Florida versus Vanderbilt advanced stats review

The Gators romped in the Swamp against a bad Vanderbilt team on Saturday. While watching, it felt to me like the Commodores put up less of a fight than did Towson, one of the Gators’ FCS opponents. Those Tigers are presently ranked No. 21 in the FCS Coaches’ Poll, so maybe it’s not so far off.

I’ll be making some comparisons between Vandy and Towson as I go through the advanced stats breakdown to see just how far (or not) the ‘Dores are above a good but not great FCS team. This review is based on Bill Connelly’s Five Factors of winning, and sacks are counted as pass plays. It does not include the clock burning drives that ended each half.


Everyone has a different definition for what counts as an “explosive play”, but I go with runs of at least ten yards and passes of at least 20 yards.

Team Runs 10+ Pct. Passes 20+ Pct. Explosive Pct.
Vanderbilt 3 10.0% 0 0.0% 5.3%
Florida 8 29.6% 7 16.7% 21.7%

If there’s one bad thing about this game, it’s that it conclusively proved that Florida’s traditional running game is just not going to be all that good this year.

Why am I saying this now, when the table shows that the Gators had explosive runs on 30% of their carries? Because one (1) of them was by a running back, a 13-yard carry by Lamical Perine. The other seven came to Freddie Swain (one), Kadarius Toney (two), Emory Jones (two), and, as the cherry on top, Kyle Trask (two). Trask is mostly a willing runner, but he has no burst or elusiveness. He’s never once made anyone say “wow” when taking off except maybe in surprise, and he had twice as many explosive runs against a bad Vandy team as all the running backs combined.

Florida was more explosive with both the run and the pass against Vandy than it was against Towson, and the Commodores were less explosive than the Tigers were. Point here goes to the FCS team.


The main measure here is success rate. Watch this short video if you need to brush up on it.

Team Run SR Pass SR Overall SR Red Zone SR
Vanderbilt 23.3% 18.5% 21.1% 0.0%
Florida 63.0% 52.4% 56.5% 42.9%

Florida’s defense made Towson just bad at efficiency, whereas Vandy was dismal. I knew the offense would struggle with backup Deuce Wallace in, but this was terrible. UF really could focus all of its energy on the sole key to the game of stopping Ke’Shawn Vaughn because the passing game was utterly hopeless.

Florida was more efficient on the ground here but more so through the air against Towson. I’ll have more to say on the Gator offense in the players section.

Team 1Q SR 2Q SR 3Q SR 4Q SR
Vanderbilt 12.5% 14.3% 21.7% 33.3%
Florida 51.9% 47.4% 100.0% 50.0%

I can’t recall the Gators putting up a perfect 100% in a quarter in the five seasons that I’ve been doing these kinds of reviews for one site or another. They only ran eight plays in the period, so the small number helps them get there.

The two quick-strike scores combined with Jonathan Greenard’s long fumble return touchdown broke Vandy’s will for a time, and the five-play touchdown drive late in the frame with every play going at least 13 yards was the result. The Commodores did rebound a little after the quarter break, but the result was a foregone conclusion by then.

Efficiency by Player

Player Comp. Pct. Pass Eff. Yards/Att Sacks Pass SR
Kyle Trask 67.6% 165.9 9.8 2 51.3%
Deuce Wallace 38.9% 55.8 3.3 6 16.7%

Trask had a great game overall, but you can tell he’s still learning on the job. On his second sack, he had Toney open out of a break but hesitated. The first pick was a miscommunication, and it’s hard to know who was in the wrong; the second was a risky throw but did involve uncalled defensive pass interference. On the second play of the drive that led up to that pick, though, he threw at Josh Hammond while scrambling and it only wasn’t picked because two Vandy players tried to make a play on the ball at the same time. He also had two throws go badly awry because of his footwork. As good as he’s been, he still has room to grow.

There is a formula called adjusted net yards per passing attempt (ANY/A) that gives a yards per passing play rate that sacks, penalizes interceptions, and rewards touchdowns. It’s very much like passing efficiency, only it factors sacks and is termed in a yards per play rate instead of an isolated number.

Wallace finished with an ANY/A of -1.17. When accounting for sacks and penalizing his pick, Vandy on average lost yardage any time it had him drop back to pass. That’s a dominating performance by the Gator defense. The adjustments imply Vandy would’ve been better off spiking the ball every time rather than actually attempting passes. This is up there with true freshman Nathan Peterman for worst SEC opponent passing performance I’ve seen against UF.

For comparison, Trask’s ANY/A was 8.3 in this game. The two sacks and two picks he threw bring his rate down about a yard and a half from the raw yards per attempt rate.

