Winners, losers from Florida Gators’ explosive victory over Ole Miss Rebels

By Matt Johnson
Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 5 Florida Gators and unranked Ole Miss Rebels kicked off the SEC’s college football season in Week 4 with an explosive battle, featuring plenty of scoring and incredible performances.

In Lane Kiffin’s coaching debut with Ole Miss, Florida’s offense put on a show to remember. Kyle Trask looked like a Heisman Trophy winner and the Gators’ skill players showed NFL-caliber talent. The Rebels never had an answer as the Gators chomped their way to a phenomenal showing.

Fortunately for Ole Miss, Kiffin’s offense looks incredible. Even in a summer that experienced delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rebels were fun to watch. Matt Corral finally played to his potential and this entire offense was clicking, with huge plays on nearly every drive. While it wasn’t enough to win, Ole Miss made a statement in Week 4.

Let’s examine the winners and losers from Florida’s 51-35 victory over Ole Miss on Saturday.

Winner: Kyle Trask

The Gators haven’t had a great quarterback for years. It has been the Achilles’ heel that kept this program from competing with the likes of Alabama. Entering the 2020 college football season, Florida thought it had something special in Trask and that played out in Week 4 with an insane performance.

Trask didn’t just roast the Rebels’ defense on Saturday, he turned it into ash and then buried it. Florida hasn’t had a quarterback throw three first-half touchdown passes in a season opener since Tim Tebow did it in 2007. In Week 4, Trask completed 18-of-25 passes for 241 yards and three touchdowns before halftime. When the final whistle blew, Trask racked up 416 passing yards and six touchdowns. If he keeps this up, which can be done with the weapons around him, the Gators can win the SEC title.

Loser: Ole Miss defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin

Lane Kiffin’s decision to hire Durkin drew plenty of criticism. The former disgraced Maryland coach left the program under horrific circumstances and hasn’t coached since being let go in 2018. But Kiffin took a chance on Durkin’s defensive mind and the results were ugly in Week 4.

The Rebels allowed 28 points in the first half, with Florida’s offense having its way against this team. Durkin seemingly schemed his defense to try and contain tight end Kyle Pitts, an effort that failed miserably. The thing is, Kiffin’s offense did more than enough to make this a competitive game and that will provide hope for this program. If Durkin can’t even make this defense watchable, there’s no justification for his hiring.

Winner: Kyle Pitts, future NFL star

We loved Pitts coming into the season. In an era when tight ends are better athletes than ever before, Florida’s top weapon sets a new standard for the position. A projected top-30 pick in our latest 2021 NFL mock draft, it might be time to move Pitts even higher.

If this is a sign of things to come, we’re going to see jaw-dropping stats from the 6-foot-6 tight end this season. He posted good numbers in 2019 with 649 receiving yards and five touchdowns, but might blow those numbers out of the water in 2020. After this sensational 170-yard, four-touchdown performance, Pitts cemented his status as the best tight end in college football.

Loser: John Rhys Plumlee’s hopes of starting

Plumlee showed some incredible flashes as a true freshman, mostly as a runner. Players with the ability to hurdle over Alabama’s defense and who can light up the LSU Tigers force their way on to the field. After rushing for 1,023 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2019, it looked like greatness awaited Plumlee in Kiffin’s offense.

Unfortunately, he lost the starting quarterback job to Matt Corral this summer. Kiffin chose the quarterback that brought more consistency as a passer, pushing Plumlee to the bench. After witnessing Corral rack up over 300 yards with three touchdowns against Florida’s secondary, it’s obvious he belongs. As for Plumlee, he might be headed for a Taysom Hill-like role in 2020, lining up all over the field in Kiffin’s offense.

Winner: Ole Miss’ future under Lane Kiffin

Ole Miss could have gone in numerous directions this offseason with its coaching search, but the athletic department took a chance on Kiffin. While he was successful at Florida Atlantic, posting a 27-13 record with two Boca Raton Bowl wins, there was always a chance this could backfire.

We see a lot of reason for optimism following Kiffin’s debut. He got the most out of Corral, which is monumental for this offense reaching its potential this season. Ole Miss also debuted the turnover bag, which is exactly what you’d expect from Kiffin’s program. It will take some time for the wins to come, but the future looks promising for Ole Miss.