Florida’s 29-21 comeback win over Kentucky on Saturday came at a cost.
Starting quarterback Feleipe Franks, who led the Gators to a Peach Bowl victory last season, was lost for the season late in the third quarter when he dislocated his right ankle underneath UK lineman Calvin Taylor Jr. while attempting to run for a first down.
It’s the type of injury that can derail a team’s season, but redshirt junior backup Kyle Trask stepped up in Franks’ absence, leading No. 9 UF to a 19-0 run and the win.
It was only one quarter of action, however, and there are still plenty of questions around this Florida team. Here are three of the most pressing following Saturday’s win:
Can Trask be the guy?
It hurt just to watch Franks’ injury. Legs should not bend the way his did.
The Gators recognized the severity of what happened, and virtually the entire UF team surrounded its quarterback as he laid stricken on the field. It was a touching moment, but also one that could’ve buried the team psychologically.
Instead, Trask played the quarter of his life.
It’s a small sample size, but early signs were encouraging: Trask was 9 for 13 with 126 yards and a rushing touchdown. His decision-making was adequate while his throws were accurate and crisp.
Trask is nearly identical to Franks in size, and coach Dan Mullen utilized his backup in a similar way to what he does with his starter. That should make the quarterback transition easier for the entire offense going forward.
Another factor in Trask’s favor is the fact that Florida was never a team that was going to rely on stellar quarterback play. Like Franks, he simply needs to be serviceable, and his performance on Saturday shows that he’s more than capable.
Can the running game (and O-line) improve?
Florida’s offensive line – which returned just one starter from last year – has had plenty of issues to start the season.
The run game in particular is a major cause for concern. The Gators rank just 12th in the SEC with 140 yards on the ground per game, and it would be even worse if not for a 200-yard plus performance against FCS opponent UT-Martin in Week 2.
No. 1 running back Lamical Perine was stuffed near the line of scrimmage on play after play against Kentucky. He ended up with just 27 yards on 14 carries.
Mullen tried to alleviate the problem mid-game on Saturday by shifting Stone Forsythe from left tackle to right tackle, bringing Richard Gouraige into the game and benching Jean Delance in the process.
It’s hard to draw any conclusions from that move because UF barely ran the ball in the second half, but one thing is certain: The Gators will have to rush better with an inexperienced quarterback taking over.
How much of a concern is the secondary?
Kentucky graduate transfer quarterback Sawyer Smith – making his first start at UK – looked poised in the first half against UF.
The ease at which Smith picked apart the Florida secondary – he went 10 for 13 with 128 yards and a touchdown – was alarming.
The Florida defense settled down in the second half with three interceptions, but the problem remains: two inexperienced quarterbacks (Smith and Miami redshirt freshman Jarren Williams) had success against the secondary. The Gators will have major problems against quarterbacks like Georgia’s Jake Fromm if things don’t improve.
The return of C.J. Henderson, the team’s best corner (who missed the UK game with a high ankle sprain), should help. But Marco Wilson, the No. 2 corner, needs to improve. He was burned multiple times against Kentucky, including a play in which UK’s Ahmad Wagner reached over his head for a 26-yard reception.
Follow Sam Campisano on Twitter @samcampisano. Contact him at [email protected].