Saturday’s earliest SEC matchup featured a noon showdown between the Florida Gators and Vanderbilt Commodores. Now, Florida was fresh off of a grueling loss to Tennessee in a fashion that one would have expected from a team coached by McElwain’s predecessor, and Vanderbilt had just beaten Western Kentucky in double overtime. These teams had seen it all in week 4.
In a game with SEC East title implications for Florida and bowl eligibility implications for Vanderbilt, the two squads took it down to the wire. In the end, Florida prevailed, but they certainly won’t be happy with how they got to that point.
What (if anything) did we learn from this game?
1. Florida’s quarterback situation is [still] a mess
In the second game without Luke Del Rio, Florida proved that their offense can, in fact, look more anemic than it did in the second half against Tennessee. Florida could hardly string together a scoring drive, they coughed up the ball on what should have been a game-clinching goal line drive, and Austin Appleby was not a paragon of efficiency. If the Gators still want to contend for that SEC East title, they’d better hope Del Rio continues to improve and return before season’s end.
2. Vanderbilt’s defense has improved
After performing so well in 2015 and being hyped up all throughout the offseason, Vanderbilt’s defense has looked uncharacteristically soft through the first four weeks of this season. They picked a pretty good week to up their level of play, and Zach Cunningham returned to peak form, coming up with 13 tackles in the game. The Commodores stifled this Florida offense, and it kept Vanderbilt in the game until the final possession.
3. Vanderbilt’s offense is—um—bad
Fortunately for Florida, their defense looked impressive as well, albeit against a Vanderbilt offense that was terrible/awful/pick whatever adjective you like. Kyle Shurmur was 9-25 in the game, and the Commodores were hopeless when it came to getting downfield. In fact, 9 out of Vanderbilt’s 11 drives ended in either a punt or a turnover. Two of those turnovers came within the fourth quarter, with one being an interception thrown by Wade Freeback in the final minute of the game.
While this game may not have been fun for anyone involved, Florida’s win is all that really matters. The Gators do, however, have a tough schedule remaining, and it’s hard to imagine them beating LSU next week with another performance like the one displayed today. Improvement must occur.