Abolverdi's Answers: Gators improve red-zone efficiency, cut down on penalties vs. Vandy

Zach Abolverdi
Gator Sports

Before every Florida game, Sun college football beat writer Zach Abolverdi comes up with five pertinent questions and then answers them after the game. Here's Week 6 after the Gators' 42-0 win over Vanderbilt:

Florida wide receiver Jacob Copeland reaches for the end zone to score a third-quarter touchdown Saturday against Vanderbilt at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Are the Gators able to clean up their penalty issues from the UK loss?

After being flagged 15 times for 115 yards in Lexington, the program’s most penalties in a game since 2001, Florida nearly cut that number in half against Vanderbilt. Eight of those 15 penalties at Kentucky were false starts, and the Gators had just one Saturday on Stewart Reese. The offensive line was also flagged for three holding penalties, and an illegal formation penalty on Keon Zipperer negated Anthony Richardson’s 8-yard run on third-and-2. The Gators committed eight penalties for 80 yards Saturday, including Tre’Vez Johnson’s targeting ejection and a questionable personal foul on Mohamoud Diabate. 

Does Emory Jones avoid turnovers and score red-zone touchdowns?

The Gators failed to score red-zone touchdowns twice in the fourth quarter against UK, and Vandy entered Saturday’s game ranked 61st nationally in red-zone defense. The ’Dores had allowed opponents to score touchdowns in the red zone just 57.69 percent of the time, but Florida found the end zone on all four of its trips inside the 20. Two of Emory Jones’ career-high four touchdown passes were in the red zone, including a 9-yard score to Trent Whittemore on third-and-goal. After the Gators went up 42-0 midway through the third, Jones did throw an inconsequential interception late in the quarter before sitting out the fourth. 

How many total yards for UF after its 400-yard streak was snapped last week?

Kentucky held the Gators to 382 total yards, snapping their nation-leading 14-game streak of 400-plus yards. Florida got back on track against Vandy and amassed over 400 yards for the 15th time in its last 16 games, racking up 479 total yards in 62 plays. That was UF’s lowest snap count of the season as the ’Dores dominated the time of possession, 36:10-23:50. With their offensive numbers Saturday, the Gators now have the second-most rushing yards through six games (1,642) since 1975 and the second-most total yards through six games (3,024 total yards) in the last 20 years — behind only the 2020 campaign (3,070 yards).

Can Vandy’s Ken Seals match his 319 pass yards vs. the Gators in 2020?

Not even close. After allowing one of just three 300-yard passing games last season for Vanderbilt quarterback Ken Seals, the Gators held him to under 200 yards passing Saturday. Seals, coming off a 333-yard performance in a win over UConn, struggled in his start at The Swamp. He was sacked three times, picked off twice and threw for 192 yards on 22-of-43 passing with no touchdowns. Florida was able to limit him through the air despite a depleted secondary. Preseason All-America cornerback Kaiir Elam (knee sprain) missed his third consecutive game and Johnson was tossed at the end of the first quarter. 

Will Florida hold the ’Dores scoreless for the second time in three years? 

The Gators pitched their first shutout since 2019, but not without some help. The score could have been 21-13 at halftime if not for two missed field goals and a goal-line stand from UF’s defense at the 1-yard line, including a pass breakup by Jason Marshall Jr. on fourth-and-goal. Following Jones’ interception, Vandy kicker Joseph Bulovas missed a third kick to preserve the shutout for Florida. The 42-0 win Saturday marked the program’s fourth shutout under Mullen and his second SEC shutout, both against the ’Dores. The previous three shutouts for Mullen and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham all came during the 2019 season.

—  Zach Abolverdi is a staff writer for The Gainesville Sun. He can be reached at zabolverdi@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @ZachAbolverdi

Up next

Who: No. 17 Florida (4-2, 2-2 SEC) vs. LSU (3-3, 1-2)

When: 12 p.m. Saturday

Where: Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge, La.

TV: ESPN

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850