Uneven No. 5 Florida Gators get it done at Vanderbilt

Pat Dooley
Gator Sports
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This is where we are in this season of the strange — Florida's quarterback threw for 383 yards and three touchdowns Saturday and everyone is kind of shrugging their shoulders.

This is where it is with Kyle Trask and the Florida offense. The Gators were 38 points and 586 yards good Saturday. And as Dan Mullen pointed out, "It was good enough today."

Good enough? Good enough to beat Alabama or win the national title? 

Simmer down there, peeps. That wasn't what was on the line.

Instead, on a Saturday with all of the atmosphere of a nursing home Bingo game, Florida only had to be good enough to beat one team, and that team is still winless in 2020. 

More:Five takeaways from Gators' 38-17 win at Vanderbilt

Maybe we all expected more, a destruction of biblical proportions. Instead, we got a Florida defense digging itself another hole and a Heisman Trophy candidate throwing a pass into the ground from five yards away to a wide open receiver.

"I made a couple of plays I wish I could have back," Trask said. 

Trask said he thought the Gators came out flat. And there was plenty of evidence that he was right. There were the 138 yards that Florida gave up on its first two defensive series. And the sack on third down when Trask ran into his own man. And the third drive that ended after four plays with Florida still trailing.

Now you could say the game turned when it appeared on the schedule, but the truth is it turned on the last drive of the first half and the first drive of the second half. 

Those two drives covered 160 yards and allowed Florida to score twice to turn a tie game into a 24-10 lead without the Commodores seeing the ball. 

The next UF drive went 91 yards, and it was all over but the press conferences. 

Of course, Florida's defense, never comfortable with a big lead, had to give up a 58-yard tackle-breaking touchdown and then allow another substantial drive just to make things interesting. 

"We have some things to clean up if we want to go where we want to go," said cornerback Kaiir Elam, whose interception in the fourth quarter put a nice bow on the victory.

And this is a team that is still on the path to where it wants to go at the end of the season. It's just that Saturday's game sometimes felt like turning your ankle on a root. It was not a win to be celebrated with Dom Perignon. More like a nice hard cider.

"I've got a smile on my face," Mullen said. "I never take a win for granted."

Nor should he. If nothing else, this will be offered up as a lesson to the 2020 team — if you don't practice well during the week, you probably won't play to the Gator standard on Saturday.

"We'd have a good day and then a bad day," Mullen said. "We were not as crisp. And it kind of looked that way (in the game). But I'm pleased the guys found a way to win.

"We stubbed our toe along the way."

Yeah, but that beats breaking your leg. 

Florida running back Malik Davis is hit by Vanderbilt safety Maxwell Worship in the second half Saturday in Nashville, Tenn.

This is a team that is 4-0 since its tough loss in College Station, Texas, 4-0 since shutting down the program for two weeks and 4-0 when one loss could screw up almost everything. 

But the expectations have become so high, we wonder what was ailing Trask to only throw three, THREE!, touchdown passes. My goodness, the humanity!

"We have to do a better job of bringing the energy as a team," he said. "We didn't have our best week of practice."

Yeah, Kyle. Your quarterback rating was only 194.5, and if I knew what that meant I'd really be upset. 

Look, having a mediocre day that ends with a three-touchdown victory has never derailed the best of teams. There are things about these Gators that are and should be a concern. It'd be nice to see Florida play the first quarter defensively like the game was on the line. 

"We have to come out with that same energy at the start of the game," Elam said.

And there are still moments when the secondary feels like a clean-up project with no brooms or dust pans. 

But this is your team, Florida fans. A team three points away from being unbeaten. A team with flaws buried beneath the heavy make-up that is a deadly offense.

Try to enjoy it.

 Even if it drives you crazy.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

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