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UF Football: Notes & quotes from 34-10 win over Kentucky

Kadarius Toney returns a punt for a 50-yard touchdown late in the second quarter as teammate Chester Kimbrough reacts in the background. (Photo: Piper Hansen/UAA Communications)
Photo By: Piper Hansen

Courtesy of University Athletic Association

No. 6 Florida 34, Kentucky 10
November 28, 2020
Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium

Gators Offense

  • The Gators have beaten four SEC opponents by 20-plus points in the same season for the first time since 2008, when they beat seven SEC foes by at least 20.
  • Florida’s 347 points this season mark its fifth-highest total through eight games in school history, trailing the 2001 Gators (359), 1995 Gators (364), 1994 Gators (394), and 1996 Gators (413).
  • Florida has six consecutive games of 400-plus yards against SEC opponents for the first time since a six-game stretch that started Oct. 27, 2001 against Georgia and ended the week after a 418- yard outing at Tennessee on Sept. 21, 2002.
  • The Gators’ seven games of 400-plus total yards against SEC opponents this year are the most they’ve posted against SEC teams in a season since 2004 (also seven times).
    • Today is the 21st time the Gators amassed 400-plus total yards under Mullen, one more 400-yard outing than they had in the 75 games comprising the 2012-17 seasons.
    • The Gators have eclipsed 400 total yards in 19 of their last 25 games.
  • Florida has more than 35 passing touchdowns in a season for the first time since 2001 (when it had 43) and the sixth time in school history.
    • Note: Bowl stats were not counted in records prior to 2002.
  • Florida has six consecutive 300-yard passing games for the first time since a 14-game streak that began with the 2001 Sugar Bowl, spanned the entire 2001 season, and ended the week after the 2002 season-opening rout of UAB.
    • This is the 16th time UF reached 300 passing yards under Mullen, matching its total from the 156 games comprising the 2006-17 seasons.

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Another “Ho-Hum” Performance Keeps Trask on Record-Setting Pace

  • Kyle Trask’s third touchdown pass of the day – a 7-yarder to Kyle Pitts in the third quarter – tied him with San Diego State’s Dennis Shaw (1969) and Houston’s David Klingler (1990) for the third-most passing touchdowns through the first eight games of a season in FBS history.
    • B.J. Symons, Texas Tech, 2003 – 36
    • Andre Ware, Houston, 1989 – 36
    • Kyle Trask, Florida, 2020 – 34
    • David Klingler, Houston, 1990 – 34
    • Dennis Shaw, San Diego State, 1969 – 34
    • Colt Brennan, Hawaii, 2006 – 33
  • Trask’s third touchdown pass also tied him with Rex Grossman (2001) for the third-most passing touchdowns in a single season in school history.
    • Only Danny Wuerffel (35 in 1995; 39 in 1996) threw for more in a season.
  • Trask is the first quarterback in school history to throw three-plus passing touchdowns in eight straight games, breaking Danny Wuerffel’s school record of seven in a row (Sept. 21-Nov. 9, 1996).
  • Trask has not thrown an interception in his last 119 attempts, which is the sixth-longest streak in school history.
  • Trask has thrown for 200-plus yards in 16 consecutive games with 200-plus passing yards, extending the second-longest streak in school history.
    • Shane Matthews holds the school record of 17.

Pitts Returns in Monstrous Fashion

  • Kyle Pitts becomes the first Gator since Taylor Jacobs (2002) with three games of two-plus receiving touchdowns in the same season.
    • The last Gator with three such games against SEC teams was Jabar Gaffney in 2001.
  • Pitts is also one of eight SEC players since the start of 2000 with multiple games of three receiving touchdowns in a season. The other seven are all receivers.
    • Others: Jabar Gaffney, Florida (2000), Donte’ Stallworth, Tennessee (2001), Darvin Adams, Auburn (2009), Justin Hunter, Tennessee (2012), Amari Cooper, Alabama (2014), Ja’Marr Chase, LSU (2019), and Justin Jefferson, LSU (2019).
  • Pitts’ 11 receiving touchdowns this season are the most touchdown catches in a season by any Gator since Jabar Gaffney had 13 in 2001.
  • Pitts’ 11 touchdown catches are two more than 2019’s FBS leaders for receiving touchdowns by a tight end — SMU’s Kylen Granson and Louisiana-Monroe’s Josh Pederson had nine apiece last year.
  • Pitts’ 56-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter was the 82nd reception of his career, tying Kirk Kirkpatrick (1987-90) for the second-most career receptions by a tight end in school history.
    • Pitts passed Kirkpatrick with his second catch of the day, a 12-yarder from Kadarius Toney in the third quarter.
    • The school record is 111 career receptions by Aaron Hernandez, 2007-09.

