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Florida 34, Tennessee 3: Gators thump Vols as Kyle Trask stars

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Florida’s backup made good on his first full turn as QB1.

Tennessee v Florida Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

You might have been worried about the Florida Gators and Kyle Trask as they made a return to The Swamp for Trask’s first start against the Tennessee Volunteers.

Just moments into Saturday’s nooner, the Gators were up 7-0 behind a brilliantly efficient drive led by Trask.

And mostly, the rest of Florida’s 34-3 win over the Vols was a panacea for dyspepsia, too.

Trask threw for 293 yards and two touchdowns, connecting with Kyle Pitts (four catches, 62 yards) on that first drive for his first score and with Freddie Swain (three catches, 67 yards) in the third quarter for his second. And he completed 20 of 28 throws while generally looking poised and polished in his first start at any level since middle school, though two throws into double coverage in the third quarter did result in interceptions.

But Florida’s defense wasn’t about to let those mistakes, or Trask’s first-half fumble, allow Tennessee into this game. The Vols mustered just 88 yards in the first half and had their best scoring opportunity snuffed out by an acrobatic interception by Trey Dean at the goal line and their next drive after that scuttled by Jarrett Guarantano throwing a strike directly to Marco Wilson, who plays for Florida.

Tennessee would turn to freshman quarterback Brian Maurer for a spark in the second half, only to commit two more turnovers after intermission — an interception and fumble recovery by Amari Burney, a star on the day in his first full game of the season, though the latter came on a fumble forced by Jonathan Greenard, once again a force of nature for Florida up front — and settle for just one field goal to break up what could’ve been Florida’s first shutout in the series in decades.

The Gators also managed to extend their lead and win going away against an FBS team for the first time this year, with Lamical Perine and Dameon Pierce both recording rushing touchdowns on the day.

But what this game proved — despite Trask looking poised, and Florida’s defense seeming potent — was mostly that Florida is well ahead of Tennessee in terms of being a complete program, something that could have been argued against when both teams changed coaches in 2017 after a three-year stretch of the series alternating between narrow and dramatic Florida wins and a Tennessee comeback in Knoxville.

These Gators are so much better than these Vols that this game was hardly in doubt at any point, making it hard to glean too much insight from the way the game went.

I don’t think Dan Mullen will mind that all that much.