As I wrote before Florida’s game against Vanderbilt, I can remember vividly walking off of Florida Field in 2013 and overhearing two lineman lamenting at the fate they had just faced, which was losing to Vanderbilt for the first time in 22 years and at homecoming no less.
“Man we just lost to Vandy. Vandy man.”
On Saturday night though I walked around the field at Vanderbilt Stadium, and not only saw a different picture but picked up on some much more exuberant conversations. I also had this intimate moment with Albert that I’d like to share with you all and illustrate just how far out of hand this game got in Florida’s favor.
After knocking out their SEC east foe with 34-10 win — that’s really not even indicative as to how much Florida controlled the game — Gator players immediately took their post win spot in front of the band to raise their voices in song. Well, really just the alma mater and fight song, but it sounds better the first way.
After wins, players usually eat up the post game jubilation, stunting and posing for pictures that they can then edit up on Instagram. Latroy Pittman was the first to jump in, even arranging his and Marcus Maye’s helmets as props. They smiled for the pictures but the joy stayed even after the camera clicks stopped. It especially kicked up with some sweet dance moves from the guys.
And this year, as they ran off the field, the loudest exclamation I heard was senior safety and Miami native, Jabari Gorman, saying to another player, “Man let’s get out of here. It’s cold!” Now granted, it was very cold. Not like fur-lined parka cold, and really anyone that lives north of the Mason-Dixon line would thumb their noses at our thin, Florida blood, but it was 34 degrees and when you are from the Sunshine State that’s just more than your body can bare.
But just one year removed from a 4-8 season, this team is one more win away from being bowl eligible and is on a two-week win streak that has garnered them at least one vote in the newest coaches poll (let’s not comment on the state of the program that this is a big deal). If the weather was their biggest problem at that time, then it’s a good problem to have.
There was a lot more good to focus on as well, the defense being a huge point of emphasis. Vandy gained 308 total yards and only 83 of those were rushing. The only real complaint the defense had was Dores QB Johnny McCrary eluding several sacks and then spending the night with pressure in his face (stats read three QB hurries, but there was much more pressure) but still managing to get passes off. You can hear what Neiron Ball had to say about the frustrations below. Note: They still played well enough that Ball mostly just laughed at McCrary’s “shifty-ness”.
The defense stepped up stopping Vandy’s freshman running back stud and Gainesville’s own Ralph Webb and grabbing 3 interceptions including this beast one-handed one from Jalen Tabor. And then there was the offense that may not have rushed through like a Mack truck as they did versus Georgia, but the attack was much more balanced, gaining 214 on the ground and 215 through the air. And even though Driskel’s touchdown was “technically” a rushing touchdown, I’m all on board for calling it “Air Driskel”.
Treon Harris showed he’s anything but a nervous freshman and stayed composed enough to go 13-21 for 215 yards and 2 touchdowns and then picking up 59 yards and 2 more touchdowns on the ground. That steadfast confidence wasn’t surprising to his teammates — including defensive back Vernon Hargreaves — who says he got a glimpse of it before the Georgia game.
“I was kinda nervous for him just cause it’s a big game and I went up to him before the game and I was talking to him and he was just like ‘I’m ready’ and I’m like ‘Ok’ [laughs] and obviously he was.”
He’ll get a chance along with the rest of his teammates to show that confidence again versus South Carolina next weekend and their last hopes of possibly just maybe making the SEC Championship game in December. I’ll keep an ear out on the field for you. The conversations there tell the tale.