Florida coach Dan Mullen said his team could choose not to play Wednesday night’s Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic depending on player availability, but chose anyway because the players wanted to compete.
After a 55–20 setback to No. 6 Oklahoma, Mullen said his poor roster would have allowed the No. 7 Gators to leave the game.
“As many people were out for the game, we were really outnumbered,” Mullen said. “We had numbers not to play games.
Added Mullen: “I give credit to my friends … Our youth wanted to play in that game, and they wanted to get that experience and get into that stage.”
On Tuesday, Mullen estimated that he would have 60 scholarship players available. The SEC established a minimum limit of 53 scholarship players for sports participation this season, but teams could choose to play even if they did not meet that number. Three key positions were also minimal: quarterback (one), defensive lineman (four) and offensive lineman (seven).
If the Gators were less than the minimum at the specific location, Mullen did not specify.
“I kind of looked – I don’t know, maybe that’s wrong – it wasn’t the 2020 football team that you saw,” Mullen said of the Gators, who went 8-4 after dropping their final three matches. Are finished. “Tonight there were 25 people missing from the 2020 football team. It was like a kick-start for us for the future, a chance for young people to play.”
Mullen said: “The last game 2020 team played 11 days ago [in the SEC championship]. “
The missing Gators had many early. Their top three wide receivers – Kadri Tony, Trayvon Grimes and Jacob Copeland – were all out, and so were Star Tight and Kyle Pitts. Grimes, Pitts, and Tony dropped out of the game as they prepared for the NFL Draft, and Copeland was out as he tested positive for COVID-19. The Gators were also without four defensive starts.
The missing pass-catchers had significant influence in quarterback Kyle Trask, the Heiman Trophy final. The senior threw a season-high three interceptions and did not score a touchdown after coming into the game at 43. Their completion percentage (57.1%) was also low. Sophomore quarterback Emory Jones also saw significant time in the game, trying 16 passes and rushing 10 times for 60 yards and a score.
Oklahoma (9-2) dominates Florida, finishing with 684 yards including 435 races. Soon coach Lincoln Riley said he decided “we were going to be a team on a mission,” and “wanted to make a statement the way we played.”
Oklahoma center cult Humphrey said, “We saw [Gators’] Opt-out key. We didn’t really care who was getting out and who was staying for the game. We were ready to roll and go out there and play them, no matter what. We’re just glad they showed up and gave us a chance to play. “
The Sunniers also said they were aware of comments made by Florida linebacker James Houston last week, describing Oklahoma as “a good matchup” “but not at our level.” Oklahoma debutant wide receiver Marvin Mims said “it definitely reduces the fire a little bit,” and soon-to-be quarterback Spencer Rattler tweeted after the game, “It was a good matchup.”
“I’d be lying if I said we didn’t see what our opponent said,” Rutler later said. “We went there and just did our work, executed, focused on what we needed to do as a group and came out on top.”