By Otis Kirk Special to the Nate Allen Sports Service
FAYETTEVILLE — No. 5 Florida’s Kyle Trask proved to be too much for Arkansas’ defense as the Gators took a 63-35 victory over the Razorbacks in Gainesville Saturday night.
Trask was 23 of 29 passing for 356 yards and six touchdowns. He had four touchdown passes in the second quarter when the Gators broke a 7-7 tie and went into intermission leading 35-14. Arkansas interim head coach saw Trask when at Missouri last year and was impressed with him again tonight.
“He’s so impressive,” Odom said. “I’ve played against him a couple of times now. I’m super impressed with his patience and his ability to not only look off a receiver, but stay where he’s at and stay on target. He’s got a terrific arm. I’ve never questioned that, but you can see how comfortable he is in this system. Playmakers around him and he’s a heck of a quarterback and I would suggest he’s gonna win a lot of games moving forward.”
Florida (5-1) finished with 593 yards of total offense, including 385 through the air. Odom was disappointed with how the defense played in the game.
“I think, number one, they’re really good and I don’t want to take anything from them,” Odom said. “But man these third downs we had a couple early. The ball was tipped and we just couldn’t get off the field on third down. We were dropping in the zone and not bringing pressure. They’re good up front and we weren’t able to hold up long enough in our zone coverage concepts. Then when we tried to go man we got beat. There were times that tried to keep off balance. Couldn’t ever really get in front and couldn’t find a way to get in front and get them in third and long. Then when we did on a couple of third downs they got off the field. Credit to them. We’ve got an opportunity to continue to build what we’re trying to do defensively. We’re gonna get back to work as soon as we get home.”
On the other side, Arkansas quarterback Feleipe Franks also was outstanding. He completed 15 of 19 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns. Once again, Franks failed to throw an interception. Franks was playing against a school where he was at four years and Odom was impressed.
“I think you look, and I don’t know enough about critiquing quarterback play, but he has gotten so much better,” Odom said. “The deep ball is something that he’s worked so hard on and we’ve got receivers with speed. He’s able to place it there, but I want to take the football side of it away.
“The plays he made out on the field that that away. Just think about him stepping into this environment like you’re talking about. For a 21-, 22-year-old kid, the history that he had here. Then he ended up at Arkansas really not knowing we were gonna play Florida during that time so he didn’t have to really worry about it. Then when the schedule comes out not you’re faced with everybody you grew up with, so to speak, in the locker room that takes some tremendous mental toughness and I’m so proud of the way he handled it and the way he competed. I’m so happy he’s our quarterback.”
Franks had some help on offense. Wide receiver Mike Woods caught two passes for 129 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Running back Trelon Smith rushed eight times for 113 yards and an 83-yard touchdown. Odom praised both following the game.
“I think, without having the stat sheet in front of me, it seemed like Mike was open and made plays when he had the opportunity,” Odom said. “He’s a guy that has become a big-play weapon for us. He has great strength out in the open field when he catches the ball and he’s got tremendous speed.
“And then Smitty ran so hard. Our offensive line, they kept battling in there. I was hearing on the headsets them making adjustments, coach (Brad) Davis making adjustments with Coach (Kendal) Briles on some things run-game wise and it kept working. You know 22 is a great competitor. He runs so hard and so tough and we can win games with this team. We’ve done it and we’re going to continue to do it. And we’re doing it with guys because they’re practicing and preparing and then they’re getting in the arena and they compete.”
Arkansas (3-4) came out in the third quarter following a talk from Odom and tried to get back from the 21-point deficit. Odom talked about what he told the team during halftime.
“The thing we talked about, and Sam (Pittman) has done such as an outstanding job in every situation leading this team, I tried a little bit to think about his message continuing to build this team and this program,” Odom said. “But also I wanted to challenge to our guys, ‘We need to hit the reset button it’s zero, zero let’s go play. Offense, kickoff return, your up, offense go score, defense find a way to get a stop and get off the field. Then let’s try to get it into a real game.’ A credit to our kids they’re doing and listening what we’re asking them to do. I hate that I fell short for them tonight, but we’ll rebound and we’ll bounce back.”
Arkansas’ offense did just that. They came out to start the third quarter and put together a nine-play, 75-yard drive that ended with Rakeem Boyd racing 12 yards for the touchdown. AJ Reed added the PAT and it was 35-21 with 12 minutes remaining in the third quarter.
The Arkansas defense did hold Florida and force a punt, but Arkansas’ offense couldn’t muster up a first down coming up just short on a reception by tight end Blake Kern. Facing a fourth-and-one play at its own 32 the Hogs wisely opted to punt. Florida then put together an eight-play, 83-yard drive that ended with backup quarterback Emory Jones scoring from the one. The Gators took a 42-21 lead with 3:01 remaining in the third quarter and then never looked back.
Following the game, Franks talked about what it was like playing against a team he once quarterbacked.
“It was awesome, man,” Franks said. “If I’m going to be honest with you, it was awesome. Just being around those guys and to see the excitement that they had to see me, and for me to see them and all that. In between the lines it was even fun, just being able to go out there. I’ve been with those guys for four years and to actually play and they can hit me and all that, it’s fun. You love the game and that’s what you play it for, the relationships you build along the way. It was a blessing to have the opportunity to get out there and play against them and see them again.”
On defense, linebacker Grant Morgan and safety Jalen Catalon were once again outstanding. Morgan finished with 15 tackles including seven solo. Catalon was next with 12 tackles, four solo, had an interception and a pair of pass breakups. Following the game, Morgan had praise for the Gators and Trask.
“First off, just that’s a good team,” Morgan said. “They’re better than us. They’re a couple plays better than us, I would say. Yeah, Kyle Trask, he did exactly what he wanted to do, but the thing is we let him. We had mistakes on our end, and we’re going to get that right this week. But hat’s off to Florida. They’re a good team. They’re top-5 for a reason. Anyone out there watching the game could notice that and could tell that. They’re a good, well-rounded team, they’re coached well. They play hard. So, we got to be able to get better and close the gap on all the plays from on how much better they are than us. But we’re going to close the gap and we’re going to focus on that starting tomorrow.”
Arkansas will return home next week to host LSU for an 11 a.m. kickoff. Morgan was asked can the team bounce back from its biggest loss of the season?
“I’m very confident,” Morgan said. “Confidence is not a weakness for him. I’m a very confident person. I know what we’re capable of doing, and I think everyone in this room and everyone in this building knows what we’re capable of doing. I don’t think confidence is something that we’re going to be lacking. It’s just a bad game.
“Everyone has bumps in the road. We can’t let this affect another game. We can’t drive into the next game. So, we got to go be able to go and take this to a whole other level and be able to show what our weaknesses were and change them and get better and be able to use them for our strengths. DBs been playing great this year. Everyone knows that. They’ve been playing really good. Our defense has played really well. We had a bad game. We just got to get better at those things and confidence is not going to be a problem for us.”