It was a beautiful fall day, 70 degrees with a nice breeze sweeping through Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. It was homecoming, the first time the Gators had played in front of the Florida faithful in more than a month. Surely a 4-4 Vanderbilt team would give the Gators an outlet to let out the frustration of a three game losing streak. After all, Vanderbilt hadn’t beat Florida since the Reagan administration.
Then they kicked the ball off and things quickly turned sour for the announced crowd of 88,004. The unthinkable happened and Florida dropped its fourth straight game, falling below .500 for the first time since 1992.
It was a day to forget for the University of Florida but one that will stick out like a sore thumb forever in the record books.
Here are the five things that stood out during Florida’s 34-17 homecoming loss.
5. Florida’s kicker carousel keeps spinning.
Florida won the toss and deferred to the second half. The defense allowed Vanderbilt to drive 14-plays and 62 yards down the field but held strong in the red zone and forced a field goal.
Florida’s offense responded with a 13-play drive of their own but stalled at Vanderbilt’s 27. Austin Hardin trotted out for a 44-yard field goal attempt, pushing it wide right for his sixth miss of the year (4-10 on the season).
That was all she wrote for Hardin’s field goal attempts but the Gators threw a curveball in replacing Hardin with Brad Phillips — who had seemingly fallen off the kicking carousel in favor or Frankie Velez. Phillips came on in the second quarter and connected on a 27-yard field goal.
Hardin continued in his role kicking the extra point tries — he hit both he attempted on Saturday — but Saturday did very little to solve Florida’s kicking problems. The carousel continues to spin as the Gators prepare to take on the ‘Ole Ball Coach and the Gamecocks next week.
Are we sure Caleb Sturgis doesn’t have any eligibility left?
4. Gators get into the Christmas spirit early.
The holiday season is upon us and the Gators felt generous on Saturday, giving the ball away four times. That generosity was the difference in the game.
“Our defense was able to get turnovers,” Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin said. “If you look at it statistically, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but because of the turnovers that our defense was able to get, the offense had a short field a lot of times, and I think that was the difference in the game.”
Florida outgained Vanderbilt 344-183 on the day but Vanderbilt was able to capitalize off turnovers and put points on the board. Four of the six Vanderbilt scoring drives started in Florida territory and scored touchdowns following all three of Tyler Murphy’s interceptions.
3. Florida’s dirty laundry
Florida made sure that it’s position as the SEC’s most penalized team wouldn’t be challenged this week.
Florida was averaging 7.8 penalties per-game for 61.1 yards coming in but bested that mark with 11 flags for 84 yards on Saturday.
It’s a problem that is becoming a trend. Florida has been penalized for 70 yards or more in six of nine games this season and Florida’s inability to play a clean, mistake free game is alarming to say the least.
2. Vanderbilt plays smart
At the end of the 2011-2012 school calendar Vanderbilt University stood alone in the SEC with a 3.09 cumulative GPA. At a prestigious university like Vanderbilt, it’s no surprise that the Commodores came in with a smart, effective gameplan. The gameplan was simple: play a safe offensive football game and wait for the Gators to beat themselves.
That’s exactly what happened. Florida ran 80 plays to Vanderbilt’s 56. Of Vanderbilt’s 56 plays, just 12 were passes.
Think about that. Vanderbilt threw the ball 12 times for 57 yards and scored 34 points against Florida in The Swamp.
Vanderbilt came in with the gameplan to play conservative and let a team that has had issues with ball security recently and with penalties all season beat themselves.
Check and mate.
1. Showing class in defeat
Making the trip down from the press box to the South end zone meeting room for Will Muschamp’s post game press conference one thing really stood out to me.
It was a handful of Gators (I could only make out Kyle Crofoot, Johnny Townsend, Brad Phillips and Darrin Kitchen but there were a few more) that stayed on the field and sang the alma mater with the band.
It was something that Kitchens did after the Sugar Bowl — that time by himself — but it was a nice sight to see some Gators hang around after the game to support the band who is always there to support the team in wins and losses.