Florida: 37 Vanderbilt: 27
Nashville, TN –Following four consecutive wins, including two against ranked opponents, the Gators’ biggest opponent this weekend was themselves. Many experts called for the Commodores to keep things uncomfortably close with the 14th ranked Gators. After several self inflicted wounds for Florida, that’s exactly what they got.
Florida completed a large comeback and defeated the Commodores 37-27 on Saturday and will head into the bye week with a 6-1 record.
1st Quarter: Florida 0 Vandy 7
On the opening possessions for both teams, it seemed that it would be business as usual. The Gators defense held Vandy to a quick three and out and the offense then marched right down the field, effectively and efficiently. That is, until Feleipe Franks’ pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage and picked off at the 2 yard line by Vanderbilt’s Joejuan Williams.
For much of the remainder of the first half, Vanderbilt gave the Gators all they could handle. The ‘Dores took the ball and the momentum, 98 yards on their way to the endzone. Shocked, the Gators offense went back to work and once again, moved the ball pretty well on their way to the redzone.
Franks: 19/29, 284 YD 2 TD 1 INT
Shurmur: 18/36, 229 YD 2 TD 1 INT
2nd Quarter: Florida 13 Vandy 14
On third and goal, Jordan Scarlett was wrapped up and brought down in the backfield, forcing Dan Mullen to call on the field goal unit. Freshman Evan McPherson continued his successful season with the Gators first score. But with two trips to the redzone, Florida and their fans weren’t satisfied with only 3 points.
Vanderbilt continued their upset bid on their next possession. Kyle Shurmur found running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn on a screen pass and the star back did the rest. Vaughn turned the screen into an electrifying 75 yard touchdown and the Gators were stunned.
For the last four weeks, it has been the Gators defense that has been in the spotlight. Today, they needed a lift from Florida’s offense. While a blowout win for the rowdy reptiles would have been ideal, their response to getting kicked in the teeth may be a tell tale sign of how far this team has come.
In an effort to respond, Franks attempted to do a little too much on the next series. On third down, he tried to break the edge and stretch out to pick up the drive sustaining first down. Instead, he fumbled the ball into a crowd of defenders who bumbled and kicked the ball 20+ yards downfield before eventually gaining possession.
With the ball in Florida territory, Vandy went back to work. A few plays later, Jamauri Wakefield found paydirt for the Commodores and their lead grew to 18 points. With just over six minutes remaining in the first half, the Gators needed to stop the bleeding.
Lamical Perine turned in what might be his best performance as a Gator, rushing for 121 yards and receiving another 93. It was Perine who took the team on his back for the offense’s next drive. It was also Perine who stretched out as he was being brought down to give the Gators their first touchdown of the day.
With the score now 21-10, Florida’s defense began to show signs of life as they forced a punt with 2 minutes remaining. On the ensuing return, LB James Houston was called for targeting, injuring one of Vanderbilt’s defensive lineman. This lead to Vandy head coach Derek Mason exchanging words with Florida DC Todd Grantham and Mullen.
Following a targeting call on the Gators, Florida’s Dan Mullen and Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason exchanged words. pic.twitter.com/ZhTimyBWdj
— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) October 13, 2018
As the tempers flared, the teams began to get involved and both sidelines were called for unsportsmanlike conduct. Florida’s Vosean Joseph was ejected from the game as a result of the penalty as it was his second unsportsmanlike of the day. On one special teams play, Florida lost two of its linebackers.
Once things calmed down, it looked as though Florida would have to settle for taking it to halftime when Perine took a screen pass 63 yards to set up another McPherson field goal. The Gators had managed to steal some momentum before going into the break trailing 21-13.
Perine: 4 REC, 93 YD
Jefferson: 3 REC, 65 YD 1 TD
Swain: 1 REC, 11 YD 1 TD
Vaughn: 1 REC, 75 YD 1 TD
Lipscomb: 4 REC, 64 YD
Pinkney: 3 REC, 25 YD 1 TD
3rd Quarter: Florida 7 Vandy 0
After the break, the Gators were held to a three and out. With Vaughn out of the game due to injury, the two teams traded possession a few times before the next score. The loss of Vaughn proved to be costly to the Commodores.
Midway through the third quarter, Franks found Van Jefferson for a 38 yard touchdown, cutting the lead to a single point. By this point the entire mood of the game had changed. It was apparent who the better team was despite their poor showing in the first half.
Save for a few miscues, this might have been a blowout win for the Gators. But in the SEC, no opponent can be overlooked. This game played out exactly in the fashion that many of the experts predicted it would.
Perine: 23 CAR, 121 YD 1 TD
Scarlett: 16 CAR, 113 YD 1 TD
Vaughn: 7 CAR, 56 YD
Wakefield: 8 CAR, 32 YD 1 TD
4th Quarter: Florida 17 Vandy 6
The fourth quarter began with some fireworks of its own as Scarlett had his longest run of the season. His 48 yard touchdown scamper gave the Gators their first lead of the game, a lead they would never relinquish.
Without their star playmaker in Vaughn, all the ‘Dores could muster was a pair of late game field goals. In the end, the depth became a huge difference maker as Florida ran 92 plays on offense. Vanderbilt’s defense was exhausted and it showed as Florida just became more explosive as the game went on.
Mullen once again used deception when the Gators found themselves facing 4th down and 4 from near midfield with the score 27-24. The punting team came out on the field and punter Tommy Townsend kept the ball on a fake punt that resulted in an 18 yard gain and a first down.
That play kept the drive alive so that Florida could score their final touchdown of the game. Franks found Freddie Swain on a screen in which Swain dove over a defender to the endzone. This was Swain’s 4th receiving touchdown of the season and 5th overall.
Each team tacked on one final field goal. Vandy’s, an impressive 53 yarder, before the final gun. The Gators continued their now 5 game winning streak and have now won 27 of their last 28 against the Commodores and 31 straight in Nashville.
Their will be plenty to work on in the next couple of weeks for Dan Mullen and his team. But they have shown resolve and the ability to win in multiple ways. Today, in the face of adversity, they kept their composure and they fought back, emerging victorious.
Time of Possession
East Standings Conference-Overall
Georgia 3-0 5-0
Kentucky 2-1 4-1
Florida 4-1 6-1
South Carolina 2-1 3-1
Tennessee 1-2 3-3
Mizzou 0-2 3-2
Vandy 0-3 3-3
*Some games may still be in progress
Florida has a bye week to rest and to prepare for the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. The game will be televised on CBS, live from Jacksonville at 3:30 p.m. EST. Be sure to follow the action on the ChompTalk.com Facebook and Twitter accounts too!