For those inclined to take Vanderbilt lightly after watching the Commodores get destroyed by Alabama 59-0 last Saturday, Florida coach Jim McElwain has two numbers for you to ponder.
Nine and 13.
As in 9-7 and 13-6.
Those are the scores in the last two Florida games with Vanderbilt. Yes, those victories were as ugly and frustrating and emotionally draining as the scores would indicate.
“Let’s see, 9-7 and 13-6, and when you look at it historically,” McElwain said. “Noon kick.”
So, is there any reason to think there won’t be more of the same in The Swamp on Saturday — other than that lopsided Vanderbilt loss to the Tide last Saturday in Nashville?
It’s human nature to look at that 59-0 score and assume the Gators are looking at a possible breather Saturday.
“Absolutely, (it’s human nature),” McElwain said. “I don’t think you deny it. And yet, our guys got nothing out of Vanderbilt getting their tails kicked by Alabama.”
There are two good reasons for the Gators and their fans to ignore 59-0.
One, it was Alabama, and Alabama has a track record for making good teams look really bad at times, just like the Tide did to Florida the past two years in the SEC Championship Game.
Two, the history of the UF-Vandy series — the recent, and not so recent.
In the not-so-recent category, look at the 1996 game. That UF team went on to win the national championship and is, arguably, the best team in school history, but the Gators received a huge scare from Vanderbilt, barely hanging on for a 28-21 win in Nashville.
In the recent category, the Commodores came into Gainesville in 2013 and thrashed the Gators 34-17 in what would be a 4-8 season for UF. In the last two games in the series, UF has had to survive two defensive struggles that both went down to the wire.
The Gators have had problems generating any kind of sustainable offense against the Commodores. UF combined to average only 11.0 points and 205.5 total yards in the two narrow wins. In the 13-6 game last season, the Gators had only 15 first down and just 92 yards rushing.
In the 9-7 win in 2015, the Gators passed for only 30 yards and finished with only 175 yards of total offense.
The Commodores have been a difficult and uncomfortable challenge for the Gators the past two years. UF is bracing for more of the possible same this week, despite that 59-0 score.
“I feel like what they did last week has nothing to do with what they’re capable of,” middle linebacker David Reese said. “I know they’re going to give us their best game, especially coming off a loss like that. So, they’re going to try to give us all they’ve got. We’ve just got to be prepared for whatever they’ve got.”
McElwain certainly isn’t reading anything into what happened to Vanderbilt a week ago. That game is irrelevant, he said.
“No matter what you want to say about what happened last week, there are a lot of people that that happens to when they play Alabama,” McElwain said. “(Vanderbilt) is a team that is more than capable and is very good. They’re a veteran team. Take away last week.
“Derek (Mason) does an outstanding job. I’ve known Derek a long time. I know what a good coach he is, how much his players play for him. And, more than that, the direction they’ve gone. I think everybody can see what they’ve done with their program.”
Reese said they’re won’t be a Gator letdown Saturday.
“(The Commodores) have a great running back, a great backfield and things like that,” Reese said. “But I think this game is going to be mostly about us and how we come out and execute against a team like that. This is a big game and another SEC game in our division, so most important for us.”
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu’s blog at Gatorsports.com.
Who: Vanderbilt (3-1, 0-1 SEC) vs. No. 21 Florida (2-1, 2-0)
Where: Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850