Florida’s defense gave up its first touchdown of the 2020 Cotton Bowl as easily as it could, with safety Donovan Stiner figuring heavily in three long gains, including the touchdown pass from Spencer Rattler to Marvin Mims.
When Kyle Trask answered that opening salvo with a pick-six on the Gators’ opening drive, it was a sure sign that the Gators weren’t equipped to stay with the Sooners on this night in North Texas.
And apart from a 13-0 run in the first half — a sign of life that may well have been a dead-cat bounce — the Gators simply didn’t do that against a deeper and more talented Oklahoma team that steamrolled it in a 55-20 rout.
The 55 points? The most put up against the Gators since Florida conceded 62 to Nebraska in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl, with a national championship on the line. Oklahoma’s 435 rushing yards? Within 100 of the 524 the Cornhuskers had on that night in which Tommie Frazier seared the image of bouncing off a half-dozen Gators into the collective memory of Gator Nation, with Rhamondre Stevenson (19 carries, 186 yards) and Marcus Major (nine carries, 110 yards) thumping away to gather most of them.
Trask’s three first-quarter interceptions? Ugly plays on him in two instances, and a tipped pass that was one of seemingly a dozen drops by Gators receivers in the third. Florida’s 521 yards of total offense? Squandered, largely, as Florida failed to score 30 points for the first time in 2020 and since its rout of Florida State to end the 2019 regular season.
Oklahoma was by far the better, sharper team in this game, with a larger percentage of its key players in Cowboys Stadium and clearly focused on serving some humble pie to a Florida team that ends the 2020 season on a three-game losing streak. Linebacker James Houston is likewise assured of an offseason of social media taunts over a prideful quote that — naturally, as it was a quote said by a college football player in the Twitter era — got twisted into pure braggadocio rather than a statement of intent.
But Florida played this game without most of the receivers who helped Trask set records through the air, and without several starters on a defense that wasn’t even good at full strength. Florida strolled into Cowboys Stadium all but wearing the instructions for its evisceration on its uniforms; Oklahoma followed the directions well, and got a resounding win for its troubles.
The Gators will still face decisions, pivotal ones, in this offseason — Dan Mullen deciding on Todd Grantham’s future will be first and foremost among them, and his continued teaching and sculpting of Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson into be the succession plan for Trask at quarterback will be fraught with choices.
Making any of them solely or even primarily on the basis of this exhibition — regardless of the lopsided result — would be a failure of Florida’s process.
Florida’s 2020 season will go down as one defined by almosts — just as it was after the SEC Championship Game. Letting an unsightly vestigial tail change that would be silly.