No. 4/6 Florida Gators football (6-0, 5-0 SEC) kept the positive momentum going on Saturday with a 31-17 win over the Vanderbilt Commodores (2-4, 1-3 SEC) at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville, TN. The Gators became bowl eligible with the victory and matched their win total from the 2011 regular season while getting off to the team’s best start since 2009. Florida head coach Will Muschamp spoke with the media and provided some of his thoughts after the game.
HISTORY / STREAKS / NOTES
» Florida now holds a 22-game winning streak against Vanderbilt including 21-straight in the annual series dating back to 1992. Those 21-straight wins rank second-longest nationally in an uninterrupted series (UF’s 26-in-a-row over Kentucky ranks first).
» The Gators have started the season 6-0 for the first time since 2009.
» UF is 11-1 against unranked opponents and 2-5 against ranked teams since Muschamp took over the program in 2011.
» Florida is 9-0 under Muschamp when rushing for more than 150 yards and 0-4 when rushing for fewer than 100 yards. UF is also 10-2 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points and 8-3 when scoring first.
» The Gators had been converting 41.7 percent of their third-down attempts this season but went just 2-of-11 (18.1 percent) against the Commodores.
» Florida had been holding opponents to 25.3 percent on third-down conversions but allowed Vanderbilt to convert 7-of-17 attempts (41.2 percent) on Saturday.
» UF out-possessed opponents by an average of 10:38 through five games but let VU win the possession battle by 6:20.
» The Gators are outscoring opponents 98-23 in the second half and 54-10 in the fourth quarter. The Commodores’ 10 fourth-quarter points on Saturday were the first UF has allowed all season.
» Florida had not allowed a touchdown in nine-straight quarters before Vanderbilt scored on on its opening drive Saturday.
» The Gators are +7 in turnover margin through five games after being -12 in 2011. UF has forced the most turnovers in the SEC (329) since 2000.
» Florida did not grab an interception for the first time this season.
» Vanderbilt sold out a home football game for the first time since 2008.
Redshirt junior Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (hamstring), who was expected to be active for the game, was indeed dressed but did not play as his injury gave him issues. Muschamp believes he will be fine for the South Carolina game.
Redshirt senior left guard James Wilson, who had started all five games this season, injured his eye in practice on Wednesday and could not make the trip, Muschamp explained. He is expected to miss practice on Monday, return Tuesday and be able to play against USC.
Junior defensive end Dominique Easley, who tore his ACL last season and has experienced swelling in his knee throughout the season, had more again this weekend and did not dress for the game. He should also be able to play next week.
Five players got injured on Saturday. Senior left tackle Xavier Nixon (upper body), redshirt junior center James Harrison (arm), freshman wide receiver Latroy Pittman (ankle), freshman tight end Kent Taylor (ankle) and redshirt junior TE Jordan Reed (eye/head) all got hurt with Reed the only one to return to the game. Muschamp did not have more extensive updates on the players but said he would on Monday.
“I’m extremely pleased to be able to rush for that many yards and have three starting offensive linemen down. That says a lot about our guys stepping up and ‘man down and man up,'” Muschamp said, pointing to freshman LT D.J. Humphries, redshirt sophomore LG Ian Silberman and senior senior C Sam Robey. “When you run for 300 yards, you’ve done something right. Very pleased with those guys stepping up and doing a nice job for us.”
Read the rest of what Muschamp had to say…after the break!
COMMENTING ON BIG MOMENTS
The Gators struggled mightily on third down defensively, allowing the Commodores to convert 7-of-17 attempts over the course of the game. Florida also committed 10 costly penalties for 80 total yards, many of which extended drives and gave Vanderbilt additional opportunities to score.
“We need to get off the field on third down on defense,” Muschamp said. “That was quite evident hat we did not do that well enough. When we have those opportunities, we need to capitalize. And some silly penalties we need to get out of our game as we move forward, as the stakes get a little higher.”
