Rapid Reaction: Vandy stuns Florida for 2nd consecutive SEC win
Two weeks ago, Vanderbilt was 3-6 and owned a 26-game SEC losing streak.
Two weeks later, Vanderbilt is 5-6, owns a 2-game SEC winning streak, and looks to spoil Tennessee’s dream season to achieve bowl eligibility.
The Commodores rode a timely offense, an aggressive defense, and a propensity for pouncing on Florida’s many mistakes into a surprising 31-24 victory over the Gators. It was their first win at home over the Gators since 1988 and their first win in the series since 2013.
A 2-touchdown underdog, the Commodores simply outplayed Florida, which was without 3 of its top 4 receivers and lost star linebacker Ventrell Miller in the 4th quarter to a targeting call. Miller will miss the first half of next week’s game against rival FSU.
Vandy QB Mike Wright stayed hot, throwing 3 touchdowns a week after beating Kentucky with his legs. And while Florida QB Anthony Richardson connected on some big passes on a career day, Vandy outrushed Florida badly in a game that was defined by a handful of pivotal Gators errors. Aside from a pair of costly turnovers and numerous penalties, one of those errors that will matter moving forward was the loss of Miller, who had 12 tackles before being ejected.
The final error Florida made was missing an extra point after Richardson’s 3rd TD pass pulled them within 31-24. The Gators drove across midfield in the final seconds but couldn’t complete the comeback.
After a Vandy 3-and-out to open the game, Florida drove 63 yards in 11 plays, scoring first on a 26-yard Adam Mihalek field goal with 8:21 to play in the first quarter. The drive was keyed by a 4th-and-7 conversion when Richardson hit a 31-yard pass to Dajeon Reynolds to put the Gators in the red zone. But that was Florida’s only lead.
On the next drive, Vandy converted a 4th-and-4 pass only to lose the ball on a fumble. But after a single Gator first down, the defense stopped UF cold and forced a punt. Vandy then strung together a 12-play, 81-yard march, with the first 11 plays being runs. The 12th, on 3rd-and-goal from the Florida 10, was a pass from Wright to Jordan McGowan to give the Commodores a lead they would not relinquish. Vandy led 7-3 with 11:04 left in the half.
Florida converted a 44-yard field goal with 4:38 left in the half to trim the VU edge to 7-6. Florida then stopped Vandy and was poised to attempt another drive, but on the Vanderbilt punt, Florida returner Jason Marshall muffed the catch, and Vandy long snapper Wesley Schelling dove on the fumble in the end zone. The recovery and extra point extended Vandy’s lead to 14-6 at halftime.
Florida opened the second half with a 75-yard scoring march in 11 plays. Richardson hit running back Montrell Johnson Jr. for a 3-yard scoring strike, but the Gators failed to convert a 2-point attempt to tie the game with 10:17 left in the third quarter. Vandy answered with its own scoring march, going 66 yards in 12 plays, finishing with Wright connecting with Gavin Schoenwald for a 7-yard score. Joseph Bulovas’s extra point made it 21-12, leaving Vandy with a 2-score edge.
News got worse for the Gators before it got better. On a 3rd and 10 play after the ensuing kickoff, Richardson was forced from the pocket and threw the ball away, only for Vandy’s Jaylen Mahoney to make a diving interception at the Gators’ 28-yard line. On the next play, Wright hit his 3rd scoring strike of the day, a 28-yard connection with tight end Ben Bresnahan that extended Vandy’s lead to 28-12 with 2:06 left in the third quarter.
Florida shaved into the lead with a 74-yard bomb from Richardson to Reynolds with 12:03 left in the game. Vanderbilt broke up a 2-point conversion which could have pulled Florida to within a single score, but left it at 28-18 with 12:03 to play.
Vanderbilt won consecutive SEC wins for the first time since 2018. The Commodores will host No. 5 Tennessee next Saturday in a game with significant Playoff implications. Florida fell to 6-5 and will likely be an underdog at No. 19 Florida State next Friday.