Report Card: Vanderbilt vs. Florida

The Vanderbilt Commodores lost another heartbreaker on Saturday, this time to Florida, 26-21. analyzes every element of the Commodores' performance and assigns a grade to each area.




Jordan Rodgers had his best passing performance yet as a Commodore. He completed 19-of-27 passes for 297 yards, 2 touchdowns and no interception. A big reason for Rodgers success was the play of sophomore wide receiver Jordan Matthews. Matthews caught 9 passes for an impressive 170 yards and two scores. During the first half he made a remarkable one handed catch. The only way the Gators could stop Matthews was by interfering with him. Unfortunately the SEC officiating crew didn't bring their eye glasses and missed several obvious PI calls. Veteran tight end Brandon Barden had four catches for 51 yards. Chris Boyd and Zac Stacy each had two receptions. One of Boyd's catches was a 31-yarder. Vanderbilt offensive line performed well against formidable Gator defense but gave up two sacks.
Before the game Gator opponents averaged 128 yards per game. Vanderbilt finished with 80 yards in 33 attempts for a 2.4 yard per carry average. Zac Stacy had just 49 yards on 13 carries. Jordan Rodgers had his worst rushing game as a Commodore, finished with just 20 yards on 13 attempts. Rodgers did have an 8 yard scoring run early in the fourth quarter to pull Vandy to within six of the Gators. It seems opponents are now focusing on Rodgers' running threat which is opening up his passing game. Linebacker Michael Taylor led the way with 7 tackles for the Gators. Four other Florida players had at least 7 tackles.
Before the game the Gators were averaging 186 yards per game passing while Vanderbilt allowed an average of 152 yards per game. The Gators finished with 213 yards through the air. A big reason for that was the return of quarterback John Brantley to the lineup. Brantley finished 16 for 24 for 173 yards and no touchdowns. He was sacked only once (Sean Richardson). Backup Jacoby Brissett completed one pass attempt for 40 yards. For Vanderbilt, Casey Hayward had a beautiful touchdown saving breakup. Tim Fugger also knocked down a pass at the line of scrimmage.
This is probably the area that cost Vanderbilt the game (other than officiating). Prior to the game Vanderbilt was allowing only 125 yards per game while Florida was gaining 151 yards per game. However, the Gators finished with 197 on the ground. Most of that was given up in the first half. Franklin said the team wasn't playing in its normal aggressive style in the first half. That changed in the second half but it was almost too late by then. Jeff Demps had 158 yards rushing for 3 scores. In the fourth quarter Demps juked Commodore safety Kenny Ladler, who led Vandy in tackles with 11, and then ran 52 yards untouched for the Gators final score.
Vanderbilt missed another field goal when a lineman missed a block and allowed a Gator defensive end Sharrif Floyd easy access. Had Vandy made that short field goal things could very well have turned out differently. Richard Kent averaged 42.4 yards on five punts with a long of 49. Kickoff and punt coverage teams played well.
As mentioned earlier, Franklin said that the defense wasn't playing in its normal aggressive style. Kudos for fixing that but it should never have happened. The Commodore offense continues to show improvement. The re-emergence of Jordan Matthews at receiver is particularly refreshing.
It was another close loss to a favored opponent. It seems that Vanderbilt catches opponents when they are turning things around or have a key offensive starter returning from injury. Now Vanderbilt must get ready for new Kentucky quarterback freshman Maxwell Smith who passed for 283 yards and two touchdowns in a 30-13 win over Ole Miss. Vandy will be favored in this one but had better prepare hard for the Wildcats.

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