Florida football vs. Vanderbilt score, takeaways: No. 14 Gators storm back to silence Dores

By Adam Silverstein
October 14, 2018
Florida football vs. Vanderbilt score, takeaways: No. 14 Gators storm back to silence Dores
Football

Image Credit: @GatorsFB Twitter

The No. 14 Florida Gators got punched in the mouth a few times early Saturday. First by the start time, then by two inopportune failures on the goal line, and then by a breakaway play that looked to drop Florida where it stood. But instead of crumbling, as the Gators have so many times over the last few seasons, they knuckled up and punched right back, silencing the Vanderbilt Commodores 37-27 at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee.

Trailing by 18 points in the second quarter, Florida went on to tie a program record for largest road comeback in its victory; the Gators had lost the prior 26 games in which they were behind by 18+ at any point. They also improved to 27-1 in their last 28 meetings with the Commodores and have not lost in Nashville since 1988. Let’s take a look at what we learned from Florida-Vanderbilt.

1. Runnin’ wild: No matter what else happened in the game, there was no way Florida would have beaten Vanderbilt without its rushing attack. Junior running back Lamical Perine earned player of the game honors with 214 total yards and a touchdown on 27 touches. He ran 23 times for 121 yards and the score, caught four passes for 93 yards and averaged more than 5 yards per touch on the afternoon. As such, Perine became the first player since Matt Jones in 2014 to pull together over 200 scrimmage yards. His partner in crime was redshirt senior RB Jordan Scarlett, whose 48-yard touchdown contributed to his 16-carry, 113-yard performance. Those were not the only ball-carriers on the day, but they were the standouts due to their tremendous production and obvious impact on the game.

“It works hand in hand. We’re always competing. We compete in practice; we compete in meeting room, weight room … and we come out here and do the same thing,” Scarlett said of him and Perine. “He busts a run, I want to come back and bust a run. That’s just how we’ve been doing it, and it’s how we’re going to continue to do it.”

2. Tricky Danny: Not all unique plays are “trick plays,” per se … but there’s no question that a fake punt fits that category. Trailing by eight with 9:47 left in the third quarter, Florida gained a first down before stalling at its own 37-yard line. Head coach Dan Mullen, faced with a fourth-and-3, decided to press his luck and call the number of redshirt junior punter Tommy Townsend, who despite his stellar play to this point made his most impactful effort in Nashville. Townsend pulled down the snap and not only picked up the 3 yards UF needed but added 15 more, rumbling down to the Vanderbilt 45. After two rushing plays, redshirt sophomore quarterback Feleipe Franks hit redshirt junior wide receiver Van Jefferson over the middle for a 38-yard score. The touchdown let the hosts know that the Gators meant business and the comeback attempt was real; it put the visitors within a single point of the lead and gave the team confidence that their coach believed in them to make a big play.

“Every week we have been practicing it. I have been anticipating the play call and was mentally prepared all week,” Townsend explained. “I was excited when it was called, more than anything. I wasn’t scared. It was awesome, it was a fun experience getting to run the ball. But, I am glad we got a good team win.”

Similarly, Mullen called the number of sophomore Kadarius Toney early in the fourth quarter. After Vanderbilt recovered a fumble and stalled on a three-and-out, it scored a field goal and put Florida in a position in which it needed to answer. The Gators were grinding it out on the ground and unable to get a big play on the Commodores while nursing a three-point lead, but Toney changed all of that in a matter of seconds. Toney took a reverse 27 yards down to the Vanderbilt 22, setting Florida up for an 11-yard touchdown that junior WR Freddie Swain caught from Franks. The timing of these two plays — though Toney’s was far less risky, particularly given the down and distance — were just what UF needed to complete its comeback. Both drives ended in scores that put the Gators in a tremendous position.

3. Arrow down: Franks has deserved a fair amount of praise over the last few weeks, but it’s time for some criticism. Though he completed 19-of-29 passes for a career-high 284 yards with two touchdowns, Franks not only threw a mind-numbing interception on the goal line during Florida’s opening series of the game, he badly fumbled a ball that Vanderbilt eventually recovered. Franks has seen improvement in being a game manager for Mullen, but managing the game includes holding onto the ball and not making mistakes, something he did frequently on Saturday. He certainly deserves kudos for hunkering down and being solid down the stretch, but that first half should not be forgotten.

“Coach Mullen stresses it: You can’t take any road SEC game for granted. You have to respect your opponent, and Vanderbilt showed why you have to respect your opponent,” Franks said. “They played their hearts out, they played a really good game. We had some silly mistakes in the beginning, but we bounced back. It was good to get a W.”

4. Defense wins … close games: The Gators defense stood tall when the team needed them the most for the third straight week. Once Florida trailed 21-3 — due to a confluence of turnovers and its defense being carved up by Vandy star Ke’Shawn Vaughn — it only gave up a pair of field goals over the duration of the contest. The Gators outscored the Commodores 34-6 over the final 32:30, and while the defensive numbers were not eyebrow-raising (no turnovers until the end of the game, one sack), the defense was staunch and dominating. Vanderbilt finished the game 3-for-12 on third down and ran just 58 total plays (compared to 92 for Florida). The Gators nearly doubled-up their hosts 576-336 offensively, rushing for 292 yards (compared to 107) on the afternoon.

Odds and ends: Florida went 12-for-19 on third down and 3-for-3 on fourth down … the Gators ran 34 more plays (92-58) and held the ball for more than 12 additional minutes (36:14-23:56) … the only reason the game was close for so long were UF’s three turnovers and untimely penalties (seven for 89 yards) … Florida improved to 6-0 when entering the fourth quarter with a lead and 5-0 when outrushing an opponent … it is the first time since 2015 that UF has won four straight games against SEC opponents … junior linebacker Vosean Joseph and redshirt freshman LB James Houston were both ejected from the game, Houston for targeting and Joseph as part of a sideline warning that resulted in his second personal foul; the Gators played the entire second half with two of their top four linebackers out … Mullen, defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason got into a shouting match after the aforementioned targeting penalty; the sidelines were both issued penalties on the entire teams for leaving the bench area, but Mullen and Mason hugged it out after the game and shared a laugh … UF is now on a bye week and will next play Georgia on Saturday, Oct. 27 in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party

One Comment

  1. Michael L. Jones says:

    I thought Franks played well. Not perfectly, but arguably his best game yet. And he stuck it up in there when he needed to. Finally, no sliding.

    I kept replaying Townsend’s run. First, I couldn’t believe how fast and fearlessly he was ran. Secondly, I couldn’t believe he took on a pretty tough Vandy defender head-to-head, kept driving his legs and didn’t fumble. He’s a punter! But dude’s got heart. One more amazing play in an amazing year.

    It was also good to see Coach Mullen be more creative in getting electric Toney the ball more. He will break one eventually . . and then more.

    We have a classy coach, good tough talented kids, and a program to be proud of. We don’t have to win’em all to make me happy, but Saturdays are so much more fun now that we are competitive and respectable again!

    GO GATORS!!!

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