It is safe to say the Florida Gators’ Cotton Bowl debut did not go as planned. When the season started, all eyes were set on the playoffs and a national championship. Now, it ends with a three-game skid.
The opt-outs, extremely noticeable. The defense’s performance epitomized how it performed all year; it wasted a season featuring a historic offense.
All of this came together in the form of a Florida loss to Oklahoma, 55-20 in the Cotton Bowl.
This game featured milestones nobody wanted to touch.
Dan Mullen lost his first bowl game as the Gator head coach. Lincoln Riley finally wins his first bowl game for Oklahoma. Mullen said they tried to keep things simple in the game plan with so many players out. In fact, Mullen said the Gators could have NOT played the game because of a lack of players at certain positions but the team voted to play as Mullen pointed to the defensive line and secondary as places his team was severely lacking bodies to play. He said despite the loss that it was a good chance to kick start the future where a lot of young players got to play and be evaluated.
In what is more than likely his last game with the Gators, Kyle Trask resembled anything but his Heisman-finalist self. He went 16 for 28 with zero touchdowns and three interceptions.
Both Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson saw action in the game, as it became a tryout for next season. Jones completed 8 of 16 passes and had a rushing touchdown. Richardson, on the other hand, completed the first touchdown of his career–his only pass of the game.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma’s quarterback, Spencer Rattler, finished off a solid redshirt freshman season going 14 for 23 with 247 passing yards and three touchdowns.
Rhamondre Stevenson rushed 186 yards and had a touchdown as Oklahoma’s performance was record setting as well for the Cotton Bowl.
#Sooners records broken or tied vs. Florida:
Cotton Bowl records:
Total yards (684)
Rushing yards (435)
Points (55-tied USC 1995)
School bowl records:
Tied margin of victory (35-0 over LSU in 1950 Sugar Bowl)
— Brian Brinkley (@BrianBrinkleyOK) December 31, 2020
The fact that players opted out can be pointed to immediately. But keep in mind, the Sooners were only favored by 8.5 before the game after all the key players opted out. It was only 17-13 at one point. The Gators just unraveled.
The offense had an off night–to say the least–and the defense did not back them up at all. It continued their historically down year.
Before this season, the Gators had only allowed 600 yards in a game twice in school history (2014 vs Alabama, 1996 Fiesta Bowl vs Nebraska).
They allowed 600+ three times this season (Ole Miss, Alabama, Oklahoma).
— Nick de la Torre (@delatorre) December 31, 2020
The Florida Gators finish the season with a record of 8-4. This is their worst record since they went 4-7 in 2017. We await their final ranking in the AP Poll following the national championship game. Expect them to finish outside of the top 10 for the first time since 2017 when they finished unranked.
However, this season still had its highlights. Florida won the SEC East after finally beating Georgia, which one could argue was their best game all year. This Gators team put up a fight against the Alabama Crimson Tide. No other team did that.
Lastly, there’s Kyle Trask. Do not let this game tarnish the record-setting season he had–the one that made him a Heisman finalist.
This season ended at its lowest point. But it had some of the highest points that this program had not seen in a long time.