It wasn’t the prettiest win the Gators ever had, but they managed to find a way to erase a 21-3 first half deficit and leave Nashville with a win. Despite what we all saw with our eyes, the advanced stats mostly like what Florida did throughout with a couple of notable exceptions. Let’s go through them together to see what they have to say.
This review is based on Bill Connelly’s Five Factors of winning, and sacks are counted as pass plays. It does not include last kneeldown to end the game.
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.|
The biggest single player in this phase of the game was Vandy RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn. He’s the team’s only player with outstanding speed, and he showed it in his 48-yard run that got the Commodores out of their own end zone and his 75-yard touchdown reception on a screen. Once VU lost him for the game to injury, the big plays largely dried up as he personally accounted for two of their five total.
That was huge, because Vandy lives and dies by the big play on offense. It’s a terribly inefficient offense that springs some long gains to compensate. Without Vaughn, it became just terribly inefficient. Speaking of…
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|
Florida held a 91-to-58 advantage in total plays run because it was by far the better team at moving the chains. Efficiency and success rate are all about staying on schedule and being good on a down-by-down basis, and the Gators definitely were. Vandy, true to its 2018 form, was pretty bad at keeping the ball moving consistently.
|Team||1Q SR||2Q SR||3Q SR||4Q SR|
The high first quarter mark for the Commodores is pretty much all about their second drive, the one that went end zone to end zone. They kept Florida off balance with the run and pass, and they got Kalijah Lipscomb going with a 15-yard rush and 15-yard reception. Other than that and their quick three-and-out to start the game, Florida held the ball the rest of the way in the opening frame.
The Gators held the ball most of every quarter, coming away with a 12-and-a-half minute advantage in time of possession. Their fourth quarter figure there is spectacular, a combination of them finishing strong and Vandy’s defense just breaking down from having spent so much time on the field. You wanted to see a difference in the fourth quarter from the new strength and conditioning regime? This might be the clearest example we see all year.
Efficiency by Player
|Player||Comp. Pct.||Pass Eff.||Yards/Att||Sacks||Pass SR|
Franks took a couple of sacks and had two first half turnovers, but other than that, this was one of his better games statistically in the end. After the end zone pick against LSU, just taking a couple of sacks when he was toast instead of trying to make something happen actually does count as a slight bit of progress.
Shurmur has always had trouble getting a passing efficiency above 120 against defenses with a pulse, and Florida’s has more than a pulse this year. Without the 75-yard screen to Vaughn, his line drops to 48.6% completed for 4.4 yards per attempt with a passing efficiency of 98.7 and a success rate of 27.8%. That giant bust aside, UF’s pass defense had a great day.
Receiver usage continues to be unpredictable, and not necessarily in the way that good offenses keep defenses guessing.
Hammond caught passes of Florida’s first two plays of the game and was never targeted again. Swain was quiet for the second straight week after being so productive early, and Grimes was a non-factor again. Meanwhile Toney got four targets, which is high for him, and Perine suddenly (and appropriately) became the running back who got nearly all the pass targets. Pitts looked good despite only hauling in one catch, and Cleveland made a couple of tough grabs at key spots.
This game became the Perine show for a stretch in the first half, but Pierce’s fumble aside, all three backs had good showings. The top two traded roles for a week with Perine getting the most carries with a lower average but higher efficiency and Scarlett getting fewer rushes but with a higher average.
Going with three backs didn’t seem as disruptive here as it did early in the year because Florida ran enough plays to feed all three. They ran more than double the 44 plays they had against Colorado State, so everyone got plenty.
Franks was again inconsistent and sometimes awkward with his runs, but like everyone else he was efficient. He got credit for a 35-yard loss on the second half fumble, which is why his average is negative despite his success rate being above 50%. Toss out that and he had a 3.0 average on eight carries with a 62.5% success rate.
|Team||Avg. Starting Position||Plays in Opp. Territory||Pct. Of Total|
The Gators took an uncharacteristic L in this factor. Vandy had three short fields thanks to two turnovers and the targeting flag-aided punt return that caused the second quarter shouting match. A bad play by Toney on the third quarter kickoff and a quick three-and-out also gave Vandy the ball at midfield.
