Gainesville, FL – Following a heartwrenching loss in Jacksonville, the Gators needed to make a statement in front of a home crowd of 86,000+ on Saturday afternoon. Despite a relatively slow start, Florida made that statement with a 56-0 victory over Vanderbilt. This is a team that is growing under the leadership of Dan Mullen. A year ago, this team hung their heads and basically just went through the motions in the week that followed another disappointing loss to Georgia. What a difference a year makes.
The Gators started the day by failing to convert a fourth down on their first possession and an interception, late in their second drive. As the first half continued, it showed that the Gators were clearly the better team although it wasn’t reflected on the scoreboard. Florida outgained the Commodores, 279 to 18 in the first half. However, because of some self-inflicted wounds, the Gators went into the break with a 14-0 lead.
A pair of Kyle Trask interceptions and a missed field goal eliminated three scoring opportunities in the first two quarters. Even though the Gators could have entered the halftime break with a 31-point advantage, Florida’s troubles ended there. The second half saw the Gators score two touchdowns in three offensive plays to begin the third quarter.
The first of those touchdowns came on a short pass to Trevon Grimes, who then walked the tight rope down the sideline on his way to a 66-yard touchdown. On the very next possession, Kyle Trask completed a 36-yard pass to Tyrie Cleveland, setting up a fifteen-yard touchdown to Kyle Pitts on the very next play.
Trask was mostly magnificent on Saturday afternoon, completing passes to eleven different receivers in a career-best performance. Trask completed 25-of-37 passes for 363 yards and three touchdowns. The Gators’ star even added another score with his legs. However, he wasn’t the only Gators quarterback who had a good day. Trask’s backup, Emory Jones found the endzone with three rushing touchdowns of his own.
By the time it was all said and done, Florida had recorded 560 yards of offense while limiting the Commodores to a paltry 128. Florida’s defense provided excellent coverage, tremendous pressure, and an oppressive containment on the run. Star running back, Ke’Shawn Vaughn was stifled at every turn and ended the day with his hands on his hips, having recorded a mere 28 yards on 15 carries.
The SEC’s sack leader, the Gators’ defense, recorded six sacks on the day. True freshman, Mohamoud Diabate was a terror to Commodores’ quarterback, Deuce Wallace, as he recorded three sacks on his own. One of those was an electrifying strip-sack that was scooped by Jonathan Greenard and returned for a 79-yard defensive touchdown.
Florida has shown progress in taking the next step forward during year two under Dan Mullen. They are finally beating the teams that they are expected to beat and they are doing so without playing down to the level of their competition. Furthermore, they are going toe-to-toe and competing with some of the nation’s best football teams. LSU didn’t pull away until very late in the game and the score of last week’s game was much closer than it has been in the previous two meetings.
While this team is still maturing, they are progressing nicely. Once Mullen has a little more depth on his roster, the Gators will be a legitimate threat to not just compete for, but to actually win SEC championships once again. Every week is another step closer to the Gator standard of football.