Arlington, TX—-Florida head coach Dan Mullen knew he had his hands full with Oklahoma, being down 25 players for this year Goodyear Cotton Bowl.
The Gators was without its top four receivers — Kyle Pitts, Kadarius Toney, Trevon Grimes, and Jacob Copeland and Trask, never got in sync with his new receiving corps, many of whom spent the season on the scout team. In his defense, that was going to be near-impossible. Florida had three practices after Christmas to prepare for the game, and it showed.
Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley finally got his first postseason win on his fourth attempt as the No. 6 ranked Sooners beat a shorthanded No. 7 Florida team, 55-20, at the Cotton Bowl Classic in Arlington, Texas, Wednesday night.
From the beginning of the game Oklahoma set the tone for the night. The Sooners picked off quarterback Kyle Trask three times in the first quarter, helping them jump out to a 17-0 lead.
Despite being shorthanded, the Gators actually responded to the early deficit and at one point rallied with 13 unanswered points to make it 17-13 in the second quarter. But Oklahoma answered quickly with two quick touchdowns in the final five minutes of the first half to go up 31-13 and never took their feet off the gas pedal.
In the second half, Oklahoma went to the running game, featuring Rhamondre Stevenson, put up a 435 yards — a Cotton Bowl record. Stevenson led the way with 186 yards on the ground, while Marcus Majors and Seth McGowan kept the Gators off balance. The result was a school record for points by the Sooners in a bowl game.
“We weren’t really too happy with how we played these last two games,” said Oklahoma center Creed Humphrey after last night’s game. We wanted to go out there and prove something. We got to go against a quality opponent up front, so we were really excited to go out there and prove what we were about.”
The Gators got the wind knocked out of them and couldn’t recover. The Sooners’ defense step it up another level in the second half and kept Florida’s big-play offense from getting on track. After starting 4 of 5 on third downs, Florida went 0 for their next 8.
This was Gators’ worst bowl loss since the 1996 Fiesta Bowl and the most points allowed by any Florida team since that game. Even though Dan Mullen’s team won the SEC East and gave Alabama a game in the SEC Championship Game, this wasn’t the same team on the field
“That wasn’t the 2020 football team you saw. There were about 25 guys missing from the 2020 football team out there tonight, Mullen said after the Cotton Bowl. That was kind of a kick-start for us to 2021.”
Mullen did a good job of giving other players opportunities to gain some game experience. QB Emory Jones got more playing time than he has in any game this season and showed some potential throwing the ball under duress. He finished tied for first on the team with 60 yards on 10 rushing attempts and a touchdown while throwing for 86 yards. And with Pitts, Grimes, Toney, and Copeland out, the Gators had a different wide receiver group. In all, 12 different players caught at least a pass for 271 total yards.
The foursome combined for 2,778 yards and 34 touchdowns this year. That gave Gator quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist Kyle Trask an opportunity to show off his skill set with a new crop of receivers, but it wasn’t to be this night.
The Sooners (9-2) has now won at least nine games in each of Riley’s first four seasons.
Oklahoma accumulated 249 passing yards, 435 rushing yards, 61 tackles and one sack.
It was the most points allowed by Florida in a bowl game since Steve Spurrier’s 1995 team lost 62-24 to Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl. It also happened to be the second straight game the Gators gave up more than 50 points after Alabama hung 52 on them in the SEC Championship.
Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma Sooners: 14-of-23, 247 yards, 3 touchdowns
Rhamondre Stevenson, RB, Oklahoma Sooners: 18 carries, 186 yards, 1 touchdown
Charleston Rambo, WR, Oklahoma Sooners: 2 catches, 45 yards, 1 touchdown
Kyle Trask, QB, Florida Gators: 16-of-28, 158 yards, 3 interceptions
Emory Jones, QB, Florida Gators: 8-of-16, 86 yards; 10 carries, 60 yards, 1 touchdown