Florida Recap: Defense + Special Teams Lead To First Win Over Gators Since 2013

The last time the Vanderbilt Commodores had beaten the Florida Gators was in 2013 when Jordan Matthews and company came out of the Swamp with a victory. The last time before that? 1988. Florida has dominated Vanderbilt for decades, but not this past Saturday. This past weekend Vanderbilt played spectacular ball in all three phases of the game and came out with a victory against Florida; now, Vanderbilt finds themselves with back-to-back SEC wins. A nice little streak if I do say so myself. 

Confirmed Hypothesis: Grease Don’t Freeze

Once again, the Vanderbilt offense knew what they would have to do to beat Florida: run the ball. In the past two games, the Florida run defense had only allowed 178 total rushing yards. Against stud Ray Davis, Patrick Smith, and quarterback Mike Wright aided by a thin but gritty offensive line, they allowed 175 total rushing yards, almost as many yards as their previous two games combined.

An already thin offensive line is the unsung hero of this ballgame. Vanderbilt knew the key to victory was running, and run they did. The offensive line pushed and mauled a talented Florida front all game long, resulting in a monstrous 175-yard game on the ground. Not only was the “Grease Gang” spectacular in the run game, but they were impressive in pass pro as well. Quarterback Mike Wright dropped back to pass sixteen times and the offensive line only allowed one sack on the day. 

The Ray Davis masterclass continues at full speed ahead. Davis seemingly took over this game much like he did last week versus Kentucky. Davis ran the ball a whopping 30 times for 122 yards equaling 4.1 yards a carry. Patrick Smith and Mike Wright decided to join the rushing party as well. Patrick Smith showed impressive speed on the outside as he carried the ball 8 times and averaged 5 yards per carry. Quarterback Mike Wright also scrambled 8 times for 13 yards. 

The success that Vanderbilt had on offense also came from some unlikely heroes. Tight ends Ben Bresnahan and Gavin Schoenwald both recorded touchdowns against the Gators. Bresnahan’s touchdown, in particular, was a tone-setting one for the offense. Bresnahan refused to go down until he crossed the goal line, carrying Florida defenders with him along the way as if they were his very own children. 

Defense Stands and Delivers

The Commodore defense had their hands full with Florida coming to town. They would be facing off against one of the most explosive offenses in the country led by a talented Anthony Richardson at quarterback and a wrecking ball of a running back in Trevor Etienne. But this did not scare the Vanderbilt front as they only allowed a measly 45 yards on the ground. Florida simply could not get any mojo going on the ground against an aggressive Vanderbilt front.

C.J. Taylor and Afernee Orji both continued their spectacular seasons on Saturday. Taylor led the team in 10 tackles, 3 of which were solos. Taylor also made two key stops on Florida’s two-point conversions. Orji was second with 8 tackles and 4 of those being solo. Defensive backs Jeremy Lucien and Jaylen Mahoney both had impressive games as well. Lucien made a critical tackle on a screen play where he was able to beat his defender and come away with a tackle for loss. Mahoney contributed to the defense in a big way all afternoon but none more than when he came away with a very impressive interception that put Vanderbilt in a great field position. 

A player who I thought had a very good game and has not gotten the credit he deserves is Ja’Dais Richard. Richard was forced into more playing time this weekend as B.J. Anderson was ejected for a targeting call. Richard collected two tackles on the day but his biggest play of the game was when he was in single coverage with a streaking Florida receiver and was able to break extend and break up the pass on a would-be Florida touchdown. 

The defense and special teams had many great plays on the day but none bigger than long snapper Wesley Schelling. Late in the second quarter, Vanderbilt had to punt the ball back to Florida. Florida muffs the punt and Schelling finds himself in the middle of a scrum fighting for the ball. After the dust settles and the bodies are pulled out of the pile, Schelling comes out with the ball, victorious and giving Vanderbilt a two-possession lead going into the half. 

The Look Ahead

Nothing needs to be said.

Trevor Hulan

@iamtrevhulan

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