Gators Defense

  • Florida had three interceptions for the second time this season (also had three against Georgia).
    • The Gators were one of five FBS teams last year with at least three interceptions in three different games.
  • The Gators held Kentucky to just 2-of-13 on third downs (15.4 percent), and they did not allow the Wildcats to convert a third or fourth down in the second half (combined 0 of 6).
    • Florida has allowed three or fewer third-down conversions in four of the last five games.
  • Kentucky’s 221 total yards were the fewest Florida allowed all season.
    • Florida allowed just 46 total yards and shut out Kentucky in the second half.
    • More than half of Kentucky’s total yards (120) came in the second quarter, when it held the ball for 12:10 and ran 23 offensive plays.
  • Mohamoud Diabate’s interception in the third quarter was the first of his career.
  • Shawn Davis’ interception in the fourth quarter was his second of the season and fifth of his career.
  • Tre’Vez Johnson’s interception in the fourth quarter was the first of his career.

Florida Special Teams

  • Kadarius Toney’s 50-yard punt return touchdown was the Gators’ first punt return touchdown since Freddie Swain’s 85-yarder for a touchdown against Colorado State on Sept. 15, 2018.
  • Evan McPherson, who entered the game as national leader among all FBS kickers with 40 attempts since the start of 2018, hit a 34- and 40-yarder, but missed a 45-yarder this afternoon.
    • McPherson has now made 45 of his 51 career field goal attempts (88.2 percent), which puts him on pace to break the 50-attempt school record held by Jeff Chandler.
      • Chandler was 67 of 80 (83.8 percent) from 1997-2001.

Notable Career Highs

  • James Houston IV tied his career high for a third time with eight tackles.
    • Houston also logged a team-high 2.5 tackles for loss.
  • Dameon Pierce had a career-high four receptions.
  • Tedarrell Slaton logged a career-high seven tackles.
  • Rick Wells had a career-high 36 receiving yards and tied his career high with two receptions.
  • Nay’Quan Wright had a career-high five receptions.

Explosive Plays

  • Dameon Pierce: 15-yard rush (fake punt), 1st quarter
  • Kyle Pitts (from Trask): 56-yard touchdown reception, 1st quarter
  • Kadarius Toney (from Trask): 21-yard reception, 2nd quarter
  • Kadarius Toney: 50-yard punt return touchdown, 2nd quarter
  • Jacob Copeland (from Trask): 42-yard reception, 3rd quarter (longest reception of career)
  • Dameon Pierce: 38-yard rush, 4th quarter (longest rush of season for Pierce)
  • Kyle Pitts (from Trask): 22-yard reception, 4th quarter
  • Rick Wells (from Jones): 20-yard reception, 4th quarter

Series Updates

  • Florida improves its all-time record against Kentucky to 53-18, in addition to improving to 29-5 against the Wildcats in Gainesville.
  • The Gators have won 33 of the last 34 meetings in the series.

Other

  • Florida Game Captains: Marco Wilson
  • Florida won the toss and deferred to the second half; Florida defended the south end zone
  • Attendance: 14,453

2020 Florida Football Postgame Quotes

Dan Mullen, Florida Head Coach

On the similarities to previous games with early defensive struggles followed by a strong second half…

“I think that shows… our defensive coaches, we have good defensive coaches and we have defensive guys that take a lot of pride in what they’re doing. We came out, we didn’t play very well to start the game. I’m not going to say we played bad. I just don’t think we played very well. Still only gave up 10 points in the first half and got a stop right before the half that allowed us to take the lead and take the advantage. Our players, I think they understand that. They sit there and say, ‘Hey, that’s not the best we can play.’ Our coaches understand that, too. We’ve got to make some adjustments, make sure we make the adjustments for what they’re doing. We went through that at halftime. Teams come in, and the game is so much about adjustments. People are going to come in and have some different wrinkles, some different changes, and do different things each week. I think our guys came in, made a great adjustment, and our guys came out really motivated in the second half. I think they were probably a little disappointed with how they played in the first half. And that was Gator defense. Really, from the last two minutes of that last drive of the first half on, that was what we expect Gator defense to look like.”

