Five thoughts from the Gators 38-17 win over Vanderbilt

Kyle Trask continues breaking records
The dream season continued for the Texas gunslinger. Trask threw for 375 yards and 3 touchdowns. Despite a slow start he now has thrown for more passing touchdowns than any SEC quarterback through their team’s first seven games and has the second most passing touchdowns of any NCAA quarterback through his first seven games. Trask and the Gators offense has also scored 35 points in nine consecutive games, a Florida record. That’s right, no Spurrier or Tim Tebow offense has scored points at this kind of rate or pace. It’s truly been a special season for Trask and the Gators.

Typical Nashville game for the Gators
You could see it coming. It’s an 11 am kickoff against an 0-6 Vanderbilt team that, on paper, shouldn’t be able to play with you. What happens?

Vanderbilt gets the ball first and promptly drives the ball down for an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. The ‘Dores drove 68 yards on 12 plays their next time with the ball to re-take the lead, 10-7. Prior to this game Vanderbilt had been outscored 66-3 in the first quarter. Not today.

It wasn’t just today for the Gators, though. This is a thing for the football program when they play in Nashville.

In 2016 Florida won 13-6. In 2018, Dan Mullen’s first trip to Nashville as the Gators’ head coach, his team trailed 21-3 at halftime. In 2006 the score was 25-19. You get the picture, Florida has a history of coming out flat in Nashville.

This trip was weird for a new set of reasons also. It was Florida’s first road trip since the Texas A&M game that ended up in a COVID outbreak that cost Florida two weeks in the middle of the season. Florida required everyone to wear N95 masks on the plane and in the team hotel. They opted to get ready, tapped up and dressed, at the hotel rather than at the field, where Vanderbilt has a small locker room. The size of the locker room also made the coaching staff decide to keep the team on the field at halftime as well.

It was different but nobody used it as an excuse. At the end of the day the Gators leave Nashville with a 38-17 win and a 6-1 record.

Will the defense ever get right?
Florida’s defense got better as the game went on, but this is another performance they won’t brag about. Florida gave up more points to Vanderbilt in the first quarter than the Commodores had scored in every single first quarter combined in the rest of their games. Vandy had 138 yards in the first quarter and finished with 406 yards. They had more yards against Kentucky, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State, not exactly the defenses you want to be lumped in with this year. Florida was able to dial up some pressure later in the game and that started to effect Vanderbilt quarterback Ken Seals but the freshman still threw for 319 yards, the second most passing yards he’s thrown for in his young career.

Dan Mullen was asked about rotating in more young players on defense, and the head coach admitted it was something that needs to happen more often.

“I want to roll guys early, I don’t think we did defensively,” Mullen said. “I think offensively we did a good job of that, on defense I was a little disappointed, I got on it, we haven’t been rolling guys and I’m like ‘Hey, I want to roll these guys through.’ We get a long season, you’ve got to develop guys, we’ve got to stay fresh for four quarters and the best way to do that is roll guys through and build depth and experience. And you’ve got to do it early in the game, and I don’t think that’s something that I will address, but you know, that wasn’t done earlier in the game.”

The Gators have their sights set on a championship and that means playing Alabama in the SEC Championship. If you’re serious about winning that game and then playing for a National Championship the defense needs to step up.

Kemore Gamble and Keon Zipperer step up
When Kyle Pitts was knocked out of the Georgia game with a concussion and a broken nose that needed surgery the Gators’ offense was immediately questioned. Would Trask and the Gators be able to move the ball and score without their biggest weapon? Who would step up to replace Pitts and his eight touchdowns? Kemore Gamble and Keon Zipperer, that’s who.

The duo combined for 10 catches, 203 yards and five touchdowns in Pitts’ absence, not to mention how valuable Gamble was as a blocker during Florida’s 200-plus yard rushing performance against Arkansas. Pitts is likely gone for the NFL after this season but these two tight ends will leave the Gators in a good place at the position moving forward.

“We probably don’t rotate them as much as we have everybody else but now all of a sudden they’ve had their opportunities and those guys have really stepped up big and played well.”

Get the receivers some stick’em
I won’t dwell on this too much but it was an issue today. Kyle Trask finished 26-of-35 but I counted at least five drops from receivers and maybe six if you count Rick Wells not knowing where the back of the end zone is on a would-be touchdown. It’s nit-picky, for sure, but just something that stood out on the day.

Nick de la Torre
A South Florida native, Nick developed a passion for all things sports at a very young age. His love for baseball was solidified when he saw Al Leiter’s no-hitter for the Marlins live in May of 1996. He was able to play baseball in college but quickly realized there isn’t much of a market for short, slow outfielders that hit around the Mendoza line. Wanting to continue with sports in some capacity he studied journalism at the University of Central Florida. Nick got his first start in the business as an intern for a website covering all things related to the NFL draft before spending two seasons covering the Florida football team at Bleacher Report. That job led him to GatorCountry. When he isn’t covering Gator sports, Nick enjoys hitting way too many shots on the golf course, attempting to keep up with his favorite t.v. shows and watching the Heat, Dolphins and Marlins. Follow him on twitter @NickdelatorreGC