Coming into the game UF had been one of the best and Vanderbilt one of the worst in the country in field position, but trends sometimes flip in a single game.
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|
Neither team was all that great at stopping the other once an offense generated a scoring opportunity. Florida failed to get points on Franks’s turnovers and Vandy missed a short field goal, but otherwise, all scoring opportunities produced points. The Commodores actually generated slightly more points per scoring opportunity, 4.5 to UF’s 4.1.
The key to the turnaround was the Gator defense preventing scoring opportunities. Turnovers and special teams, two strengths of Florida’s coming in, were mostly responsible for the Commodores’ scoring opportunities during their long scoring drought after they got to 21 points, though before then the defense was plenty to blame.
Florida’s heretofore good turnover luck turned over in this one. Franks threw a pick in a situation when they shouldn’t have been throwing anyway, and he did not have good ball security when he fumbled. Nor, really, did Pierce when he put it on the ground. Studies have shown that recovering fumbles is pretty much all luck, and so UF was unfortunate that they lost both.
The Gators did get their customary game-sealing interception near the end, but they otherwise couldn’t get VU to cough it up.
Florida got to experience an unusually big come-from-behind win, as the last time they erased a deficit as large as 18 and won was the 2003 Kentucky game. There’s a reason why such events are rare: teams that need to dig out of holes that big typically aren’t good enough to do so against a team capable of putting them in it, while teams that are good enough to come back from 18 down usually don’t fall behind by that much.
The fact that the Gators fell behind Vandy 21-3 created the seldom-seen scenario of a clearly superior team facing that large a deficit. Vandy is well-coached, but they just don’t have the athletes to compete with UF for a full game. It was even more of a big-comeback-on-training-wheels because Vaughn, clearly VU’s most dangerous offensive player, actually went out for the game a drive before the lead even got to 18. When the gap between the teams grew largest, the person most capable of helping the Commodores hold or extend that lead was gone.
Of course, Florida certainly helped out Vanderbilt in creating that situation. As Dan Mullen told his team after the game, they blew it in three of the Five Factors early on. They didn’t score touchdowns in the red zone (i.e. finishing drives), turned it over too much, and gave up explosive plays on defense.
The run game was efficient all day long, so when the Gators got out of their own way and shored up those three factors, they took firm control and outscored Vanderbilt 34-6 the rest of the way. UF having a 34-6 edge in just over a half is more in line with the Commodores’ last three games when they lost by 23 to South Carolina, barely beat FCS Tennessee State (including allowing 109 receiving yards to that Treon Harris), and lost to Georgia by 28.
I’m sure Mullen didn’t enjoy the first half as it happened, but right now, he’s probably glad the game turned out this way. He got to teach his team another lesson about being prepared from the start but without taking a loss like they did to Kentucky. They stayed with it, regrouped, and then ripped off an impressive scoring run once they started following the Plan to Win again.
Again, the fact the opponent was Vanderbilt made all this possible. The Gators won’t beat Georgia, South Carolina, or Missouri if they fall behind 21-3 in the first half. However, maybe something about them finding a way to not fall apart in the face of adversity will help the process of installing not just the new systems but the new culture Mullen brought with him.
There are worse ways to go into an off week, and Georgia suddenly looks a lot more beatable since LSU — the team that everyone was saying is a mirror image of Florida a week ago — just stomped the Bulldogs. There are many things to complain about from the first half, but everyone got it turned around quick enough to win by two scores.
I’m not sure if any of the UF teams from the previous seven years, including the ones that won ten games, could’ve pulled this off. If you’re looking for signs of progress among the fits and starts this year’s team go through, that’s definitely one of them.