(Photo courtesy Florida Sports Information)
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For the first time since 1988, the Florida Gators have lost to Vanderbilt in Nashville, this time by a score of 31-24. Penalties and costly turnovers hurt Florida, while a three-touchdown performance by Mike Wright led the Commodores to their second-straight SEC win.
Inside the Gators’ Instant Analysis takes a quick look at how the game unfolded.
IT WAS OVER WHEN: Anthony Richardson airmailed a ball through the uprights on the final play. Florida had a chance late to tie it after a Daejon Reynolds touchdown, a stop on defense, and a 34-yard pass to Thai Chiaokhiao-Bowman. However, a 4-yard completion to Justin Shorter and an incomplete pass ended any hope for overtime.
THEY STOLE THE SHOW: Truth be told, this superlative could have gone to the entire Vanderbilt team. However, Vanderbilt’s Ray Davis and Mike Wright stole the show offensively for the Commodores. Wright finished with only 108 yards, but his three touchdowns through the air directly led to the lead, while Davis led all rushers with 122 yards on 30 carries.
For Florida, receiver Daejon Reynolds broke out with a career-high eight receptions for 165 yards and two touchdowns, while Richardson led an impressive passing attack with 400 yards and three touchdowns while completing 60 percent of his passes, but it’s hard to ignore the performances by Wright and Davis for Vanderbilt.
THESE STATS DON’T LIE: Florida’s penalty yards. Florida came into Saturday’s game as one of the nation’s best teams in penalties with on 39.8 penalty yards a game. In the first half alone, the Gators nearly eclipsed that total with four penalties for 50 yards. Princely Umanmielen and Antwaun Powell-Ryland Jr. each accounted for 15-yard penalties on Vanderbilt’s first touchdown drive. Additionally, an illegal formation penalty negated a long Montrell Johnson run that would have given the Gators 1st-and-goal, leading to a Mihalek field goal, while Kingsley Eguakun had a personal foul at the end of another Johnson run. In the second half, Amari Burney was flagged for holding on a 3rd down incompletion that would have given Florida the ball back, and Ventrell Miller was ejected for targeting in the fourth quarter. Overall, the Gators finished with seven penalties for 80 yards. Penalties cost the Gators opportunities while giving the Commodores opportunities that they capitalized on.
THIS MATCH-UP PROVED KEY: Florida’s rushing attack versus Vanderbilt’s defensive front. One of the nation’s best rushing attacks faltered against the Commodores, racking up a season-low 45 yards on 21 carries. Richardson rarely carried the ball with only four carries for 25 yards. Johnson was held to 32 yards on 11 carries, and Trevor Etienne didn’t have much success either with nine yards on four carries. Vanderbilt’s front dominated, and Florida had to rely on the passing game.
WHAT A PLAY: Jason Marshall Jr.’s muffed punt, led to a Vanderbilt touchdown. With Xzavier Henderson out and Ricky Pearsall suffering an injury in the game, Marshall Jr. took a turn as the punt returner, and it didn’t work out at all. Marshall called for a fair catch inside the 10-yard line and muffed the punt, which was recovered in the endzone for a Vanderbilt touchdown.
UP NEXT: Florida will look to bounce back from Saturday’s abysmal loss with a matchup with in-state rival Florida State to conclude the regular season. Kickoff in Tallahassee is at 7:30 on Friday, Nov. 25. Florida has won the last three matchups in the series.
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