Florida Gators TE Kyle Pitts Has Surgery, Keon Zipperer Shines In His Place

The Florida Gators had no issues offensively without star tight end Kyle Pitts in the lineup on Saturday, as he recovers from a concussion and surgery.
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Florida Gators head coach Dan Mullen shared after Saturday's 63-35 victory over Arkansas that tight end Kyle Pitts, who was ruled out of the contest earlier in the day, is dealing with several injury complications that stem from an illegal hit taken against Georgia on Nov. 7.

Mullen said that Pitts won't play on Nov. 21 against Vanderbilt, either, as he had to have surgery on his nose. Pitts was on the receiving end of a vicious blow from UGA safety Lewis Cine, immediately following a catch in the second quarter, which led to Cine's ejection for targeting and Pitts exiting the game with a concussion.

"Yeah, it was something they had to have a surgery within his nose," Mullen said. "He’ll be out again this week. We’re hoping to have him back the following week [against Kentucky on Nov 28].”

Without their future first-round pick featured in the offense, it was natural to expect Florida wouldn't score at their normal ease and pace. That couldn't have ended up being more than false, however, as the Gators ended up posting 63 points, their most in a game this season by 12.

Sophomore tight end Keon Zipperer was a large part in that, hauling in two of quarterback Kyle Trask's six touchdowns. One of them was a toe-tapping catch in the back of the endzone, Zipperer's first score of the season.

Redshirt junior Kemore Gamble also was a factor at tight end. While he did not catch a pass (targeted once), he and Zipperer helped establish an early run game with sound blocking on the edge and into the second level. 

The Gators posted 83 first-half rushing yards (second-most this season, behind 96 against Ole Miss), and finished the game with more rushing attempts (45) than passing (38), marking the first time UF has done so all year.

"You’re down Kyle Pitts, great playmaker, but Gamble and Zipperer step up and have really good games," said Mullen. "The wideouts did a really nice job and Kyle Trask did a really good job distributing the ball, not getting panicky, taking what they were going to give us all night."

Trask set SEC history for the most passing touchdowns through six games with 28, breaking Tua Tagovailoa's record (27) with Alabama in 2019. 

Even without a dynamic weapon in Pitts at his disposal, who either makes plays or opens them up for other receivers while demanding double teams, Trask had no issue extending his UF-record streak of games with 4+ touchdown passes to six.

"You know, I think Zip and Gamble did a great job this whole entire week," Trask shared. "With Pitts out, we had constant communication throughout the game of what we're seeing, and giving me feedback, just making sure we're always on the same page... and I think that's why we just clicked tonight."