The No. 10 Florida Gators (7-2, 4-2) look to get back on track this Saturday against the Vanderbilt Commodores (2-6, 1-4). After a second league loss last week—this one to Georgia—the Gators need to win out and pray for two Georgia losses for a chance to get to the SEC Championship. While UF does still mathematically have a shot, quarterback Kyle Trask repeatedly pointed out this week, none of that matters if they don’t take care of their own business.
Florida has won 27 out of the last 28 against Vanderbilt and is 2-1 following non-consecutive losses under Mullen, with one of those wins coming earlier this season (the win at South Carolina following the LSU loss).
Taking care of their own business started in practice this week and will come to fruition on Saturday. Here are a few last things to remember before kickoff. The Gators have also won six consecutive home games, dating back to last season’s South Carolina win. A win Saturday would give them their fifth home win this season, a feat not accomplished since 2016.
ONE THING TO REMEMBER
As head coach Dan Mullen said of the deficiencies following the Georgia loss, "take your pick." There were ample areas of mistakes but that also means there are plenty of teaching moments, to borrow a favorite coaching phrase.
The third down defense of course tops that list. We talk more about that below. On the offensive side of the ball, the mistakes and therefore the improvements must come through Trask. The redshirt junior made two costly and uncharacteristic mistakes against the Bulldogs, scrambling backwards from the pocket, as opposed to the sidelines, and taking sacks for large yardage in the process. Fixing those mistakes serve as an example for Trask of what all this team can do moving forward.
"I have to get rid of the ball. I take 100% responsibility. I’ve been playing football all of my life and I know you can’t take 20-yard sacks I think just moving forward it goes back to little things like sacks, penalties, we can’t have that. If we can cut those out we can play with anybody in the country.”
Vandy tight end Jared Pinkney had three catches for 25 yards and a touchdown against the Gators last season. So far this season, he has 15 receptions for 157 yards, albeit without a score yet. Gators defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said of the challenge, “the biggest thing there is when you have guys who have size like that, is being physical, trying to get them off the spot and being in tight coverage where guys have to be accurate with the ball.”
Florida will possibly be without money linebacker Amari Burney this weekend who is questionable with a knee sprain.
ONE LAST FLORIDA PLAYER TO REMEMBER
Jon Greenard took the blame for the defensive performance on Saturday against Georgia, even though it really wasn’t his fault. But it lends to the idea that the senior BUCK will be playing “pissed off” in the way Krull indicated. Greenard along with Jabari Zuniga had been missed from the Gators while recovering from ankle injuries. They performed well enough against Georgia, creating bad third down situations with their rush. But the Bulldogs ended up going 12-18 on 3rd downs, making the point moot. Now Vanderbilt will be coming in with a quarterback making his first start, after the two guys in front of him were both put in concussion protocol.
Greenard and Zuniga were able to make a massive impact against another green quarterback when No. 12 Auburn and freshman Bo Nix visited the Swamp in early October and Nix was sacked twice.
Having Greenard and Zuniga at full speed with be especially crucial with linebacker Jeremiah Moon out for—at the very least—the remainder of the regular season to injury. Moon was a rotational player behind Greenard but was capable of playing two spots and as such was often on the field with Greenard.
ONE LAST VANDY PLAYER TO REMEMBER
Vandy head coach Derek Mason announced this week that Deuce Wallace would be making his first career start on Saturday against Florida. His predecessor, Riley Neal, is still in concussion protocol but will travel with the team to Gainesville. The second starter, Mo Hasan who started the Dores win against Missouri, is also in concussion protocol.
According to the Associated Press, Wallace has played six games this season, coming off the bench each time. The 6-foot-2, 212-pound redshirt junior is 33 of 76 for 237 yards and three interceptions. He has yet to throw a touchdown pass this season for Vanderbilt.
“When you play them you just have to have an awareness of the running style of the quarterbacks,” said Grantham.
“You have to have awareness of which guy could have really good athletic ability and have speed on the edge as opposed to maybe another guy that doesn't. Now they can all obviously pull the ball on the read zone stuff because they still run all the quarterback run plays. It's just some guys can be a little more dangerous than others.”
ONE BIG QUESTION
What will be the Gators attitude? This was the week that tripped up the Gators last season. No, not Vandy necessarily—although the Dores did give UF a tough fight in Nashville—but the week following the Georgia loss. With their road to Atlanta ruined after that loss to Georgia last year, the Gators became lethargic and decided there was little other reason to fight. It resulted in an embarrassing loss to Missouri and what has become a legendary post game speech from head coach Dan Mullen that included a call to thumb wrestle for the sake of competition (see tweet at top). Now the question becomes, does that UF team show up again this week?
Tight end Lucas Krull said on Tuesday that the entire team was “pissed off” and that means “we're angry. It's something that's going to translate to a great finish.
“You have such high expectations and when your just so, so close to reaching a potential goal that you guys set at the beginning of the year, just something that when you don't get it, it makes you, it fires you up and makes you want it more. A lot of teams can turn their heads down and you know be frustrated and quit on a season and that's not us. That's not the Gator standard.”
ONE LAST PREDICTION
The talent differential should make this an easily winnable game for Florida. The Dores have played some of their best games against bigger opponents and that will happen against on Saturday. That point coupled with the Gators possible hangover from the Georgia loss and having faced three Top 10 teams in four weeks, means they could very likely come out slow and sluggish. I don’t see Vandy having enough to take advantage of that though and Florida pulls away in the 4th quarter.