NASHVILLE, TN — The Florida offense was provided with two outstanding
opportunities courtesy of the stellar first half play of Ryan Smith and
Reggie Nelson. These playmakers once again turned in performances, when
coupled with their play through a difficult season is worthy of
All-Southeastern Conference post-season recognition.
Smith didn’t wait long for his moment in the bright Tennessee sunshine. On the Commodores’ fourth play from scrimmage, Smith blew through the left side to block Brett Upson’s punt. The ball was recovered on the Vanderbilt six yard line. Two plays later the Gators scored.
The cornerback had six tackles and a key interception that thwarted a Vanderbilt drive after the Commodores had moved to the Florida 45 yard line. The Gators were holding on to a 15-6 lead at the time.
Nelson recorded only three tackles in the first half, but two of them were big play tackles. His first came when Vanderbilt receiver Earl Bennett hauled in a 17 yard pass from quarterback Chris Nickson to the Florida 13 yard line. Another when running back Cassen Jackson-Garrison ran right through the middle of the Florida defense
The Florida eraser blocked a punt of his own in the second quarter with Jermaine McCollum recovering the ball at the Vanderbilt 28 yard line. However, quarterback Chris Leak threw an interception on the following play.
“Ryan Smith and Reggie Nelson did a tremendous job,” Florida head coach Urban Meyer said in his post game interview. “They are fast players and they did a tremendous job today.”
The second half was no all-star performance.
Smith suffered through a tough series early in the fourth quarter when he was flagged for hitting the facemask of Vanderbilt quarterback Chris Nickson. He was later flagged once more for pass interference. After the Commodores scored on the series, Smith was able to get a hand on the ball and disrupt the completion on the two-point conversion to allow the Gators to hold on to a 13 point lead.
“Overall, in the first half- it may have been the best I’ve ever played,” Smith said. “But, the second half, I kind of did a poor job. I missed a couple of tackles and the two penalties I had the pass interference and the face-to-face with the quarterback. I probably could have played a lot better in the second half. I think that we came out (in the second half) a little relaxed and not like we should have. And the offense, giving them the ball back on the turnovers that didn’t help the attitiude of the defense. We lost our swagger.”