It must have been tough for Feleipe Franks.
The loudest cheer Saturday afternoon at the Swamp came at his expense when quarterback Kyle Trask jogged into the huddle to relieve him of his duties for the day. There were mumbles of approval after Franks ran in a 3-yard touchdown to end the first half, but the spectators had already made up their minds. The crowd was Muhammad Ali, and Franks was the punching bag.
There are other lessons to be gleaned from the Gators’ abysmal 38-17 loss to Missouri on Homecoming. There’s the fact that neither Franks nor Trask were made available to the media following the game, showing a lack of trust in either to keep the flames from this 12-car pile-up of a game to a minimum. There’s the opinion that coach Dan Mullen holds that he can and will “kick your a--” if you challenge him to a thumb-wrestling match.
Outside of the more comical lessons we all learned, here are three that any Gators fan can take to the bank.
They are who we thought they were
Florida entered the season with a low ceiling. Most pundits predicted between six and eight wins in Mullen’s first year. After an upset over then-No. 5 LSU and a comeback win against Vanderbilt, journalists and fans alike began talking playoffs.
But much like a preteen’s mood, Florida’s outlook is always changing.
A pair of embarrassing losses have exposed plenty of issues this team still has. Despite giving up just two sacks over the last two weeks, the offensive line play hasn’t exactly helped the team’s ambitions of a New Year’s Six bowl. The front five gave up seven quarterback hurries to the Missouri defense, which contributed to more than a few of Franks’ misfires.
“Feleipe missed a throw or two, but he’s also getting hit,” Mullen said. “We’ve got wide guys open, and I’m looking like, ‘What’s going on?’ and then all the sudden the ball sails and I’ll jump on him and there he is with three guys being pulled off the top of him.”
Locker room culture has a ways to go
This isn’t an opinion. This comes straight from Mullen.
“Either you’re a competitor, or you’re not,” Mullen said. “Certainly I hope that rubs off and that’s the attitude of every single guy in the locker room.”
That answer resulted from a question about Mullen’s assessment of the team’s response after the loss. It underscores the message he has been preaching from the beginning: physical and mental toughness.
“I think that’s the hardest reality for us as a team,” Mullen said. “It’s a little bit of a reality check where we are with the guys, that you know if we come out and play really well as a team in all three phases, we’re good enough to play with anybody out there.”
The quarterback question isn’t getting solved this year
Franks and Trask will be forever joined at the hip in the annals of Florida sports. The prevailing notion among fans seems to be that Mullen should go with Trask through the rest of the season.
It’s a tempting thought only because fans haven’t seen much of Trask in high-stakes situations. It has mostly just been in the second half against Mizzou. He went 10-of-18 for 126 yards and a touchdown, eclipsing Franks’ passing totals from last week and Saturday.
But that’s in the middle of a blowout. The Tigers had reverted to a prevent defense, mostly looking out for deep passes and allowing most anything Trask wanted underneath.
It may have been emotionally satisfying for fans to see Trask toss a touchdown. It was a decent throw in a fourth-and-goal situation. But the fact remains that Mullen still sees Franks as his best option to win this year.
“It’s always been a pretty tight decision,” Mullen said. “Feleipe’s got tremendous arm talent, pretty good athletic ability to go run the ball and then, to be honest with you, he, in practice, does a good job of checking us in, getting us in to the right plays and honestly grades a little higher.”
Follow Morgan McMullen on Twitter @MorganMcMuffin or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Quarterback Kyle Trask took over for Feleipe Franks with five minutes to go in the third quarter in Saturday’s 38-17 loss to Missouri. He led a scoring drive in his first series.