Florida’s 2019 season began with a blue-chip quarterback and a whole fleet of talented and versatile wide receivers. Its 2020 season dawned with a high school backup at QB and a tight end as its most potent pass-catcher.
But the explosiveness the Gators displayed in overpowering Ole Miss by a 51-35 score in their 2020 season opener on Saturday shows that they might just be in a better place with Kyle Trask throwing to Kyle Pitts as their default play call.
Trask threw for 416 yards and six touchdowns — each school records for SEC openers and the latter tying an SEC mark only just set by LSU’s Joe Burrow in 2019 — while Pitts hauled in eight catches for 170 yards, setting a school record for a tight end, and four touchdowns, matching a school record for any receiver.
And all four of the scoring plays were impressive. The duo opened the day’s scoring with a floated pass near the goal line that Pitts plucked from the sky effortlessly, closed the first half with a wicked back-shoulder connection that Pitts slid to secure, commenced the second half with a 71-yard catch-and-run that featured Pitts stiff-arming a defender to defeat a tackle attempt, and ended the day with the towering tight end snaring a jump ball between two defenders in the middle of the end zone.
Their stats and performances were so outstanding that it likely did plenty to establish both as potential Heisman contenders. But the Kyles weren’t Florida’s only offensive standouts.
Six other receivers joined Pitts in recording at least 25 receiving yards, with Trevon Grimes (64 receiving yards) and Kadarius Toney (59) also scoring touchdowns, and Toney (55 rushing yards) led four Florida rushers who had at least 39 yards on the ground. Toney’s day — featuring a 50-yard carry and some impressive technique as a wideout — was his first of more than 100 yards of total offense in his career, while Florida’s 642 yards of total offense were its most in more than half a decade and its 51 points were its most in an SEC opener since 2007.
The problem? Florida needed almost all of those yards and points, as its defense — missing a handful of contributors, and also without Shawn Davis for most of the day after a first-quarter ejection for targeting — coughed up 613 yards of total offense in its own right.
And while the Gators kept the Rebels at arm’s length after going into halftime up by two scores, more talented and more experienced teams loom on their shuffled schedule.