Even the outlook for upcoming games suddenly turned gloomy. Having already lost starting tailback Warren Norman to a wrist injury, the 'Dores saw their other marquee tailback Zac Stacy get carted off the field in the second quarter with a concussion, and backup Wesley Tate exit with a sprained ankle.
"Anything that could go wrong, it seemed like it did today," said Vanderbilt head coach Robbie Caldwell. "We got a punt blocked early, and it seemed like everything just went downhill from there."
Florida's (6-3, 4-3 SEC) win was the twentieth in a row in the series with Vanderbilt. It sets up a showdown with the division leading South Carolina Gamecocks next Saturday, one which should determine the SEC Eastern Division champion.
For Vanderbilt, it was the latest chapter in a miserable saga, one that has seen its offense do a virtual disappearing act in the last four games. When the dust settled, the Commodores had managed a season low of 109 yards total offense, while surrendering 480 to Florida.
In third down conversions-- a statistic at which Vanderbilt came into the game dead last among all 120 FBS teams-- the Commodores converted only 2 of 16 attempts. They fumbled eight times, losing two, and had two punts blocked.
Florida got on the board first by blocking a Vanderbilt punt and getting the ball at the Vandy 3. Mike Gillislee scored two plays later on an option pitch, and the Gators took a 7-0 lead. The Commodores had a chance to answer and attempted some trickery on a field goal attempt, but the fake failed when Ryan Fowler's pass fell incomplete.
The first-half fireworks were only beginning, and things quickly turned ugly for Vandy. Florida scored on the first play of the second quarter on a bomb from backup QB Jordan Reed to Deonte Thompson. Starter John Brantley took a pitchback and deftly threw a 40-yard scoring pass to Chris Rainey. Moments later, defensive lineman Terron Sanders picked up a Stacy fumble and rumbled 45 yards to put the Gators ahead 27-0 (the PAT was blocked).
The Gators would block another punt for a score and tack on 14 more points to take a 41-0 lead, essentially putting the game on ice by halftime.
"We never feel like we're taken out of the game," said Jordan Matthews. "If we're ever down we just say 'It's 0-0' and just keep playing."
The second half was almost entirely academic, and both teams substituted liberally. Florida utilized backup quarterback Jordan Reed, while Vanderbilt eventually went to backup Jared Funk. After Tate went down at tailback, the Commodores went to backup Kennard Reeves.
Vandy never threatened to get back into the game, but did manage to score two touchdowns in the second half. The first came on special teams-- in the third quarter, Ryan van Rensburg burst through the protection to block a Chas Henry punt, and Javon Marshall recovered it in the end zone.
In the final minutes of the game, Karl Butler's interception of a Reed pass gave Vanderbilt one more possession. After getting the benefit of a pass interference penalty, true freshman Jordan Matthews made a one-handed grab of a Funk pass for a 6-yard touchdown with 39 seconds left.
"I'm excited about the way our guys have played the last two games with energy and as a team," said Florida coach Urban Meyer. "I think we're finishing strong. It's championship week in Gainesville."
The Commodores head to Lexington, Ky. next Saturday for an 11:21 a.m. game with the Kentucky Wildcats. The game will be televised by the SEC Network.
Missing Saturday's game were Vanderbilt starting tailback Warren Norman and defensive end and captain Adam Smotherman. Both have been sidelined for the rest of the year with injuries. Smotherman, a senior, was only able to play in three games in 2010.
Richard Kent punted 12 times, and with 72 in nine games he is on track to break a school record for punts in a season.