No. 23 Florida Gators Get Ugly Win In Tennessee, Hold On To Beat Vanderbilt 13-6
By Scott Carter, Florida Gators // October 2, 2016
Gators move to 4-1 overall, 2-1 in SEC
(FloridaGators.com) – Their work done for the day, the Gators faced the swarm of Florida fans in the visiting stands at Vanderbilt Stadium and saluted them with waves and hugs.
They then began to stream toward the locker room, where a few minutes after a 13-6 victory over the host Commodores on Saturday, you could hear the celebration inside.
No one among the announced crowd of 30,565 will consider Florida’s 13th consecutive win at Vanderbilt a thing of beauty unless alcohol is involved, but for the Gators, it was an elixir that helped them move past their loss at Tennessee the previous week.
The final dose was a tipped pass by linebacker Jarrad Davis that was caught by defensive back Nick Washington for a game-clinching interception with 54 seconds left.
The No. 23-ranked Gators could exhale. And move on from the previous week.
“No one on this team has ever been in that situation, to be up 21-3 going into the half and to come out and basically just get blown out in the second half,” Davis said.
“We had no answer for that. We didn’t know what happened, what went wrong. We couldn’t even explain to ourselves what went wrong.
“That’s just something we had to put behind us.”
It took a while Saturday for the Gators to do that as both teams played like they stumbled out of bed for the 11 a.m. CT kickoff. Seven of the first eight drives in the game resulted in a punt. The other an interception by Gators cornerback Teez Tabor.
What did the Gators do after Tabor’s pick? They punted.
Florida broke the scoreless tie with 6:27 left before halftime when Jordan Scarlett scored on a 4-yard run. Florida led 10-3 at halftime and in the second half, the teams traded a pair of field goals.
That was all the scoring.
Gators head coach Jim McElwain summed up the victory afterward in his own special way.
“A wise man once told me, no matter what, you even got to bring them ugly babies home from the hospital,” McElwain quipped. “And that was ugly. I feel really good about the fact that our guys figured out a way to win.”
The Gators (4-1, 2-1) managed to win despite McElwain’s disappointment in their physicality. He said the Gators “got pushed around” on both the offensive and defensive lines.
ABOVE VIDEO: Florida’s Nick Washington picks off Vanderbilt QB Wade Freebeck near midfield with 1:01 left in the game. The No. 23 Gators hold on for a 13-6 win in Nashville
Vanderbilt rushed for 147 yards to Florida’s 92. The Commodores outgained the Gators 265-236 overall, many of the issues up front.
Defensively, the Gators were limited by an injuries to defensive linemen Joey Ivie (did not play) Jordan Sherit (did not play), Bryan Cox (limited duty) and Caleb Brantley (in and out of lineup).
Davis finished with a season-high 15 tackles as a wave of young players got most of the reps up front. Meanwhile, the offensive line got little push up front as the Gators averaged only 2.6 yards on 35 rushes.
Quarterback Austin Appleby faced consistent pressure, throwing for just 144 yards on 19 completions in 28 attempts.
“Shoot, we were getting sacked on four-man, three-man rushes, getting pressured,” McElwain said. “And then not being able to run the ball inside, it wasn’t like they loaded the box or anything.
“Look, I know those guys are working hard and they feel as bad as anybody, so we’ve got to play with better pad level and we’ve got to get off the ball with a sense of urgency and quit waiting for somebody else to hit you in the mouth.
“It’s that simple. I’m sick of seeing it.”
Florida hosts LSU next weekend in another important conference game to stay within striking distance of Tennessee (5-0, 2-0) in the SEC East race. The Vols pulled off a victory at Georgia on Saturday with a Hail Mary pass on the final play of the game.
The Gators will need help to overtake Tennessee and repeat as division champs, but for now, the focus is on getting more physical and executing at a higher level.
ABOVE VIDEO: Florida Gators.com recaps today’s SEC road win over Vanderbilt.
“It wasn’t as pretty as we wanted it to be, but hey, a win’s a win,” Davis said. “At this point we have to go back to the drawing board and make sure that in practice we put forth our best effort to prepare ourselves for these situations in games coming up.”
The Gators will watch film of Saturday’s win and try to learn from their mistakes.
However this season turns out, whether they repeat as SEC East champions or fall short of their goal, they probably won’t see it on ESPN Classic anytime soon.
Or ever. Still, all those yells and claps in the locker room were earned the hard way against a Vanderbilt team that came out swinging.
“It’s an SEC team. It’s an SEC road victory,” Tabor said.
And with that, he began the long walk across the field toward the team bus and a much more pleasant trip home than seven days earlier.
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