Florida came out and dominated Vanderbilt from the start with a 56-0 shutout that was as easy as the score indicated. For a change, the Gators didn’t struggle with Vandy after a tough game (win or lose), completely shutting down the Commodore offense while getting untracked on offense late in the first quarter and never looking back.
The Gator defense took advantage of the ‘Dores having to play their 3rd-team QB, focusing on controlling RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn and their running game. After establishing control of the LOS, Vandy’s passing game was never going to be a threat, and the defense held the ‘Dores to 128 total yards while racking up 6 sacks, 2 interceptions, and 1 fumble recovery returned for a TD by Jonathan Greenard. Vanderbilt is 126th out of 130 FBS schools in scoring offense, and simply were outclassed all afternoon.
On offense, Florida again struggled to establish a consistent running game, but completely overwhelmed Vandy’s pass defense as Kyle Trask rolled up 363 yards with 3 passing TDs and one running TD. Emory Jones was able to get a decent number of snaps throughout the game and was efficient throwing and running, including 3 rushing TDs. The WRs were mismatches for Vandy’s secondary and consistently gained separation all afternoon. Trask did have 2 interceptions – one was simply a poor read on his part – still some learning to do. True freshman Ethan White filled in at right guard for the suddenly departed Chris Bleich, while redshirt freshman Richard Gouriage started in place of the injured Brett Heggie at left guard. It was a glimpse of the future, and they did an adequate job in relief.
It’s on to Missouri, which has (sadly) won 4 of 7 against Florida since joining the SEC. For some reason the Gators never seem to go into this game with any real enthusiasm, and the results have reflected that attitude. Gator Nation is sick of these interlopers having the upper hand, and it sure would be nice to go up to Columbia and punish the Tigers.
Florida’s defense will have to focus on stopping Missouri’s running game first, led by Larry Roundtree. Tyler Badie is the 3rd down back, and has been effective all season catching the ball out of the backfield. The Tigers usually have a physical O-Line, and have pushed the Gators around too often in the series. It’s unknown if Kelly Bryant will be their starting QB, due to a hamstring injury. If he plays, he is normally a legit dual-threat who could prove to be difficult to contain by the front seven, which has been struggling due to injuries. Hopefully, he is at least slowed by his injury if he does indeed start. If he can’t go then backup Taylor Powell will start – he did not impress at Georgia as the Tigers were punked 27-0. Missouri has one of the best TEs in the country in Albert Okwuegbunam, and he will be a difficult matchup for the Gator secondary. WRs Johnathon Johnson, Jonathan Nance, and Kam Scott are all good receivers. The Tigers will be a stern test for Florida’s defense all day. I can only hope that DC Todd Grantham changes things up in the secondary in regards to both coverages and personnel. It’s time to move Trey Dean back to CB or possibly to safety and possibly let Marco Wilson man the Star position. If the secondary isn’t allowed to mix in some press coverage and plays soft again, it could be along, cold afternoon.
On offense, Florida will again have to employ the formula that has been the most successful this season – pass first and lean on Trask and the WRs to make enough plays to win the game. Missouri’s defense is solid, and will come after Trask and the weak O-line. The Tiger secondary plays aggressively, and could be susceptible to giving up some big plays if Trask is given time. Florida really needs Heggie to return at guard, to try and help generate some semblance of a running game for Lamical Perine and Dameon Pierce.
After getting embarrassed many times by Missouri recently, it’s time for Florida to rise up and make a statement this week. It will be a chilly day in Columbia with temps in the 40s for the game, but it should be a dry track. The Gators will enjoy their 3rd bye week after this game, so they should be able to roll out almost everyone that is healthy enough to play – and they likely will need them. As much as I’d like a dominant victory, I feel this one will not be decided until the 4th quarter, and will take a solid effort from all 3 phases to win.
Prediction: Florida 24 Missouri 20