GAINESVILLE — The most interesting story before Saturday night’s Florida-Arkansas game was Feleipe Franks facing his former Gators teammates.
The most important thing after kickoff, however, was the game’s other quarterback continuing his historic, Heisman-worthy season.
UF’s Kyle Trask threw six touchdown passes (again) as his No. 6 Gators routed the Razorbacks 63-35 to wreck Franks' return to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
Franks — who started ahead of Trask at UF in 2017-19 — wasn’t bad, hitting 15 of his 19 passes for two touchdowns. After getting booed to start his first series, Franks responded with a beautiful 47-yard bomb for a score. And, in typical Franks fashion, he egged things on by appearing to point at UF’s sideline afterward.
Trask and the Gators (5-1) were simply better. Much, much better, even with superstar tight end Kyle Pitts out after undergoing nose surgery that will sideline him next week, too.
“Kyle Trask did a really good job distributing the ball, not getting panicky, taking what they were going to give us all night,” coach Dan Mullen said.
Trask’s numbers were ridiculous on their own — 23-of-29 passing on an offense that had its best SEC performance since dropping 63 on Kentucky during the 2008 national title run.
Arkansas (3-4) entered giving up 222 passing yards per game; Trask had 285 at halftime. He also had no turnovers against a defense that was tied for the fourth-most takeaways in the country.
But the stats, as usual, don’t adequately summarize Trask’s performance.
His best play of the night was a throw that was especially cool, even by his abnormally unflappable standards. A first-half flea flicker fooled Arkansas, except the toss back to Trask from running back Dameon Pierce was low. When Trask picked it up, a Razorbacks defender was flying at him off the edge. Still, Trask saw that speedster Xzavier Henderson had a step on his opponent.
“I threw it as far as I could, flat-footed, to see if he could make a play,” Trask said.
Their 43-yard connection set up one of Trask’s five first-half touchdown passes.
Trask was so impressive that UF freshman quarterback Anthony Richardson risked punishment from his coaches to talk him up.
“I’m not supposed to be on my phone,” Richardson wrote on Twitter during halftime, “but somebody tell them to give Kyle the Heisman trophy already!”
The socially distanced crowd of 16,116 agreed; a “Trask for Heisman” chant broke out during the third quarter.
If nothing else, Trask compares favorably to UF’s previous Heisman winners. He’s one of only three Gators with 25 touchdown passes in multiple seasons. The other two, Tim Tebow and Danny Wuerffel, won the sport’s most prestigious award.
With 28 touchdown passes already this season, Trask is within striking distance of Wuerffel’s school record (39), despite the pandemic-shortened schedule.
Even if he doesn’t get there, Trask is already doing things no UF quarterback has ever done. Against Georgia, he became the first player in SEC history to throw at least four touchdown passes in five consecutive games. He extended that mark Saturday before halftime. The only other passers since 2005 with four or more touchdown passes in six straight games: Colt Brennan (Hawaii, 2006), Graham Harrell (Texas Tech, 2007) and Logan Woodside (Toledo, 2016).
UF quarterbacks have thrown at least six touchdown passes in a game only nine times ever. Trask has two of those performances — the opener against Ole Miss and Saturday night against his former teammate.
Not that Trask cares. As usual, he calmly and politely deflected any praise about his individual performance. But when he was asked about the Heisman chant with his name, he had to crack a smile.
“I heard it, obviously…” Trask said.
With a performance that should resonate with voters across the country.