On the punt return touchdown at the end of the half…

“It was one of our packages we have in. They have an excellent punter. They kind of do this rollout-to-the-right punt, but when he rolls out to the right, he’ll punt it right or left. I think a lot of people use two returners to figure out where he’s going to punt it. We wanted to use two returners to take advantage of that situation they were in and see if he made a mistake. If he was supposed to punt it left and punted it right, we thought, okay, KT (Kadarius Toney) was going to be by himself. If he was supposed to punt it right and he punts it left, Xzavier (Henderson) was going to be by himself. Our guys up front did a great job holding it up to get the return going. And then, KT, once he got in the open field, he’s a dangerous guy in the open field with the ball in his hand.”

On whether today was an example of how powerful Kyle Pitts is in the offense…

“It is. You look at the different weapons we have, obviously, he’s one of our weapons that’s out there; he’s a dangerous matchup for guys on defense. But, again, I think Kyle Trask does a good job not forcing him the ball. If you look at all of his catches… he was the guy who was left one on one, or I think one of them he was on a linebacker. Kyle Trask does a great job of managing the situation and seeing who they’re going to bracket, where they’re going to roll coverage to, where’s our best matchup on the field. And he doesn’t force it. Kyle Pitts becomes a matchup problem for a lot of people. Sometimes he’s hard to leave one on one. You leave a corner on him one on one, he’s got great size. You leave a backer on him one on one, he’s got great speed. When they left him one on one, Kyle Trask took advantage of those matchups.”

On whether this was more an example of what he expects to see out of special teams…

“Yeah. One of the things we talk (about) to those guys is be ready for that moment and execute. We practice the fake punts… get into a situation where we want to call it, and then you’ve got to execute. I thought our guys came out and executed that really well. You practice pooch punts all the time. We practiced that a bunch, we come out there and executed that extremely well. We go through the different punt return schemes, we executed that well. I thought kickoff coverage, keeping them pinned deep, our kicking game was really good all day. There was one knock, we missed a field goal. We get used to Evan (McPherson) being automatic, and we came out and missed a field goal today. Overall, I thought it was a really good special teams day. We talk about all three phases being equal. Everyone on the team has to understand how important each one of those phases were. A lot of times you have players, guys in the program going, ‘What about my reps on offense? What about my reps on defense?’ Worry about your reps and executing on special teams. Those can be game-changing plays.”

On the whether the sluggish starts are because they aren’t ready, or aren’t motivated…

“I think there is all kinds of stuff. Sometimes you have to get into the flow of the game. It’s a 60-minute game, and you’re getting into the flow of the game, getting into seeing how they’re going to play. What adjustments are they making? How differently are they playing us than what we prepared for? These guys, you look offensively, the last couple weeks teams that have never played dime played six DBs every single play. Today, they played us in base personnel most of the day. You’re making the different adjustments. I’m a perfectionist. But that’s not a reality. It’s a game of adjustments, and it’s a long, four-quarter game. If you look at what we’ve been able to do during the season… is make adjustments to how the game’s being played, how it’s being played out, and finding a way to win pretty convincingly.”

Florida Student-Athletes

#11 Kyle Trask, Redshirt Senior, Quarterback

On how close they are to playing a complete game…

“I think we played a pretty solid game. I think that the thing we need to focus on the most is finishing drives. I mean, we didn’t really have a problem losing the ball or making explosive plays. It was more of when we got down in the high red or the red zone, just, you know, get the ball in the end zone. Get those touchdowns and put the game away.”

On the team’s ceiling…

“Sky is the limit. We have huge goals for this team, and to do that we have to continue to get better every week.”

On having Kyle Pitts back…

“It’s great. Kyle is a phenomenal athlete and tight end. He causes a lot of mismatches for the defense, causes a lot of chaos in the back end with trying to figure out how to guard him. It’s great for us as an offense as a whole.”

