Florida football: Kyle Trask big as Gators top Vols, 34-3

It was a defining moment for Florida football’s former backup-turned-starting quarterback Kyle Trask. But, he certainly made the most of his first-ever start.

While the defense came up big, the running game got off the ground and Florida football smacked a Southeastern Conference rival, all eyes were on Kyle Trask.

And, the redshirt junior didn’t disappoint, turning in a performance not seen by a Gator quarterback in several seasons. It was enough to lead No. 8 Florida to a 34-3 win over Tennessee Saturday afternoon.

Trask, in his first career start, went 20-for-28 for 294 yards, two touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 168.6.

Those two touchdown passes were a 19-yard pass to tight end Kyle Pitts in the first quarter and a 29-yard pass to Freddie Swain in the third quarter.

At one point in the first half, Trask had accumulated a QBR of 247 before Emory Jones took some snaps.

GAINESVILLE, FL- SEPTEMBER 21: Kyle Pitts #84 of the Florida Gators reacts after scoring a touchdown during the first half of the game against the Tennessee Volunteers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 21, 2019 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

He had an early connection with Pitts, completing three passes to the tight end — mostly thanks to Pitts being wide open due to Tennessee attempting to cover Florida football’s wide receivers.

On the defensive side, the Gators made life difficult for Jeremy Pruitt, Volunteers’ quarterback Jarrett Guarantano, the Tennessee running game and, well, just about every aspect of the Tennessee offense.

Guarantano was so ineffective (10-for-17 for 107 yards and a pair of interceptions), Pruitt put in Brian Maurer, who didn’t fare much better.

Maurer went 4-for-11 for 44 yards and an interception.

So, clearly, the passing game struggled.

The running game, not much better.

Tyler Chandler had just 34 yards on 10 carries as Tennessee managed just 88 yards on the ground and 151 yards in the air.

The Gator defense bailed out the few miscues from the offense, especially in the second quarter after the offense failed to convert on a fourth-and-three, giving the Volunteers the ball at their own 35.

But, eight plays later, Marco Wilson stepped in and picked off a Guarantano pass at the 46, which would be converted to a 22-yard field goal by Evan McPherson, putting Florida football up 10-0.

Both teams went back and forth in the second quarter until the Gators drove five minutes to the end of the first half where Lamical Perine dove in from 1-yard out.

#21 of the Florida Gators intercepts a throw from Jarrett Guarantano #2 of the Tennessee Volunteers during the first half of the game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 21, 2019 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

The Volunteers got a field goal back in the third quarter, but the Gator offense continued to find its rhythm with Trask under center.

After Tennessee’s field goal, Trask marched the Gators 75 yards on six plays before nailing Freddie Swain on a 29-yard touchdown strike, blowing the Gators lead up to 24-3 and putting the game out of reach for Pruitt and the Volunteers.

Defensively, Amari Burney came up big for Florida when he had a takeaway early in the fourth quarter (thanks in large part to Jon Greenard tipping a pass). In addition to his pick, Burney led the Gators with five tackles — including a sack.

It led to Dameon Pierce scoring for the Gators on a 10-yard run, officially closing the game on Tennessee.

The Gators had 441 yards of total offense, compared to Tennessee’s 239 yards.

Next: Can the Gators stay undefeated and beat Tennessee?

No. 8 Florida will now prepare for another non-conference opponent when Towson comes to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium next Saturday.