Florida kept it’s historic scoring run going with a 63-35 blowout of Arkansas that wasn’t as close as the final score.
Kyle Trask and the Gator offense roll on, even with the absence of Kyle Pitts. Keon Zipperer snagged 2 TD catches, Justin Shorter made a leaping TD grab on an NFL-type back shoulder throw from Trask, and Trevon Grimes continued his recent resurgence with 2 TDs of his own. Trask showed complete command of the offense, picking apart the Hogs’ zone defense with accurate throws and racking up 6 TD passes. However, the bigger story was the patience Dan Mullen showed in running the ball 45 times against a 3-man front for the Hogs to give the Gator defense a chance to rest against Arkansas’ tempo offense. Dameon Pierce, Malik Davis and Nay’Quan Wright all had good games, with Wright especially showing improvement and composure for such a young player. The O-line seems to be improving as the season progresses, and a handful of backups are getting more snaps and working themselves into the rotation. It was good to see Stewart Reese bounce back from his shoulder injury against Georgia, while Josh Braun and Ethan White are playing well off the bench and showing they are SEC-level players for next season.
The other benefit of Mullen calling so many running plays was to keep the Gator defense off the field and from embarrassing themselves with more blown coverages after allowing 3 TDs of over 50 yards. The busts in the back seven are shockingly bad and way too frequent – high school-like. Shawn Davis has regressed greatly from his play at safety last season, while the LBs continue to blow their assignments in filling the running lanes. Some of the young players may get more snaps than expected if the upperclassmen can’t play their assignments better. The defense is getting more stops and more possessions for the offense, but giving up so many big plays and long TDs is unacceptable. At least the D-line is showing some consistency and improvement. Zach Carter had another big game and also had a scoop-and-score to ice the game early in the 4th quarter.
It’s now on to Nashville to face Vanderbilt. The Commodores are really struggling, coming into this week’s contest winless at 0-6. Derek Mason may very well get fired after this season, and if he does someone (Florida?) could get a very good defensive coordinator. Vandy has actually shown some life on offense the past few weeks after inserting true freshman Ken Seals at QB. RB Keyon-Henry Brooks is their leading rusher and also a good receiving threat with 22 catches for 2nd on the team. Cam Johnson is by far their leading receiver, and TE Ben Bresnahan is a big target in the red zone. The Gator D-line should be able to disrupt the ‘Dore offense, as they have a marked advantage against the Vandy O-line. Here’s hoping that the back seven can get a few turnovers this week just to make the overall task that much easier.
The Gator offense should continue it’s onslaught even with Pitts sidelined for one more game. The running game could very well be featured again to get more good work in, with the passing game there to close out drives. I expect another game where many different runners and receivers get touches. Just play smart and protect Trask, and keep the momentum going.
Florida has a huge advantage in special teams, and I could see Toney perhaps breaking a return this week. Evan McPherson continues to excel in the kicking game, but the kickoff return unit has given up some long returns the past 2 weeks and has to get that corrected.
The weather looks pretty good for mid-November in Nashville, with temps in the 50s and 60s during the game and hopefully a dry track. The Gators get another noon kickoff, but are used to it by now and should not be affected. The main worry for the staff is a letdown after the past 2 weeks, which has historically been the case when the Gators travel to Music City and Vanderbilt is outmanned. FInally, this should be another opportunity to play a lot of backups and young players to gain experience.
Prediction: Florida 48 Vanderbilt 20