In 1945 gas was 21 cents per gallon, Bing Crosby won the Oscar for best actor and World War II was in its last year. 1945 was also the first time the Vanderbilt Commodores played the Florida Gators in football, and the last time the Commodores left Gainesville with a victory. All that changed Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium with Vanderbilt’s 34-17 win over the Gators.
The win snaps Vanderbilt’s 22-game losing streak against the Gators dating back to 1988 and 34 was the second-most points any Vanderbilt team has ever scored in a game against Florida in regulation, falling just shy of the 35 scored in 2005.
Vandy head coach James Franklin may resemble a history teacher with his collared shirt, black slacks and wire frame glasses but he wasn’t interested at all about the past after the victory.
“[Our coaching staff] has only been here three years,” Franklin said after the game. “As a program, we’ve been here three years, we don’t talk about the last 80 years we focus on things that we can control and those other things are outside of our area of control.”
On this beautiful fall day his Commodores had control the entire afternoon, never once trailing in the game.
The story of Florida’s demise was turnovers, four in all, and the self-inflicted wounds certainly took their toll. The Commodores were able to tally 21 points on scoring drives of 22, 10 and four yards all following Florida quarterback Tyler Murphy’s three interceptions. Murphy certainly isn’t alone among Florida signal callers with multi-interception games, but besides a 2011 game against Florida State, the three today were the most a Florida quarterback has thrown since 2006. That year, Chris Leak also gave a trio of gifts to the opposing team in a game. The opponent that particular day? The Vanderbilt Commodores.
The four total takeaways his team obtained wasn’t lost on Franklin.
“The difference in the game was the turnovers,” 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, our offense was in a short field a lot of times.”
Advantageous field position led to quick points for Vanderbilt’s offense while Florida was struggling to mount any kind of drive that would result in a score of any type. It was 10-0 at the end of the first quarter, and 17-0 before the Gators could answer with a 23-yard Brad Phillips field goal. Twice the Commodores swelled their lead to 21 points and the constant deficit forced the Gators out of their comfort zone offensively, where they had to live or die on the arm of Tyler Murphy.
Murphy attempted 46 passes against Vanderbilt, the most attempts for a Florida quarterback in a single game since 2002 and the first time since 2005 a Gator quarterback has thrown more than 40. Florida ran the ball 34 times and netted 39 yards, both low totals for a single game this season and numbers that reflect Florida’s ineptitude.
This isn’t your daddy’s Vanderbilt team the Gators faced. Vanderbilt came into Gainesville with the same (4-4) record as the Gators, but left with a 5-4 mark and all the confidence in the world.
“Tonight we’re going to be focused on Florida and enjoying this win,” Franklin said. “I expect that there’s going to be 30,000 fans waiting for us in Nashville right there by Star Walk. It’s going to be awesome, can’t wait to see them.”
After a historic loss the number of cynics calling for Florida head coach Will Muschamp’s job grew even more numerous. As Franklin neared the end of his press conference a man slid quietly into the room. The two shook hands and smiled at each other as the man congratulated Franklin while they each left the room. There are some that hope that man is in fact Franklin’s next boss. You see, the man who shook Franklin’s hand wasn’t a member of the media, an assistant coach or someone handing out stat sheets. He was none other than Jeremy Foley, Florida’s athletic director.