After two weeks of game-winning drives in the final minutes, the Florida Gators were able to beat the Vanderbilt Commodores 38-24. It was the best offensive performance the Gators had all season long. The running game was at its best and the passing game took steps in the right direction. While the Gators did put up 38 points, there were some negatives in the game that need to be cleaned up before their game against the LSU Tigers. Here are the wins and losses for the Florida Gators’ week five win over the Vanderbilt Commodores.
Florida might have found their identity on offense
Before the Vanderbilt game, the Florida offense was all over the place. They didn’t have an identity, they were out of sync and didn’t have a flow. That changed when the Gators hosted the Commodores last Saturday. Florida might have finally found their identity on offense and it’s their running game. Malik Davis and company ran wild as the Florida Gators had 218 yards on the ground and all five touchdowns. Lamical Perine had three of those touchdown but the most explosive player in Florida’s backfield is Malik Davis. The true freshman had 17 carries for 124 yards and two touchdowns. With Florida establishing a running game, this will also take a lot of pressure off Feleipe Franks and slow down the game for him. If Florida continues to run the ball well, Florida might have an offense they could be proud of.
Offensive line continues to improve
After the Michigan game, the Florida offensive line has gotten better and made improvements on a weekly basis. Players like Martez Ivey, Jawaan Taylor and T.J. McCoy have all made improvements and help the Florida offense go in the right direction. This group was considered to be one of the offense’s biggest strengths but that doesn’t seem to be the case. They still have the talent and coaching to be a good offensive line which could only help the offense. One of the biggest reasons Florida has done such a nice job running the ball is because of the offensive line creating holes and pushing the line of scrimmage. They still need to improve on pass protection as Franks could use more time in the pocket instead of avoiding pressure. Give Franks time and you could see more deep bombs to Tyrie Cleveland.
Offensive play calling continues to improve
Florida offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier was ridiculed after the Michigan for his questionable play calling and being too predictable. Since then, he has moved to the box and it seems to have improve as the Florida offense continues to make strides every week. Against Vanderbilt, Nussmeier called a pretty good game as he continued to run the ball down Vanderbilt’s throat and called plays that the quarterbacks were comfortable with. While the play calling as improved, the Florida offense is still pretty predictable in one area, second downs. Over 60% of second downs, the Gators will run the ball. The biggest issue with that is that most coaches will see that and prepare for it. Maybe running a play action could throw off the defense and leave a receiver open deep. The less predictable you are, the harder it is to prepare for.
QB Luke Del Rio is out for the season
After leading the Gators to victory against Kentucky, redshirt-junior Luke del Rio got the starting nod against Vanderbilt. After leading Florida to two touchdown drives in the first half, Del Rio got slammed by a Vandy defensive lineman and injuring his shoulder. Afterwards, Jim McElwain announced that Del Rio would be out for the rest of the season due to a broken collarbone in his left shoulder. This is the second time in two years Del Rio has suffered a season-ending injury in his left shoulder. Losing Del Rio really hurts Florida because you lose a good quarterback, it takes a huge hit on Florida’s depth chart. Feleipe Franks will be the starter again and Malik Zaire will be the backup. Expect Del Rio to the role of a player coach. He is a very smart QB and knows the offense better than anyone else.
Chauncey Gardner is becoming a liability
Chauncey Gardner came into this season with a lot of high expectations after having a really good freshman season. The former Outback Bowl MVP has not lived up to his expectations and has in fact, taken steps backwards. Gardner was one of the top defensive backs coming out of high school but has not played well in his sophomore season. He is starting to become a liability for the defense because of all of his missed tackles. Gardner is a tremendous athlete with great speed but if the opponent is getting an extra 10-15 yards because of his missed tackles, Jim McElwain will have to bench him. The Gators have a lot of other talent safeties that are just waiting for their turn. Brad Steward, Shawn Davis and Jeawon Taylor have all seen playing time and steal Gardner’s starting job if he continues to struggle.