Maybe the most important play of the game between the Florida Gators and Vanderbilt Commodores came late in the first half. On a 3rd and 13, Florida quarterback Luke Del Rio took a hit from Vanderbilt’s Dare Odeyingbo. The pass was complete — though Brandon Powell came up just short of the first down — but that was the last snap that Del Rio would take.
With Del Rio sidelined with an injured shoulder, Feleipe Franks came on With 18 seconds left in the first half and Florida trailing 17-14, Franks completed a 49-yard pass to Tyrie Cleveland. It was a play that looked eerily similar to the Hail Mary to beat Tennessee two weeks ago. And it set up an Eddy Pineiro field goal that sent the two teams to the half tied at 17.
And then Florida proceeded to pull away in the second half. The teams traded punts to open the third quarter but, on Florida’s second possession of the half, Franks hit Moral Stephens on a 29-yard pass that set up a Malik Davis touchdown run. In the fourth quarter, Franks hit Freddie Swain for a 33-yard pass that Lamical Perine punched in for another score three plays later to make the score 31-17.
The final score was 38-24. Here are three things we learned.
Why did Florida have a QB controversy to begin with?
Even in a losing effort against Michigan, I was pretty confident that Feleipe Franks should be Florida’s starting quarterback going forward. An iffy performance against Kentucky got him benched in Luke Del Rio’s favor. And while Del Rio might have led the team back against Kentucky, Franks was the difference in this game.
Essentially, in a two-score game, Florida got three big pass plays that decided the game. At least two of those were on throws that Luke Del Rio doesn’t make. Del Rio is a fine game manager for a team that has a home run threat out of the backfield. But for this specific team, Del Rio at quarterback means that this team essentially has no big play threats.
We’ve seen the big play threat from Franks, though. This quarterback controversy should be over by now.
Vanderbilt’s defense needs to be better than this
When Vanderbilt scores 24 points, that should be more than enough to win.
Instead, for the second straight week, Vanderbilt’s defense couldn’t get stops when it needed them. Cornerback Tre Herndon being out with an injury might have made a difference this week — but while Vanderbilt allowed just 4.3 yards per carry, the defense gave up too many big plays. That’s going to happen when you play aggressively, but Vanderbilt just didn’t stop Florida when it needed to.
Yeah, The Cocktail Party will probably decide the East
Early on, it looked like some of the lesser lights in the East — specifically, Kentucky and Vanderbilt, and maybe South Carolina prior to Deebo Samuel being hurt — would play a role in the East title race.
Instead, with Florida starting 3-0 with wins over Tennessee, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt, the Gators are setting things up for the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in a few weeks to decide the East — again. Tennessee could play its way back into the race if it can beat Georgia this afternoon, but with the way the Vols are playing right now, the East will probably come down to Florida and Georgia.