LEXINGTON, Ky. — Florida coach Dan Mullen’s worst fears were realized against Kentucky on Saturday.
Approaching a fourth and 1 trailing by 11 late in the third quarter, Mullen elected to go for it.
It was a designed play-action pass for redshirt junior quarterback Feleipe Franks, who couldn’t find anyone over the middle of the field. He decided to try to scramble for it himself, and was stopped short of the line to gain.
But the play didn’t just mark a turnover on downs for Florida. Franks' foot rolled under tackler Calvin Taylor Jr., and the 6-foot-6 signal-caller lay still on the turf.
Franks was carted off the field and taken to the locker room.
Then, what could have been a disaster for Florida turned into reason for hope: The backup, redshirt junior Kyle Trask, played excellent.
After the game, Mullen announced that Franks would miss the remainder of the season.
“We want to have three starting quarterbacks,” Mullen said referring to the chance for redshirt freshman Emory Jones to play. “We stuck with it with (Trask) there, and he was rolling.”
He led No. 9 Florida (3-0, 1-0 SEC) on a 19-0 run to end the game, capping off the comeback with a reverse handoff to receiver Josh Hammond, who found the end zone 76 yards later. The Gators escaped Kroger Field with their undefeated record intact, 29-21.
Trask finished 9 of 13 with 126 yards and a score on the ground.
“I just let (Franks) know (after the injury), like, ‘I’ve got your back’ like the next-man-up mentality,” Trask said. “I just did what I had to do for the team.”
It may not be the most impressive half of football from a numbers perspective, but Trask’s comeback begs the question: How high is Florida’s ceiling with him at the helm?
The issue is that moving forward, it looks as though the Gators will be extremely reliant on him to make plays through the air.
The run blocking was UF’s weakest link against the Wildcats (2-1, 0-1 SEC). Before Hammond’s run, Florida only had 62 yards on 26 carries. That probably won’t cut it against teams like Auburn and Georgia, whose defensive lines are among the best in the country.
UF even made a change at the left tackle spot in the second half, when redshirt freshman Richard Gouraige replaced redshirt junior Stone Forsythe. Forsythe then shifted to the right tackle spot, with redshirt junior Jean Delance going to the bench.
Florida’s offensive line concerns are likely the biggest red flag right now, but Trask made good decisions when throwing downfield. Franks had two turnovers before his injury, but Trask didn’t give the ball away once.
The Gators offense could look considerably different in the future, with Trask hitting intermediate routes Franks often struggled to find. Now, Florida hopes a backup quarterback can bring it to its second New Year’s Six bowl in as many years.
Trask hopes his preparation will be enough to successfully lead the team.
“I’m always making sure I’m ready when my number is called,” he said.
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Florida starting quarterback Feleipe Franks left the game in the third quarter with what coach Dan Mullen described as a "season-ending" right leg injury.