and a touchdown.

After an encouraging stretch that included two forced turnovers, the Gator defense allowed another back breaking play in the second quarter.  On third and four, Rattler found Theo Wease on a crossing route, and Wease turned it into a 36-yard touchdown.  OU led, 24-13.

Rattler then scored on a one-yard touchdown run with just 16 seconds left in the half and the Sooners took their biggest lead of the half into the locker room, 31-13.  Florida allowed 30 points or more for the sixth time this season.

Florida started the second half by punting on its first three possessions, and Oklahoma extended its lead to 41-13 on a field goal and a 15-yard touchdown run by Rhamondre Stevenson.  The Sooners bashed the Gators all night on the ground, with Stevenson accumulating 186 of OU’s 435 rushing yards.

Trask finished his outstanding senior season at Florida with 4,283 yards passing and 43 touchdown passes. Both totals lead the FBS and are single season Gator records.

Florida’s three-game losing streak its is first since dropping five straight near the end of the 2017 season.

Florida lost its bowl game for the first time since dropping the Citrus Bowl to Michigan, 41-7 to cap the 2015 season. That’s also the last time the Gators dropped their final three games in a season.

The Gators are now 29-9 in Dan Mullen’s three seasons as head coach.

Notes:

Florida freshman quarterback Anthony Richardson (Eastside H.S. in Gainesville) came off the bench to throw his first career touchdown pass, a 27-yarder to Jordan Pouncey to complete the scoring.

2020 marked Florida’s first Cotton Bowl appearance and third bowl ever in the state of Texas.

All twelve of Florida’s games this season came against Power Five conference opponents, and there was just one week off for the players after competing in the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 19.

Trask is one of four finalists for the Heisman Trophy.  The winner will be announced on Jan. 5.

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