Five takeaways from No. 5 Florida Gators' 38-17 win at Vanderbilt

Robbie Andreu
Gator Sports
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. —  Steve Spurrier may have to make another trip to Dan Mullen’s office Monday morning, bottle of wine in hand.

 Mullen’s offense surpassed Spurrier’s in yet another category Saturday in Florida’s 38-17 win over Vanderbilt.

 It was the ninth game in a row that the No. 5 Gators’ have scored 35 points or more, eclipsing the record of eight set by Spurrier’s offense in 1996 and 2008.

 When the Gators (6-1) set the school record for total offense against an SEC opponent in the opener against Ole Miss, Spurrier presented Mullen with a small bottle of wine the following Monday.

 More vino may be forthcoming.

 Then again, maybe not.

 “I don’t know if I’m going to get much for that one,” Mullen said. “But it was good enough.”

 That’s probably the best way to describe UF’s overall performance. It wasn’t anything special, but it was good enough to get out of town with a victory that was harder to get than many were expecting.

 Mullen said it was a reflection of what went on in practice earlier in the week.

 “I thought we were a little bit blah a couple of days,” he said. “That was kind of top to bottom. We had a good day and then a bad day, a good day and then a bad day of practice this week.

 “It kind of looked that way offensively and defensively (today). A good drive, a bad drive, a good drive, a bad drive. So I'm really pleased with our guys finding a way to win and suck it up and be good enough to win and make the plays we need to to win despite not playing at our top, our best for the entire game."

The five takeaways from the Gators' win:

Trask tracker

Florida quarterback Kyle Trask completed 26 of 35 passes for 383 yards and three touchdowns Saturday against Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tenn.

Trask failed to throw four or more touchdowns in a game for the first this season. But he still put together a Heisman-like performance, throwing for three touchdowns and 383 yards and leading the Gators on a game-clinching 99-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.

 Trask now has 31 touchdowns for the season.

 “Like I’ve said from the beginning, we’re here to win games,” Trask said. “I’ve said this enough times, I don’t care if I throw 10 touchdowns or zero touchdowns, I just want to win. We did a great job. We started a little flat, but we did a great job coming together and finding a way. This was a huge win for us.”

More:Five questions with Florida quarterback Kyle Trask

 Gamblin’ Dan

 Leading only 17-10 early the the third quarter, Mullen elected to go four a fourth-and-one from his 34-yard line. Getting stuffed there could have been a potential disaster, but running back Dameon Pierce, with second effort, gained two yards and a first down.

 The Gators went on to score a touchdown on a 1-yard run by Pierce to build a two-touchdown lead.

 “We felt comfortable with the call and our ability to be able to get it,” Mullen said. “And it also would give us an opportunity to really separate us in the course of the game. It wasn’t just the fourth down, but going out and getting the touchdown afterwards.

  “It gave you the touchdown right before (the end of the first half) and the touchdown to start the second half. You have a 14-point swing really without them really threatening. That’s something you want to be able to do throughout the course of the game.”

One positive, many affected

UF announced earlier in the week that there had been only one positive test for COVID-19 over the past week, which sounds like a good thing. But, in reality, that one test impacted a heck of a lot more than just one player due to contact tracing.

The school announced just before kickoff that 15 players were unavailable for Saturday’s game. Some of those players were injured, others were given no specific reason for sitting out. Of the 15 players, 11 were scholarship players and three were starters — two on defense and one on offense.

So, one test affected many, which shows you what UF and other teams across the country are going to be dealing with on a weekly basis for the rest of the season.

Short-handed defense

Defensive players dominated the list of unavailables. Two starters — defensive end Jeremiah Moon and James Houston — were out, along with eight other scholarship defensive players. The Gators, already thin at linebacker, really struggled in the first quarter and then again after the Gators built what appeared to be a commanding lead in the third quarter.

And that linebacker corps became even thinner when starting middle linebacker Ventrell Miller left the game with an injury late in the first half.

In the second half, when Vandy was trying to get back in the game — and moving up and down the field at times — the Gators had multiple back-ups in the game, including redshirt freshman linebacker Jesiah Pierre, who filled in for Miller.

It was a struggle all the way, but the Gators made enough plays to protect the lead in the second half.

Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham always says injuries help you build depth. Well, the defense is really building it right now.

Thriving without Pitts

Many naturally assumed that when tight end Kyle Pitts, one of the nation’s elite offensive players, was removed from the offense with a concussion that it would have a considerable impact on the Florida passing game.

 But, for the second week in a row, his absence was barely noticed.

 That’s because, just like against Arkansas a week earlier, some of the wide receivers — Trevon Grimes and Justin Shorter, in particular — produced big, explosive plays and one of the backup tight ends came up big again, with Kemore Gamble catching two second-half touchdown passes, including a 34-yarder in the fourth quarter that put the game away. Keon Zipperer caught two TD pass in the win over Arkansas.

 “(Gamble) and Zipperer have been very reliable and very hard working throughout the week and they’re just making the most of their opportunity to be on the field,” Trask said. “They’ve going to keep working and keep getting more shots and that group is doing a great job.”

Up next

Who: Kentucky vs. Florida

When: 12 p.m. Nov. 28

Where: Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium


Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850

Florida tight end Kemore Gamble catches a touchdown pass ahead of Vanderbilt safety Justin Harris (11) in the second half Saturday in Nashville, Tenn.
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