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Andreu's Answers: Another sluggish start for Gators in Nashville

Robbie Andreu
Gator Sports
Florida tight end Kemore Gamble leaves Vanderbilt's De'Rickey Wright (30) behind as he scores a touchdown in the second half Saturday in Nashville, Tenn. Florida won 38-17.

Before every Florida game, veteran college football beat writer Robbie Andreu comes up with five pertinent questions and then answers them after the game. Here’s Week 7:

1. Two years ago in Nashville, the Gators fell behind 21-3 in the first half. Will they come out slow again or get off to a fast start this time?

We can conclude that the Gators definitely don’t like those 11 a.m. local time kickoffs because, yes, they came out sluggish again. And the Commodores didn’t. They came out with energy and emotion, taking the opening kickoff and driving 75 yards for a touchdown and the early lead. The secondary seemed to be sleep walking, the way the Vanderbilt receivers were easily getting wide open. True freshman quarterback Ken Seals had time in the pocket and was 5 for 5 for 61 yards on the drive. The Florida offense answered with a touchdown drive, but then went to sleep for the rest of the first quarter and the Gators found themselves playing from behind again, 10-7. So, slow start again in Nashville.

2. Will Kyle Trask throw for four or more touchdowns for the seventh game in a row?

After driving the Gators from their own 1-yard line past midfield midway through the fourth quarter, it looked like Trask might have an opportunity to get his fourth TD pass of the game. But that’s when coach Dan Mullen made the switch at quarterback, inserting Emory Jones, who carried the Gators the rest of the way to the end zone. It was Jones who threw UF’s fourth touchdown pass of the game, a 30-yarder to tight end Kemore Gamble, who had two TD catches in the second half. Trask seemed perfectly fine with the streak ending, saying after the game that he doesn’t care if he throws 10 touchdown passes or none in a game as long as the Gators win. 

3. Does the defense tighten up, or do the Gators give up more long scoring plays like the past two weeks?

It became apparent early in the game that the defense was going to struggle again and give up a bunch of chunk plays in the passing game. Vandy hit an 18-yard pass play on the second play of the game and drove right down the field from there for a TD and the early lead. For the game, the defense gave up pass plays of 35, 24 and 18 yards. And then there was the long touchdown again — a 58-yard TD pass from Seals to Chris Pierce late in the third quarter that cut UF’s lead to 31-17. It was a simple slant that Pierce turned into the sudden score when safety Shawn Davis missed a tackle right after Pierce made the catch. These kind of plays continue to happen against a porous defense.

4. Can the UF defense put steady pressure on Vanderbilt freshman quarterback Ken Seals?

This was easy to figure out. When the Gators pressured Seals, he was ineffective. When they didn’t, he picked apart the secondary. The Gators sacked Seals only twice, but they hurried him seven other times. Every time they did, he had problems completing passes and moving the offense. UF produced enough pressure to hold the Commodores to 17 points, but overall, Seals had enough time to throw for two touchdowns and 319 yards.

5. Vanderbilt running back Keyon Henry-Brooks has rushed for more than 100 yards in each of the last two games. Does that streak continue?

We knew the answer to this before kickoff, when Vanderbilt announced the injured running back would not be playing in the game. From the opening possession on, it was obvious Vandy’s game plan was to attack a suspect Florida secondary with the passing game. As a result, the Commodores did not produce much in the running game, gaining only 109 yards and averaging just 2.6 yards a carry. MItchell Pryor was the leading rusher with 44 yards.

— Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or robbie.andreu@gvillesun.com. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.

Up next

Who: Kentucky (3-5) vs. No. 5 Florida (6-1)

When: Noon Saturday

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

TV: ESPN

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850