ARLINGTON, Texas: Spencer Rattler threw three touchdown passes and ran for another score, Rhamondre Stevenson rushed for 186 yards and No. 8 Oklahoma beat 10th-ranked SEC runner-up Florida 55-20 on Wednesday night in the Cotton Bowl.
Back in the same NFL stadium where 11 days earlier they won their sixth consecutive Big 12 title, the Sooners (9-2, No. 6 CFP) jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the first seven minutes. The 55 points were their most ever in a bowl game, while piling up a Cotton Bowl-record 684 total yards.
Rattler threw a 27-yard TD pass to fellow freshman Marvin Mims on the game’s opening drive, and Florida’s first possession ended with Tre Norwood’s 45-yard interception return for a touchdown. That was the first of three picks thrown by Heisman Trophy finalist quarterback Kyle Trask in the first quarter, after only five all season.
Oklahoma played in its sixth consecutive New Year’s Six bowl game, but the last three seasons had lost College Football Playoffs semifinal games while giving up an average of 54 points to different SEC teams.
The Sooners finished this season with an eight-game winning streak. They had started 0-2 in Big 12 play for the first time since 1998, effectively knocking them out of playoff contention by mid-October.
These Gators (8-4, No. 7 CFP) were much different than the team that just 11 days earlier fell 52-46 to No. 1 Alabama in the SEC title game, and had averaged nearly 42 points a game.
Trask played presumably his final college game, but didn’t have his top four pass-catchers, and didn’t play after the opening drive of the second half when the Gators were already down 31-13.
AP All-America tight end Kyle Pitts and two others receivers opted out to start preparing for their pro futures, and sophomore receiver Jacob Copeland tested positive for COVID-19. They were among 17 players that Florida said were unavailable.
Dual-threat sophomore QB Emory Jones had a 1-yard keeper for Florida’s first touchdown midway through the second quarter, capping a 16-play, 88-yard drive when both he and Trask took snaps.
Trask finished 16 of 28 for 158 yards, while Jones was 8 of 16 for 86 yards with 12 players catching passes.
Rattler was the fourth starting quarterback in as many seasons to lead Oklahoma to a Big 12 title, the first who began his career in the program rather than coming in as a transfer. He was 14 of 23 passing for 247 yards and ran for 40 yards.
Florida cut it 17-13 late in the first half before Theo Wease caught a pass on a short crossing route, then cut back inside behind some downfield blockers for a 36-yard TD. Rattler then got his rushing touchdown in the closing seconds of the first half.
Stevenson had a 15-yard TD run in the third quarter when at least six different defenders got their hands on him has he shuffled and twisted toward the end zone.
Florida: The Gators played in their third consecutive NY6 game since Dan Mullen became their head coach. They won the first two. While a tough night overall, they did some positve glimpses of what their offense could be capable of after Trask set single-season school records with 4,283 yards passing and 43 TDs. Jones ran for 60 yards, and freshman running back NayQuan Wright had gains of 18 and 26 yards.
Oklahoma: Rattler finished with 28 TD passes, and Mims set an Sooners freshman record with nine receiving TDs in 11 games. The freshman TD record had been seven, by Mark Andrews in 13 games in 2015, and CeeDee Lamb in 14 games in 2017. The Sooners are 45-8 in four seasons under coach Lincoln Riley. That’s the most wins in the first four seasons for an OU coach. Bob Stoops, his predecessor, was 43-9 from 1999-2002, including the Sooners’ last national title in 2000.
Florida: Jones, in his fourth season in the program, could get his first start as the Gators quarterback when they open the 2021 season Sept. 4 at home against Florida Atlantic.
Oklahoma: With Rattler and Mims among the young standouts coming back, the Sooners could again be favored to win another Big 12 title. Their opener next season is Sept. 4 at Tulane.
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