Player Targets Catches Yards Yards/Target SR
Lamical Perine 6 4 28 4.7 33.3%
Kyle Pitts 5 3 59 11.8 60.0%
Trevon Grimes 4 4 95 23.8 75.0%
Jacob Copeland 4 2 43 10.8 50.0%
Van Jefferson 4 3 36 9.0 75.0%
Tyrie Cleveland 3 3 51 17.0 66.7%
Josh Hammond 3 2 33 11.0 66.7%
Malik Davis 3 1 10 3.3 33.3%
Dameon Pierce 2 2 27 13.5 100.0%
Lucas Krull 2 2 18 9.0 50.0%
Kadarius Toney 1 1 10 10.0 100.0%
Freddie Swain 1 0 0 0.0 0.0%

Some of these yards per target rates are impressive given how many swings and screens were in the game plan.

Player Carries YPC Rushing SR
Kyle Trask 5 7.0 60.0%
Emory Jones 5 6.8 80.0%
Lamical Perine 4 3.3 50.0%
Malik Davis 3 2.3 33.3%
Nay’Quan Wright 3 2.0 33.3%
Kadarius Toney 2 19.5 100.0%
Dameon Pierce 2 1.5 50.0%
Freddie Swain 2 9.0 100.0%
Iverson Clement 1 5.0 100.0%

A week after Dan Mullen said he basically didn’t try to run the ball against Georgia, he barely tried against Vanderbilt. It was 60-40 in favor of the pass when you simply account for sacks, and it goes up to 64-36 when you factor in that two of Trask’s carries were scrambles on pass plays. Really the only reason the run game was even decent was the non-running backs getting so many carries and the backs themselves finally being good in short yardage situations.

Field Position

Team Avg. Starting Position Plays in Opp. Territory Pct. Of Total
Vanderbilt Own 25 11 19.3%
Florida Own 39 42 60.9%

It’s hard to dominate field position by much more than this. The Gators’ edge in average starting position was a yard smaller against Towson, and the Tigers even ran about 46% of their plays in Florida territory. Three of Vandy’s 11 plays on the plus side of the field came after the initial turnover on downs that happened in UF territory.

Finishing Drives

A trip inside the 40 is a drive where the team has a first down at the opponent’s 40 or closer or where it scores from further out than that. A red zone trip is a drive with a first down at the opponent’s 20 or closer.

Team Drives Trips Inside 40 Points Red Zone Trips Points Pts./Drive
Vanderbilt 13 2 0 1 0 0.00
Florida 13 10 49 8 42 3.77

The teams in this one each had five more possessions than the contestants in Florida-Towson, which is a testament to how much better the Gator defense was at getting the opposition offense off the field. Wallace is no Tom Flacco when it comes to extending drives via infuriating scrambles.

The ‘Dores never looked like they had a shot at scoring until well into garbage time, whereas the Tigers blew a couple chances early with an unforced fumble and a missed field goal. That’s the difference between having a quarterback (Flacco) and not.

Because of some struggles early, some of them self-inflicted, the Gators couldn’t match the 4.75 points per drive they rolled up against Towson. Evan McPherson just making his field goal would’ve put UF at an even 4 points per drive, though.


It wasn’t as clean as you’d like to see with Trask’s two interceptions, though again there was uncalled interference on the second one. The defense got three, though, with Greenard getting a feel-good score and Donovan Stiner answering some of his critics with a pair of picks. The Gators also did turn it over on downs in four plays on their opening drive, which isn’t ideal.


In the current Sagarin combined FBS and FCS ratings, Vandy is No. 109 and Towson is No. 129. That seems fair enough, since the Commodore defense is a little better and the offense is too when starting QB Riley Neal is on the field.

The shorthanded Vandy team that the Gators faced probably isn’t better than Towson, though. It goes to show how slim the margins are in Nashville, that they can go from marginal bowl team last year to bad this year via graduation and then awful after losing a grad transfer quarterback from Ball State.

With Mullen announcing that Brad Stewart’s injury wasn’t anything major, Florida got exactly what it needed from this game. They had fun, racked up a lot of points, never had to break a sweat, and got a lot of young guys a lot of playing time.

It’s hard to ask for more than that. There are some things to clean up heading into this weekend’s contest against Missouri, but no one ever plays a perfect game. The advanced stats show this win was just as dominating as it looked.

David Wunderlich
David Wunderlich is a born-and-raised Gator and a proud Florida alum. He has been writing about Florida and SEC football since 2006. He currently lives in Naples Italy, at least until the Navy stations his wife elsewhere. You can follow him on Twitter @Year2