Trying to make up ground in division race, No. 20 Gators face Vandy

National Sports

No. 20 Florida aims to rebound from a costly setback when it faces Vanderbilt on Saturday in SEC play at Gainesville, Fla.

Last weekend’s 20-13 loss to Kentucky leaves the Gators (3-2, 1-2 SEC) in dire shape in the SEC East.

Not only do they trail the surprising Wildcats by two games in the East, but also undefeated No. 2 Georgia — which Florida plays Oct. 30.

Quarterback Emory Jones said it is time for the Gators to regroup and make the best of the situation.

“We all said that the season can go one of two ways — be pouty, be sad about it and lose out, or we can stay focused, get back to the drawing board and tell ourselves we are going harder than ever before and win out,” Jones said. “That’s what we were going to do and we’re going to try our best to go out there and do our job every week.”

Facing the Commodores (2-3, 0-1) typically is a day when Florida adds to the victory column.

The Gators have won the past seven meetings and 29 of the last 30. The last time the teams played in Gainesville, Florida won 56-0 in 2019.

In fact, Vanderbilt has dropped 14 straight SEC games since defeating Missouri 21-14 on Oct. 19, 2019. In their lone SEC contest this season, the Commodores were trampled 62-0 by visiting Georgia.

Keeping up with Florida figures to be a test for Vanderbilt.

“The environments are unforgiving on the road. I think that’s also exciting for us,” Commodores coach Clark Lea said. “We look forward to playing in those hostile environments. We’ll get up for that.”

Vanderbilt is coming off a 30-28 home victory over Connecticut as Joseph Bulovas booted a 31-yard field goal with no time remaining.

The Commodores are allowing 35 points per game while scoring just 16. Quarterback Ken Seals has passed for 894 yards, five touchdowns and five interceptions.

Stopping the run has been a major issue for Vanderbilt and it will represent a challenge to slow a Florida rushing attack that ranks third nationally at 292.2 yards per game.

The Commodores allowed 192 to UConn after giving up more than 200 in each of their previous three games. They rank 115th out of 130 teams in rushing defense at 204.6.

Jones leads the Gators with 439 rushing yards while passing for 871 yards and five touchdowns against six interceptions. He has completed 68.9 percent of his passes for a team averaging 31.4 points per game.

Jones helped Florida hold a 382-224 yardage edge over Kentucky and the Gators controlled the ball for more than 36 minutes. But Florida committed 15 penalties for 115 yards.

Calling the penalties disappointing, coach Dan Mullen said, “It’s my responsibility to make sure the discipline this team plays with and executes at a high level.”

The Gators defense is allowing 19.8 points per game. They have racked up 18 sacks — the 3.6 per game is tied for eighth nationally. Defensive lineman Zachary Carter has a career-high 5.5, raising his career total to 15.

Last season, the Gators beat the Commodores 38-17 in Nashville, Tenn.

–Field Level Media

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