Then reality set in, with help from both Florida and Vanderbilt.
Once Florida got moving in the right direction, even a flawed facsimile of the Gators was too much for a Vanderbilt team that has yet to learn how to win down the stretch. The result was a 34-17 victory that ended Florida's two-game losing streak and dropped the Commodores to 2-7, 1-5 in the SEC.
"We had the lead at halftime, we were playing very well, and we played hard," Vandy coach Bobby Johnson said. "But that's just not all there is to it."
The Vandy offense survived for a half without quarterback Jay Cutler, who suffered a sprained right ankle on the opening drive and sat out the rest of the game.
The Vandy defense forced five turnovers but still allowed 500 yards, including 170 rushing yards by Ciatrick Fason and 307 passing yards by Chris Leak. The Gators outscored the Commodores 20-0 in the second half.
"Sometimes when offenses spread us out we have a hard time matching up athletically," Johnson said. "You come in there and play the run -- they throw the pass. Go out there and cover the pass -- they hand it to Ciatrick Fason, and he's hard to tackle."
Vandy's not going to get any more athletic over the remainder of the season, so the Commodores must try to salvage something positive from another losing season with this week's game at Kentucky or a Nov. 20 home game against Tennessee.
GAME BALL GOES TO: LB Moses Osemwegie -- In addition to leading the Commodores with eight tackles, Osemwegie also recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown.
KEEP AN EYE ON: QB Steven Bright -- The Commodores lost starting quarterback Jay Cutler to a sprained ankle at the end of the first series and he never returned. Bright did some positive things, passing for 118 yards and rushing for 77 yards, but Vandy still missed its most effective offensive player.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It would have been nice to have Jay in all those situations to use his knowledge and experience. But that's not what lost us the game." -- Vandy coach Bobby Johnson.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: The Commodores forced five turnovers, forcing four in the first half and recovering a fumble on the way to a 17-7 second-quarter lead.
STILL NEEDS SOME WORK: Once again, the Commodores couldn't handle a lead and fell apart in the second half as the Gators took control of the game and outscored Vandy 20-0 in the second half.
ROSTER REPORT: After suffering a sprained right ankle on Vandy's opening drive starting quarterback Jay Cutler spent the rest of the game with his ankle wrapped up on the sideline. Coach Bobby Johnson said he wasn't sure about Cutler's status for this week's game at Kentucky. ... Other Vandy injuries included DT Ray Brown (shoulder stinger). ... Senior WR Chris Young played for the first time since missing two games with a shoulder stinger.