The Florida Gators defeated Vanderbilt 38-24 on Saturday in Gainesville. Here is your Florida Gators Report Card.
Rushing Offense: B
It has taken more time than head coach Jim McElwain would have wanted, but the Gators have developed a legitimate rushing game. That rushing game MUST be the focal point of the offense going forward given the significant blow to the passing game that went down on Saturday which we will get to shortly.
This upsurge in the rushing game’s viability has been directly due to the breakout play of Malik Davis. Davis saw his carries up around 20 for the second consecutive week (he had 17 in this one) and he used each of those opportunities to its fullest. Davis rushed for 124 yards and two touchdowns on the day, showing toughness, speed, and power throughout. Davis essentially split carries with the more physically imposing Lamical Perine, who himself went for 58 yards and grabbed three touchdowns with his impressive red zone work.
Passing Offense: C
The reason that the run game will have to step up is that the injury that took Luke Del Rio out of this game has been confirmed as a broken left collarbone and he will miss the remainder of the season. While no one is ever going to mistake Del Rio for Tim Tebow, the quarterback had been effective enough to wrestle the starting gig away from Feleipe Franks due to Franks’ poor displays when starting games this season. Now, though, it will be Franks’ show again and the passing game will likely only go as far as he takes it.
In fairness to Franks, he was really good in relief here. Franks completed 10-of-14 passes for 185 yards without a touchdown. He relied on the rushing game to do the dirty work and didn’t try to force anything when it wasn’t there. Look for this to continue until the Florida rushing game is slowed down.
Rushing Defense: A
The Florida rush defense has become the most consistent unit on the team. A week after doing a job against Kentucky, the Florida front seven was even better against Vanderbilt and the dangerous Ralph Webb at running back. Webb though barely got a sniff of a rushing lane all day long, finishing with 11 carries for 29 yards at the Gators defense overwhelmed a Vanderbilt offensive line that is failing to help out their star back.
Webb’s struggles were indicative of the whole team as they tried to run the ball, with Vandy managing just 46 yards on 20 carries for the game. While there was some chasing down of a lead involved in the second half, it is also true that the Commodores moved away from the run earlier than they would have normally because the work of the Gators defensive line and linebackers was so good.
Passing Defense: C-
The Gators passing defense did a lot right against Vanderbilt. With the Commodores committed to throwing the ball, the Gators increased their pass rush pressure. Vandy quarterback Kyle Shurmur – a very good passer in his own right – was held under 50-percent completions as he finished 18-of-40 for 264 yards. While the Gators were able to hurry Shurmer on over 25-percent of those drop backs (12) they were unable to intercept the Vandy quarterback and he was able to pick them apart for three touchdowns.
It is the explosive plays that are causing the Florida passing defense issues. Six different Commodores had catches of 10 or more yards and five had catches of 20 or more yards. The Gators defensive style is boom or bust at times, but even that defense cannot allow big plays because of blown coverage or missed communications.
Special Teams: C
It would have been nice if Brandon Powell didn’t total minus three yards on his two punt return attempts while fumbling (and recovering) one of them. Outside of that though, it was just a regular old game for the special teams unit. Eddy Pinero hit his one field goal shot of the day from 21 yards and he was a perfect five out of five on extra point attempts. The coverage game allowed next to nothing in returns as Vanderbilt totaled three yards in returns from both punts and kickoffs. It was just a steady day at the office for this part of the game.
Having been removed from multiple games this season it would have been easy for Franks to have lost his head and not been in the right frame of mind to come in and finish off this win. McElwain must receive plenty of credit for keeping his backup quarterback focused, ready, and willing to come off of the bench and perform well. Now the real work begins as the offensive staff has to play for Franks to play for the rest of the season, though this new rushing attack is certain to be the quarterback’s new best friend.