Gators need to play loose

Saturday’s matchup with Vanderbilt (12:00 pm, ESPN3) may seem insignificant on a national scale but for the Gators, there is a lot at stake.

First, it’s Homecoming, and no one likes to lose at Homecoming. In fact, it should be illegal anywhere but Tallahassee.

More importantly, this game may decide whether or not Florida goes bowling this year. UF’s remaining schedule beyond the Commodores has home games with Georgia Southern and Florida State and a road affair with South Carolina. It’s not my place to say that the Gators can’t beat Florida State or South Carolina but we will be significant underdogs in each game. Assuming we can defeat Georgia Southern, a win against Vandy assures the Gators of a 6 win season and a bowl bid.

Yeah, I know. It’s depressing that we’ve been relegated to counting wins towards bowl eligibility. But we’re here, and we just have to weather the storm until more felicitous times arrive. And they will. They will, dear friends.

But how does one break down this matchup?

We all know of the injuries.

We all know of the offensive struggles.

We all know of our record.

We all know that Vanderbilt, while capable and traditionally a tough opponent even for great Gator teams, is not exactly Alabama.

To me, what will matter tomorrow and what may define the future of the Muschamp regime …

Is whether or not he has our guys sufficiently ready to play.

He didn’t do it last week. If he doesn’t do it tomorrow, he may be applying for unemployment benefits.

This Vanderbilt team is not a bunch of paper tigers. Or paper commodores. Vandy is 4-4 with a home win over Georgia and close road losses at South Carolina and Ole Miss. The Commodores employ perhaps the best wide receiver in the SEC in Jordan Matthews and perhaps the best R&B lead singer of all time in Lionel Richie. Perhaps we can neutralize Matthews via Vernon Hargreaves, Marcus Roberson and Louchiez Purifoy. But the romantic advances of Richie? Have you HEARD Penny Lover??? No woman can resist that.

Jokes aside, we should match up well with Vandy from a defensive perspective. Injuries have taken their toll on our defense as they have on our offense but we still should be able to hold the ‘Dores under 20. The question is, can we score 20?

I think we will. I think we’re going to see a loose, effervescent game plan tomorrow which will employ a heavy dose of Kelvin Taylor and a lot of freestyle for Tyler Murphy. I think even Brent Pease, who appears to be as thick as a Webster’s dictionary or a Kardashian’s rear end, can see that Tyler Murphy plays best when he is given the opportunity to improvise and make plays on the fly. I think he gives him exactly the freedom he needs.

I think we’re going to see a lot of press coverage and a lot of pressure on QB Patton Robinette who, like Tyler, is a second stringer. Vandy’s leading rusher is Jerron Seymour, and he’s a good back. Currently he has 479 yards on the year and nine touchdowns. But he’s not a gamebreaker. There’s no reason to think this offense should be able to score 20+ points against our defense.

But how does this offense get to 20+ points? This Vanderbilt defense held Austin Peay to three points and Massachusetts to seven. Everyone else has moved up and down the field on them. There is no reason WHY we can’t do the same. It’ll just come down to play calling and execution.

Send Quinton Dunbar deep a few times. Send Solomon Patton deep. Run jet sweeps with Patton. Keep Kelvin in the game and let him be your workhorse. Let Tyler run around and make plays.

I could say this coaching staff has nothing to lose at this point, but it’s obviously not true. Their jobs, first and foremost, come to mind. But they do need to coach tomorrow as though they’re playing with house money.

For some strange reason, I see us firing on all cylinders tomorrow and winning comfortably, which is rare for us against Vandy. I see a 31-14 type of game in which we’re in control the whole time. From my keyboard to God’s Orange and Blue ears, right?

Go Gators.

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Thor Kolnes
Sports and writing have always been passions of mine. I was unfortunate enough to be born in Cincinnati, Ohio and even more unfortunate to be born with an unwavering sense of loyalty. I chose the Gators in a Cub Scout meeting as a young boy after my parents moved us to Florida and I have never looked back. Suffice it to say the loyalty to the Gators has paid off but the Bengals and the Reds are withholding their dividends. Geographical determinism made me a Reds and Bengals fan, but God's grace made me a Gator.