The Florida Gators will settle into The Swamp on Saturday for the first time in over one month, taking on the Vanderbilt Commodores and aiming to snap a three game losing skid.
Florida (4-4, 3-3 SEC) fell to Georgia 23-20 last week in Jacksonville, outscoring the Bulldogs 20-3 after falling behind 20-0 in the first half but coming up short for the third year in a row. The Gators posted 319 yards of total offense in the contest, their highest total since a victorious outing versus Arkansas in October.
Quarterback Tyler Murphy completed 13 of 29 passes for 174 yards in the game. UF offensive coordinator Brent Pease has praised Murphy since taking over for injured junior Jeff Driskel in September, but accepts that there is still work to do to thwart opposing defenses.
“People start to get a feel on you a little bit and know how they’re going to defend you,” Pease said. “I think he has shown he will run the ball, so people tighten their zones down. You don’t see quite as many open lanes to run at times, try to keep you in the pocket and throw the ball.”
With defenses rushing the Florida offense to capitalize on an offensive line perceived as weak, handling pressure and adjusting the front five is a key to offensive success.
“You’ve got to be able to handle pressure. Maybe change the protection, and get us into something where we are in a sound blocking scheme to protect yourself,” Pease said. “We reduced the amount of run and pass plays that we have. You can build in different ways from different formations and looks and try to get the easiest looks for the guys up front.”
Vanderbilt (4-4, 1-4 SEC) enters the game with only one victory in the SEC, an upset win over Georgia in Nashville. With four games remaining, the team is seeking at least two more wins to become bowl eligible for third year in a row and secure their seventh bowl berth in program history.
The Commodores put up an average of 32.1 points per game, but allow 30.3 points per game on the defensive side of the ball. Despite the mediocre defensive statistics, the unit has plenty of game experience and could pose challenges for the recently muffled Florida offensive attack.
“They’re all experienced. Both safeties are back, [Andre] Hal is back, and [Steven] Clarke played against us last year. Their whole defense returned nine to ten guys that played, so they understand their scheme. Their linebackers are running it and they’re very good fundamentally,” said Pease.
The Gators are looking for their 23rd win in a row over the Commodores. The last Vanderbilt victory over the Gators came at home in the 1988 season.
Saturday’s homecoming game kicks off at noon. You can catch coverage beginning with pregame on ESPN 850 WRUF at 8am.