The Goodyear Cotton Bowl was over by halftime. And for quarterback Kyle Trask and the Florida Gators, it was not a good look. Trask and Florida made their ranking as the seventh-best team in the nation look like a mirage or a false narrative after getting the Gator beat out of them by the Oklahoma Sooners, the sixth-ranked team in the nation.
The Sooners scored a quick 17 points in the first quarter and then added 14 more in the second period to go into intermission with 31 points on the scoreboard. Trask and the Gators scored just 13 points in the first two quarters. So, it was not surprising that Oklahoma eventually ran away to a 55-20 win against Florida.
“Yeah, tough game for us,” Florida head coach Dan Mullen said in his postgame press conference. “Appreciate we had a lot of young guys. A lot of opportunities for guys to go out there and play in the course of the game. Give Oklahoma credit, did a great job, made a bunch of explosive plays, ran the ball well, made some plays in the pass game, played disciplined football. They really weren’t penalized; we had a lot more penalties than they did as well. We turned the ball over a couple too many times, which you can’t do playing good teams. But a lot of guys got some really good experience for us out there tonight.”
In short, the Gators got their helmets handed back to them by the Sooners. And this was a convincing win by Oklahoma, in a rather interesting display of dominance against a Florida team that put up 46 points in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) against Alabama, the top-ranked team in the country.
The way the Sooners accomplish what they wanted to do was to make Trask, the frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy, miserable in the pocket. The Sooners intercepted Trask three times and limited the Florida quarterback to just 158 yards passing. Trask completed only 16 of 28 passes against Oklahoma.
“Our guys did a good job,” Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said after the game. “We capitalized on a couple of mistakes they made. We were able a couple of times to confuse the quarterback and coverage. And he let go a couple of throws that weren’t quite as decisive as what we’re used to seeing him make. And our guys did a tremendous job with it. It says a lot about it. We have the most respect for that offense, for Kyle Trask who undoubtedly has been one of the best quarterbacks in the country this year.”
To put things into perspective, Trask threw for 4,283 yards (including totals against Oklahoma) in just 12 games this season. Only Joe Burrow (LSU), the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft (Cincinnati Bengals) has ever thrown for more yards in SEC history. He also broke the school’s passing record of averaging 356.9 yards a game. Pretty heady stuff.
Those numbers didn’t mean squat to Oklahoma. The Sooners brought Trask and Florida’s magical season to an ending that seemed anti-climatic. Including the defeat to Oklahoma, Florida lost three of its last three games. This is not the way that Trask wanted his season to conclude.
“Yeah, obviously, it’s difficult because this isn’t the way you want to go out,” Trask said. “But at the same time, you’ve got to look at the big picture. And we had a ton of young guys playing. At the end of the day, it was getting them reps and getting them ready for next year, and getting them opportunities. But, yeah, obviously we didn’t get off to a great start. But it is what it is, and we just want to get it coached up and move forward.”
Trask and Florida’s offense not getting off to a good start can be attributed to the play of Oklahoma’s defense. Tre Norwood, who was voted as the Defensive Most Outstanding Player of the 2020 Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic, got the party started for the Sooners defensively when he picked off Trask and returned the interception 45 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter.
Just like that, Trask and Florida were staring down at a 14-0 hole.
“The play with the interception is just kind of trusting my technique, trusting the call and then just trying to take advantage of the opportunity when it presented itself,” Norwood said. “And for our defense, I think just that first quarter, how we started off was big, just creating the energy for the team as a whole. I mean, all three of our takeaways came in the first quarter. So I think that kind of just got a big momentum swing for us and got the energy going on all three sides of the ball.”
While the Sooners’ defense was the catalyst in Oklahoma’s lopsided win, the offensive side of the ball didn’t play too shabby themselves. In fact, the Oklahoma offensive line did some serious work in the trenches. Oklahoma broke off 435 yards rushing the football against Florida, the second-highest total ever in a bowl game.
In just the second half alone, Oklahoma rushed for 307 yards. The Sooners had two players rush for 100 yards or. Rhamondre Stevenson led the way with 186 yards on 18 carries.
“We weren’t really too happy with how we played these last two games. We wanted to go out there and prove something,” Oklahoma center Creed Humphrey said. “We got to go against a quality opponent upfront, so we were really excited to go out there and prove what we were about. And then, obviously, whenever we have the running backs we have in our rooms, then it makes our jobs easier. So it was a fun game.”