FSU Football: How the ‘Noles should defend UF’s Kyle Trask

GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA - NOVEMBER 09: Kyle Trask #11 of the Florida Gators attempts a pass during the game against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on November 09, 2019 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA - NOVEMBER 09: Kyle Trask #11 of the Florida Gators attempts a pass during the game against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on November 09, 2019 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) /

Before their game on Saturday, Chop Chat’s Sam Tschida takes a look at how FSU Football can defend Florida’s Kyle Trask

The Seminoles and Gators renew their long rivalry on Saturday in front of what is likely a sold-out crowd in Gainesville. Despite winning seven of the last nine games, FSU football enters as a massive-17.5 point underdog. The ‘Noles come into the game at 6-5 with interim head coach Odell Haggins and ranked 53rd in ESPN’s SP+. Meanwhile, the Gators are still riding high at 9-2, and are ranked 9th in SP+.

The ‘Noles enter as massive underdogs for a clear reason. While they’ve made improvements from last year’s disaster, they’ve underwhelmed so far this season. The Seminoles were blown at by both Miami and Clemson and lost close games to UVA, Boise, and Wake Forest. Compared to UF, who have only lost to #2 LSU and #4 Georgia, the ‘Noles have not been impressive in any way.

Despite losing junior starting quarterback Feleipe Franks to injury against Kentucky, the UF offense hasn’t really lost a step. Since the win in Lexington, Kyle Trask has started every single for the Gators and has been impressive so far. Trask has thrown for 21 touchdowns against just six interceptions and is completing over 66% of his passes.

Florida State Seminoles Football
Florida State Seminoles Football /

Florida State Seminoles Football

Trask has been very impressive so far during his time as head of the offense and has been efficient with the ball throughout the year. Forcing Trask to make mistakes with the ball is one of the only ways the Noles can stay in the game. So how can they force Trask to make mistakes? Let’s break it down.

How the defense stacks up

Trask and the Gators have faced a great slate of defenses this year. Both Auburn and Georgia rank inside the top 5 for defensive SP+ (4th and 2nd, respectively). In both of those games, Trask went a combined 40 of 63 for a 62.3% completion percentage, and tossed four touchdowns against zero interceptions.

Both Auburn and Georgia were able to limit Trask’s ability to hit short passes and tried to force him to complete the deep ball. Against Auburn, the Gators were able to establish a strong rushing attack, which ended up being the difference. Against UGA however, this wasn’t the case.

Trask also started against Missouri (14th) and Tennessee (26th), both of whom have top-30 SP+ defenses. In those games, Trask wasn’t overly impressive against Tennesse at home, throwing two interceptions, but it was his first start as a Gator. He played much better against Missouri on the road, tossing two touchdowns against zero picks, and he completed 65% of his passes for 282 yards.

Now, this was how Trask played against elite defenses. The ‘Noles are decidedly not an elite defense. FSU is ranked 64th in SP+, similar to absolutely no one on the Gators’ schedule this season. Aside from both FCS teams, UF has played and Vanderbilt, every single team Florida has played this season has had a defense ranked 45th-or-better in defensive SP+. The lowest-ranked team, Kentucky at 44th, played UF early in the season when Franks was the starting quarterback.

The ‘Noles are, statistically, the worst FBS defense UF has played this season aside from Vandy. Even against a UF offense that still struggles, with subpar o-line play and a lack of receiving playmakers, this will not bode well for FSU, especially with superstar Marvin Wilson out of action

So how can FSU force Trask to make mistakes?

Play Aggressively

This seems like common sense; the more aggressive a defense plays, the more likely the other team is to commit turnovers. It also gives the offense a better chance to hit big plays.

This season, the FSU defense has a nasty habit of forcing teams into third-and-long, then sitting back and playing in a soft zone. Playing in primarily zone coverage isn’t a bad thing, but when it becomes a habit that does not work, then things need to change.

Opposing teams have shredded the ‘Noles over the middle on third down this season. FSU is currently allowing a whopping 41% 3rd down conversion percentage for opposing offenses, good for 88th in the country. This is partly due to FSU’s run defense, which allows 176 yards per game on the ground, making it easier for offenses to have 3rd-and-short. But FSU’s inexplicable use of soft zone coverage on 3rd down has led to countless conversions from opposing squads.

FSU’s linebackers consistently play poorly in zone over the middle. They do not have situational awareness and often get beat underneath, but behind the first down marker. FSU needs to play aggressive man coverage with Trask, and trust that the DBs are athletic enough to make plays.

They will get beat, but they will have a higher chance of forcing Trask into mistakes. Play man coverage more, send blitzes a bit when in zone, and Trask will make mistakes. If FSU sits back in a soft zone once again, bad things will happen.