UF’s fake punt in the third quarter was executed perfectly with junior WR Solomon Patton, who took one 54 yards down the field in a drive that ended with a touchdown. Muschamp noted that senior Mike LB Jon Bostic and redshirt senior WR Frankie Hammond, Jr. levied great blocks on the play. “I felt good about it all week,” he said. “We’ve had it in for a couple weeks, been practicing. I got tired of practicing it, just wanted to run it.”
The Gators also surprised with a two-point conversion on their first touchdown despite not needing one at the time. “That’s something we’ve been working on for a while. Had it early in the year and just the numbers never presented themselves. We felt good about it, and Trey [Burton] executed it very well.”
Florida was also solid in the red zone defensively, holding Vanderbilt to just two touchdowns on six red zone trips. UF came up big in a few occasions including one in which senior safety Josh Evans registered a 14-yard sack and forced a long field goal that was eventually blocked. “You got to credit our defense. Six red zone trips – two touchdowns. So when you’re able to stop people from scoring touchdowns in there, you can win you some ball games. And you’ll win a bunch of ballgames allowing 17 points,” Muschamp said.
He also addressed the 60-yard kickoff return by redshirt junior WR Andre Debose, which was his longest of the season and was blocked quite well after he broke a few tackles. “Huge. Flipped the field. They had the momentum at home, all that kind of good stuff. We blocked it extremely well. That’s something we have been working on,” Muschamp said. “I thought it was executed very well by our players. […] Andre is an explosive guy. He’s a guy that can run through tackles. He’s got good lower body strength. We’ve got to do a better job blocking for him. He’ll hit it. We need to do a better job blocking. I’ve said it all year.”
Though the players did a lot of things well, Muschamp also blamed the coaching staff for a costly penalty late in the game. “That goes back to coaching, too. We have a chance right there to go seven up, and we come out of a timeout and we got 48 guys on the field. I mean, come on. That can’t happen. Was it communicated in the timeout? Absolutely it was communicated. Not good enough. It will [be] next time,” he said.
NO PASSING GAME
Florida’s offense has been running the ball more-than-efficiently over the last two games, but the passing games has most certainly been lackluster. Driskel has gone 19-for-32 for 138 yards combined over the last two games due to some fault of his own but also because of the play calling.
“A large part of it is go with what’s getting you yardage and what your guys are doing,” Muschamp said. “We’re moving people well. [Vanderbilt was] feast or famine up front defensively. When you stunt and do as much as they do, you’re eventually going to hit them on some things. And that’s really what happened late in the game; Jeff hit them on the zone read coming out the back end for the 70-yarder.”
Muschamp did add that the Gators not throwing the ball is not an indication that Driskel cannot handle that responsibility. In fact, Florida believes it can throw it quite well.
“We feel much more comfortable maybe than what you’re seeing on game day with our passing game, to be honest with you,” he said. “We feel like there are some things there. We had a couple of drops. We feel like we’re further along than maybe we’ve seen on Saturday but at the end of the day we’re going to do what it takes to win games.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» On sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel’s record-setting day: “He’s a cool customer. He does not get rattled by very much. He’s a guy that understands what he needs to do to lead our football team and our offensive. I’ve been very pleased and proud with his response. You know, there’s a lot of pressure being the quarterback at the University of Florida. I don’t think people realize that and this young man has handled it very well.”
» On the victory: “It was a good win. You go on the road in this league, regardless of the situation or circumstances, and you get a win. I’m proud of our guys to come back. […] Very happy to get the win. Going on the road in this league, again, if you have been around as long as I have, [you know] it is tough to go on the road and continue to win. And our guys certainly have proven [they can] do that.”
» On Florida struggling for the victory: “I’m very pleased with the win but also very cautiously-optimistic with how we played today.”
» On where the Gators are as a team: “I’m very pleased with where we are. Have we arrived? Absolutely not. We have some serious issues we need to work out within our team. I’m talking about some personnel, some schematic, a lot of things we have to improve on. We need to continue to work. The good thing about our guys – I say it all the time – they will work. They will work.”
» On how wins can easily be losses save for a few plays: “There is a very, very fine line between winning and losing. There really is. You take Jeff’s run right there out of the game. There’s a fine line between winning and losing. We made the plays when we had to make them. We made good adjustments as a staff.”