South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday)

Gators clinch SEC title-game berth

Trask buries Volunteers with 4 TD passes

- By Al Lesar

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Kyle Trask threw for 433 yards and four touchdowns, andNo. 6 Florida beatTennes­see 31-19 on Saturday to clinch a spot in the SEC championsh­ip game.

Trask, a front-runner for the Heisman Trophy, put together another impressive performanc­e. He completed 35 of 49 passes without committing a turnover. He even had a 32-yard punt late in the game.

Kyle Pitts had seven receptions for 128 yards, helping the Gators (8-1, No. 6CFP) wrap up the SEC’s East Division. Kadarius Toney finished with eight catches for 108 yards and a TD.

The aerial performanc­e by Trask and Co. took on added significan­ce with Florida struggling to run the ball. It finished with just 21 yards on the ground.

Playing with a depleted roster, Tennessee (2-6) dropped its sixth consecutiv­e game. The Volswere missing 16 players.

Freshman Harrison Bailey got the start at quarterbac­k. He completed 14 of 21 passes for 111 yards and a 15-yard touchdown to Eric Gray. He was sacked five times.

Trask has 38 TD passes this season, moving him into sixth place in SEC history for a single season, ahead of Texas A&M’s JohnnyManz­iel and Tim Couch of Kentucky. He has the most TD passes through a team’s first nine games.

Five plays into the second half, the outcomewas all but decided.

Florida stretched a 10-point halftime advantage to 24-7 with a 75-yard drive capped by an 8-yard pass fromTrask toTrevon Grimes. The big play in the sequence was a 48-yard connection between Trask andKyle Pitts.

Early in the fourth quarter, Florida upped the lead to 31-7 when Trask found Jacob Copeland for a 12-yardTD.

Quarterbac­k J.T. Shrout came off the bench to lead the Vols to two late touchdowns. TyChandler ran the ball in from 7 yards, then Velus Jones, Jr., caught a 22-yard scoring pass.

Florida took a 17-7 lead into the locker room at intermissi­on. Tennessee’s defense turned the Gators offense into a one-dimensiona­l attack — but with Trask behind center, it was more than enough.

While the Gators generated just 1 net yard rushing in the first 30 minutes, Trask had plenty of success. He completed

21 of 28 passes for 251 yards and accounted for both touchdowns — a 4-yard toss to Grimes and a

2-yarder to Toney.

After a field goal on Florida’s first possession, Tennessee responded.

Bailey engineered a 96-yard drive, most of which happened in the second quarter, and topped it off with a TD pass to Gray out of the backfield.

Florida answered with its first touchdown. Then it got interestin­g.

Down 10-7, the Volswere faced with fourth-and-5 on their own 30-yard line. Punter Paxton Brooks faked the punt and threw a pass to an open Jimmy Holiday. Whatwould have been a first downwas dropped byHoliday.

The mistake didn’t hurt, though. The Tennessee defense stiffened and forced the Gators into a field-goal attempt from 53 yards. Evan McPherson missed wide right.

Up next

Florida closes out its regular seasonSatu­rday withahomeg­ame againstLSU.

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