The No. 10 Florida Gators (8-2, 5-2) spent the first quarter nursing a hangover from last weekend’s Cocktail Party before beginning the second quarter with a score that opened the floodgates and led to a 28-point, 216 yard third quarter. The Gators defeated the Vanderbilt Commodores (2-7, 1-5) 59-0 on a chilly Saturday afternoon at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
Quarterback Kyle Trask ended 25-37, 363 yards, three touchdowns (two interceptions) through the air, adding 25 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Six different Gators scored (including one on defense) and 18 different guys touched the ball on offense to give the current second team in the SEC-East a much needed win complete with style points, in which the offense accumulated 560 total yards off offense while the defense held Vanderbilt to 128 total yards and 3-15 on 3rd downs.
"To me it was about making a statement to ourselves of making sure we get our edge back,” said head coach Dan Mullen.
“There was disappointment off of last week, but if you’re a competitor you compete. You can’t wait to compete, you love winning. And, so, I love winning. I’m going to enjoy it tonight and try to start all over again tomorrow morning.”
The first offensive drive ended with a 4th and 1 attempt that fell short. The defense, for their part, forced Vanderbilt into much the same. The ensuing possession saw Kyle Trask and the Gators began to click down field, mixing in a balance of run and pass, broken up amongst several playmakers. Wide receiver Kadarius Toney (2 rushes, 39 yards; 1 reception, 10 yards) put in his first positive yardage since returning last week from an eight week shoulder recovery. With redshirt freshman Emory Jones in at quarterback, Toney took a handoff for a jet sweep and cut up field. A spin move from the elusive playmaker netted a couple of extra yardage for a 13 yard gain in total.
But on 3rd and 10 from the Vandy 27, Kyle Trask zipped an otherwise perfect throw over the middle…to the wrong team; Vanderbilt’s Tae Daley. The safety would add another interception off Trask at the end of the second quarter. However, the latter interception was somewhat moot by that point, considering the Gators already had what would prove to be an insurmountable 14-point lead.
Because as the clock rolled to the second quarter and Florida found themselves facing a 4th and goal from the 1-yard line, everyone seemed to shake off the cobwebs and focus attention. Unsurprisingly electing to go for it, Trask went under center, alluding to the possibility of a QB sneak. Instead Trask dropped back and saw Lamical Perine (4-13, 1TD rushing; 4-28, 1TD receiving) out to the right. The quarterback let off a two handed pass from the chest that most closely resembled a granny shot in basketball. We’ll call it an ode to former Gator basketball player Canon Barry who took his free throws in that form. The unidentifiable option play worked and Perine walked into the endzone for the first score of the day.
Laughed Trask, “Coach Mullen, he tells me, ‘it’s two, we got two guys, they got one guy off the edge and whatever you gotta to do get it to him. If they try to box you and you gotta do what you gotta do’ so I just went over the top.”
After that, the floodgates opened.
Deuce Wallace (7-18, 60 yards, 0 TD, 1INT) was getting his first start for the Dores, thanks to the two passers ahead of him on the depth chart both being in concussion protocol. He received a hard welcome to the league. The ensuing Vandy drive began with Adam Shuler (four tackles, one sack) sacking Wallace for a four yard loss and ended with Donovan Stiner (three tackles, two interceptions) setting up in the middle of the field for an easy pick that he returned 29-yards to the Vandy 23-yard line.
Four plays later from the nine, Trask saw a lane open up and scampered in to make it 14-0.
And on the subsequent Vanderbilt drive, the Florida Gators were introduced to Mohamoud Diabate. The linebacker was fired out of a cannon and into the backfield where he dropped Wallace. It was the first of Diabate’s three sacks on the day.
“[Defensive coordinator] Coach Grantham found a way to match me up with people that I could excel against, and he did a good job of putting me in a great position, and I just did what I’m supposed to do. I did my job,” assured Diabate.
Of his three, none were more vital than one that came mid-third quarter. On what looked to be Vandy’s best offensive drive of the day, Deuce Wallace took quick screens and rushed hisself at times to get the Dores some sort of offensive production. Prior to that drive, they had 17 yards of offense…total. During the drive, Vandy racked up 57 yards and made four first downs to set up a 3rd and goal from the 10-yard line.
Diabate again blitzed off the edge and sacked Wallace from the blind side. He knocked the ball loose in the process and BUCK Jon Greenard scooped it and ran it through nothing but green grass for an 80-yard touchdown that made it 35-0 and keep the shutout alive. For a moment, Diabate didn’t even know it happened.
"I was like, ‘Man, we got to find a way to make sure they don’t score because we want to shut them out.’ So, I was like, ‘Man, let me see if I can get a sack to get them out of field goal range.’ I wasn’t really thinking about a strip sack, but then, when I came off the end, he wasn’t looking – you know, he’s a right-handed quarterback, so I was on his blindside. So, I was just like, ‘Let me take a swipe at it.’ I just thought I’d sacked him…
“I heard everyone cheering and I thought they were just cheering for the sack, then I saw Greenard running and I was like 'Oh snap, let me run too.' So I got up and I started chasing him but he was going pretty fast so I couldn't get him. I just turned to the sideline celebrating.”
Greenard’s score was the longest defensive touchdown since Ahmad Black’s 81-yard return against Penn State in the 2010 bowl game.
That was how much the 3rd quarter and the second half went for the Gators. Everything that went wrong the past couple of weeks went right today. The Gators first three offensive plays of the second half resulted in two touchdowns. The first was a screen to Tre Grimes. The receiver—arguable the best at yards after the catch on the team—laid a stiff arm on a defender and hoofed it 66-yards for the score, Trask fist pumping the last 20 yards when he knew no one was stopping his receiver. Grimes knew it too.
“I knew I had to beat the sidelines. But after I didn’t step out, I knew I had clear grass and was off to the races from there.”
The next drive Trask stood in the pocket with pressure coming and delivered a shot to Tyrie Cleveland for a 36-yard circus catch. The next snap, a shot to Kyle Pitts for 15-yards hit pay dirt.
Another sweep from Toney included three jukes to put the Gators in great field position and Emory Jones capped the drive with a rushing touchdown, his first of three on the day.
This is the first time Florida has shut out a SEC opponent since a 38-0 win over Kentucky in 2012. A Donovan Stiner interception—he had two on the day—with just under 13 minutes to play in the 4th gave the Gators offense the ball back in Vandy territory. An Emory Jones 1-yard rushing touchdown helped put the cap on the Gators explosive day
“We had to come out here and show what kind of team we are. That we’re not going to back down and we’re going to fight until the end,” declared Grimes.
Now the must continue to fight—and admittedly keep one eye turned to the other games around the league—while finishing off a season that has featured one of the best Gator offenses in decades and has a defense that once again today found their identity.
Said Trask, “It was a tough loss last week and we just think, there’s still a lot to play for. There’s a still a shot at the East with some help. But none of that matters if we don’t take care of our business and our goal is just to go one-and-0 every week from now on.”