On the poster with the Heisman statues that had his name on it…

“I did see the poster. That was pretty funny. Like I said, like I’ve always said, I’m just focused on the team and going one game at a time. Our goal is to win and that’s all I’m focused on.”

On Kadarius Toney’s punt return…

“It was huge. I think special teams did a great job today executing in key moments. I think Kentucky also did a great job with slowing the game down and working the clock in the first half. I think we only had around 20 plays. We just have to be more efficient as a whole, but that was huge. It gave us the lead going into halftime. It was definitely a play that has a huge impact on the game.”

On his connection with Kyle Pitts…

“We obviously go way back in how we were both on backups a couple years ago. That chemistry has always been building, and also, I think we’ve been doing a great job of getting him and getting situations to where the defense has to try really hard how to guard him and just figure all that out. I just think that we did a solid job of executing today.”

#16 Tre’Vez Johnson, Freshman, Defensive Back

On how it felt to get his first career interception…

“It was great. That was the first of many. But it was good to get the win. I’m glad we came out with the win, but that was exciting.”

On what he’s learned from teammates (Marco) Wilson, (Kaiir) Elam and more in the secondary…

“A lot. They’ve been here. They’re the vets. I listen to everything they tell us. Everything that they explain to me, I take it in because I know they know, they’ve been here. They’re elite. They do what they do.”

On growth over first eight games of the season…

“A lot. Like I said, listening to those guys, listening to the coaches, executing the game plan. Defense and the team really as a whole has come a long way since the first game.”

#41 James Houston IV, Redshirt Junior, Linebacker

On the resiliency of the defense…

“We definitely started off the game kind of slow, but the second half we made our adjustments and we did what we had to do. The defense came together as a unit and we basically just said that we had to get three-and-outs, we got to get off the field and give the offense the ball so we can start winning this game and start turning the corner.”

On being one step closer to clinching the SEC East…

“This is a big game. It was the biggest game this week. Next week, Tennessee will be the biggest game that week. We’re going to continue to grind, continue to try to get better and better until we can peak at our highest point.”

On the adjustments made…

“We made a couple adjustments in the D-line and in the back end just to kind of stop those runs, the long little leakage runs that they had. And I think we did a pretty good job of it in the third quarter.”

#84 Kyle Pitts, Junior, Tight End

On being back on the field after two weeks away…

“Everything is good. It was a great feeling coming back and playing with my brothers. I kind of missed that when I was sitting in the house, but it was time to heal. I got back, and there’s no better feeling than coming back and having fun with my brothers.”

On the Kentucky players’ tweets throughout the week…

“I did hear that one of their players said something, but that’s fine. I kind of said something in the end zone, but then Coach kind of got on me so I stopped after that.”

On what Coach Mullen said to him about being back…

“He was just saying go out and play your game and let the game come to you. Don’t try to force anything and if the opportunity comes your way then make something of it.”

On how important it was to get off to a good start and the status of his nose injury…

“Just coming out with how we played, it was pretty awesome. I was a little jittery because I hadn’t played in two weeks. Chest kind of got hot, and my heartbeat was beating fast. I was a little nervous at first, but the first play happened and then I was like, ‘Okay, we are back to playing.’

“About my nose, I think my helmet kind of came down diagonal which caused it to, I think it was a fracture, or something like that.”

On whether he was surprised seeing the team put up a lot of points without him…

“No, because I knew that (Kemore) Gamble and Keon (Zipperer) were ready for their opportunity when it came, and they made the most of it. I was proud of those guys, and I want everybody to score. When they were scoring I was at home, I was cheering them on. I was calling them after the game and just telling them how good they were doing. It was just time to keep going for the rest of the season, all four of us, me, Jon(athan) Odom, Kemore Gamble, and Keon Zipperer.”

On the connection with Kyle Trask…

“I can’t really describe it to you. But I can say that, I feel like it’s just days. I feel like every day this week, we stayed after practice. Maybe I dropped a ball, or maybe there was something he didn’t like, or he wanted to give me a different throw. I think it was just about every day from when I came back, so Monday to Friday, me and him were after practice just getting plays we missed so that when we came out here today, we didn’t miss those throws.”

On Kentucky players talking during the week and having a target on his back…

“It’s fun because it just makes me play better. It gives me that extra boost. When I saw that and heard, it just makes me go harder… to make them respect you. I feel like today I kind of showed what I had.”