The No. 10 Florida Gators bounced back from a loss to No. 5 Georgia in dominating fashion this weekend, with a 56-0 trouncing of the Vanderbilt Commodores. From freshmen to veterans, offense and defense, everyone chipped in to give the Gators their eighth win of the season, fifth in conference.
As you return to work this Monday, here are your watercooler topics from the Gators big win and shutout.
Donovan Stiner had a great game
The junior safety has always been a quiet force, but on Saturday he put together one of his best games as a Gator. He nabbed two interceptions, bring his career total to six, tying CJ Henderson as most among all current Gator defensive backs. He added three tackles, including one when the Dores were driving into the redzone on their only productive drive of the day. Deuce Wallace hit James Bostic for a first down that went 15 yards. Bostic had tapped his way to the sideline and had a lane to the endzone but Stiner flew in from the middle of the field and knocked him out of bounds to save the score. The defense held on and three players later, Jon Greenard scored a defensive touchdown off a scoop and score.
Stiner’s two interceptions also highlighted his knowledge of the game. Stiner will be the first to admit he’s not the big hitter that Shawn Davis is, or the tenacious hands of Brad Stewart. But they all have different strengths and Stiner’s is his immense understanding of the game and how to use that to his advantage. The interceptions were perfect examples of this.
The first, Stiner set up in center field and dared Wallace to throw it that way. The Vandy quarterback (making his first start) thought it was a good idea. It wasn’t. With Shawn Davis behind him taking care of the receiver, Stiner was able to make the jump and grab the ball. He made a cut and returned it for 29 yards, giving the offense great field position from which to score; which they did.
The second takeaway saw Stiner play off the ball and bait Allan Walters—coming in for his first drive for Vandy—into a throw towards the sideline. The safety jumped the pass and snagged it yet again with a field position the offense was able to score from.
Diabate is gonna be a beast
Another knockout defensive performance came from freshman Mohamoud Diabate. The linebacker had three sacks and a tackle, stepping seamlessly into the pass rusher role alongside Jon Greenard with Jeremiah Moon and Jabari Zuniga both out due to injury. Diabate is a speedster off the edge and looked like he was shot out of a cannon on the blitz sack that forced the fumble for Greenard’s touchdown.
Diabate is 220lbs. currently so could put on some weight for his linebacker role. But he made clear on Saturday he has all of the natural skill in place to play the role in Todd Grantham’s defense that is the key cog.
Explaining Kyle Trask’s interceptions
Kyle Trask put up 363 yards passing on Saturday, the best by a Gators quarterback since Tim Tebow’s 482 against No. 4 Cincinnati in the 2010 Sugar Bowl, and it was the highest total against an SEC team since Rex Grossman’s 375 against Kentucky back on Sept. 28, 2002. He had three touchdowns through the air (albeit one was Tre Grimes 66-yarder off a screen) and then called his own number for another score rushing.
So let’s just get this out of the way, move on and appreciate all the good Trask did on Saturday. Here’s what happened on his two interceptions.
The first was over the middle of the field and looked baffling considering there wasn’t a receiver in the same zip code as the ball. Trask said afterwards he and the receivers were on separate pages and he was throwing to where he thought someone would be, but clearly wasn’t.
The second, also by Vandy’s Daley, was the deflection in the endzone. Trask was targeting Van Jefferson for the score. The back shoulder throw wasn’t a bad decision. It was in the vicinity of two defenders but Jefferson was pretty clearly getting wrapped up by one of them. Trask’s thinking was, thread it in there where only the expert route runner Van can reach back for the score. Or at the very least, throw it down there and draw the defensive pass interference flag.
Instead, the flag wasn’t thrown and the ball bounced off the fighting duo and into Daley’s waiting hands. It was an unforeseeable bounce off a risky decision but not a bad decision.
What’s a catch?
What’s in a catch? That which we call a catch by any other crew would be complete.
While head coach Dan Mullen didn’t invoke Shakespeare in his post game press conference, he did express his frustration when a reporter asked about a Jacob Copeland catch that was ruled complete then overturned. On replay, the catch wasn’t concrete but Copeland did have a hand on the leather. It looked much more like a football move than the catch by Georgia’s Cager last weekend. The latter of course was reviewed and ruled a catch, the Bulldogs scoring a touchdown on the extended drive.
Mullen said of the two plays, “my wife would tell me it's not worth the money. But you guys tell me the difference between—I’d love somebody to tell me the difference between the two. I guess we'll find out. I'm sure they'll have their whatever reasons…they looked pretty similar to me.”
Coaches are fined if they publicly question league officials. Given the topsy turvy and inconsistent nature of SEC officiating this season though, Mullen understandably feels it’s worth any fine to draw attention to the indiscriminate nature.
Tre Grimes is so, so, so good at YAC
The junior receiver is arguably the Gators best in the unit at yards after the catch and yards after contact. He is tall but stout and uses his frame to take and absorb hits. In fact, he seems to gain energy from the action and repel it back against defenders, like he’s his own Black Panther suit.
He picked up one first down in the first quarter on a screen where he took a hit right away. By the end, he had five defenders on him for at least the last two yards. His 66-yard touchdown included an early hit off the sideline pass and a stiff arm. From there, the only defender he had to worry about was the sideline. Grimes ended the game with four receptions for 95 yards, and three of the passes were screens. The fourth—the touchdown—was a quick out In other words, even with Kyle Trask getting (deserved) credit for the passes, those 95 yards were all
From the time Grimes arrived from Ohio State, he’s had potential just bubbling under the surface. With so many wide receivers that have to share the ball, Grimes doesn’t have many games with multiple touches. But when the dial turns to him, he’s proven himself time and again. He did that again Saturday in all the same ways he’s shown previously, but against Vanderbilt it was for multiple plays.
This was a needed win and needed showing
On offense, 18 different guys touched the ball to make a play and racked up 560 yards total. UF has five games of 300-plus passing yards—with four against SEC teams—in Mullen’s 23 games as head coach. In 101 games spanning the 2010-17 seasons, UF had six 300-yard outings (two against SEC teams). On defense, Todd Grantham’s guys held Vanderbilt to 3-15 on 3rd downs. The importance of the differential isn’t lost on the crew who gave up 12-18 to Georgia on the money down last week. They won the turnover margin and scored three touchdowns off said turnovers as well.
All week Mullen and players said this was a game to define their character. Could they bounce back after the Georgia loss, show they still had fight, they still had fire and they could still play to their standard? With their third shutout of the year and best offensive performance of the year, they did just that.
Florida will now travel to Columbia, Missouri to face the Tigers. That of course is the team that defeated Mullen’s team following the Cocktail Party last season. It was a game and a loss that became a turning point for the program.
The Gators and Tigers kick off at NoonET/11CT on CBS.