What we learned: Florida finds some offense, loses some players in win over Vanderbilt

By Adam Silverstein
September 30, 2017
What we learned: Florida finds some offense, loses some players in win over Vanderbilt

Image Credit: @GatorsFB / Twitter

For the first time this season, the No. 21 Florida Gators flashed offensively, though it was at home inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium against a Vanderbilt Commodores team that got blitzed 59-0 by Alabama a week ago. Nevertheless, Florida prevailed 38-24 on Saturday and was clearly the better team throughout the game.

OnlyGators.com breaks down UF’s win below.

It was over when: Facing fourth-and-1 at the Vanderbilt 39-yard line, freshman running back Malik Davis took a hand-off over the right guard and didn’t just pick up the first down but a game-clinching score. Davis’s 39-yard touchdown was a career-long and the fifth of the day for the Gators’ running backs. He compiled 124 yards and two scores on 17 touches, averaging 7.3 yards per carry.

Exceptional efforts: In addition to Davis’s big day, all of Florida’s running backs worked hard. Sophomore Lamichal Perine rushed for 58 tough yards and three touchdowns, picking up a number of first downs on the afternoon. Redshirt senior Mark Thompson compiled 63 total yards, catching all five of his targets for 39 yards through the air. UF overall averaged 4.3 yards per carry, which is not necessarily indicative of how well it played in the running game. The Gators outrushed the Commodores 218-46 on Saturday.

Important injuries: Redshirt junior quarterback Luke Del Rio, who earned the start against Vandy after leading Florida to a come-from-behind win last week at Kentucky, broke his collarbone midway through the second quarter, never returned and was eventually ruled out for the season by head coach Jim McElwain. Sophomore WR Tyrie Cleveland, who hauled in a 49-yard post from Del Rio’s replacement, redshirt freshman QB Feleipe Franks with seconds to go before halftime, injured both his left toe and right ankles in the game, sitting out the final few series of the contest. His status is unknown at this time, but he hobbled off badly after hurting his right ankle late in the game.

Real redemption: Franks did not necessarily play bad in Lexington, Kentucky, last week, but there is a reason McElwain made a call to replace him in the game. In relief of Del Rio, Franks shined by completing 10-of-14 passes for 185 yards. Outside of the deep pass to Cleveland, Franks did not necessarily make any major plays, but he did better reading his receivers than he had in the past and tossed a couple clutch balls on third down to extend drives. He did get saved twice on potential interceptions, the second one a deflection caught by sophomore WR Freddie Swain for 33 yards that later setup a touchdown. Franks should be able to build on this confidence and show more poise, which he will need next week as LSU comes to town.

Odds and ends: Florida scored five rushing touchdowns in a single game for the first time since 2003 … a Gators running back scored thrice in a single game for the first time since 2005 … UF scored a rushing touchdown with a running back in a game for the first time since the middle of 2016 … Florida has won 26 of its last 27 games against Vanderbilt, improving to 39-10-2 all-time and 21-2-1 in the series … the Gators are 45-6 in the month of September since 2005 … McElwain is now 13-1 in The Swamp, 18-1 against unranked opponents, 16-0 when outrushing an opponent and 18-4 when scoring first … Florida has scored in 365 straight games, tying the longest streak in college football history, a record it can break next week vs. LSU

What it means: Saturday’s win was the definition of a confidence builder … for the offense. The Gators posted 467 yards and averaged 6.1 yards per play, running 17 more plays than the Commodores and picking up six more first downs on the afternoon. Florida was also 3-for-3 converting fourth downs and a respectable 7-for-16 on third downs, though it can still do better there. The best thing to say about the Gators’ defense is that it stopped the run, holding the ‘Dores to 46 yards on 20 carries and silencing Gainesville native and one of the top 20 rushers in SEC history in Ralph Webb. However, Florida’s secondary was beat for 264 yards and three touchdowns thorugh the air, though Vandy quarterback Kyle Shurmur only completed 18-of-40 passes.

By the quarter

First: A sloppy start for both teams ended with a tough third-down conversion for Del Rio and an eventual touchdown by Perine to cap a 10-play, 62-yard drive. Vanderbilt answered back immediately, however, going 75 yards in seven plays to knot things up at 7-7.

Second: In a near repeat of the first 15 minutes, the Gators scored first with a long drive ended by Perine on the ground only for the Commodores to respond with another seven-play, 75-yard drive with their second touchdown pass of the game. Before halftime, Florida nearly had Vanderbilt sacked near its goal line but due to penalty allowed the drive to continue. The visitors went 60 yards in nine plays and kicked a field goal after a big third-down conversion on the series. However, Franks allowed the Gators to answer immediately with a 49-yard pass to Cleveland that setup a game-tying field goal before the buzzer.

Third: After a three-and-out to start the half, Franks completed 3-of-4 passes including two to redshirt junior tight end Moral Stephens for 45 yards before Davis punched in a 2-yard score to conclude an eight-play, 73-yard drive.

Fourth: Florida played well behind Franks through the end of the third into the fourth as he engineered a 12-play, 65-yard touchdown drive that included a deflected pass hauled in by Swain for 33 yards before Perine ran in his third score of the game. Though the Gators’ defense appeared to be stepping up late in the game, it relented late and gave up a 14-play, 77-yard touchdown drive with 3:14 to play; the Commodores converted a pair of fourth downs on the drive and looked to have a chance. Florida was able to counter with a sustained, clock-eating drive and Davis’s 39-yard game-clinching score.


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