Vanderbilt-Florida, As It Happened

What else is there to say? Good defense, bad offense, an unfortunate special teams lapse, and Bobby Johnson punts when down 17 in the fourth quarter, with disastrous results. On to the Kentucky-Tennessee finishing stretch.

12:08 left, first quarter: Like Vandy's approach: Keep it simple, but throw. Short, safe passes, control the ball.

9:38: Myron Lewis with a superb play. Vandy can definitely hang in the ring with its defense. The whole key is an offense that woke up last week, and needs to be alive tonight in Gainesville.

8:26: Punt bounces such as that one will help the cause. Upon reflection, Vandy's going to have to win this game the way Navy beat Notre Dame. If you saw that contest earlier today, you'd know exactly what such a statement means.

6:05: Third downs become magnified in light of the challenge facing Vandy. The Dores need to win as many 3rd and 6 situations as possible. Short-yardage is a different animal with No. 15 on the other side of the line…

4:15: The Gators are wearing out the short-to-intermediate realm of the right side of the field. Easy pitch-and-catch for Tebow with David Nelson and Aaron Hernandez.

1:34: Vandy wins on 3rd and 2. Clutch stop, and the $30,000 man on Florida's sideline sends in the field goal unit. A win for the Dores, but now Mackenzi Adams has to generate some production.

0:54: Aw, man, Warren Norman had an alley to his right, but he ran into the back of his blocker and couldn't shake loose from a leg tackle.

0:47: Well, there's some hope. Zac Stacy with the burst seen last week against Georgia Tech.

0:22: So much for hope. Adams, a veteran, makes a billy-basic mistake. He locks onto a receiver and Florida's Ryan Stamper drifts into the passing lane to easily snare an interception.

End of First Quarter Score: Florida 3, Vanderbilt 0.

13:10 left, second quarter: Florida will go for it, as it should.

12:43: Everyone in white shirts and black pants was focused on Tebow, but no one accounted for the pitch man, Jeff Demps. Assignment football, boys. The key, though, was Tebow's ability to make fourth down close enough for the Gators to go for it. If it's 4th and 5, Urban Meyer has to send out Caleb Sturgis again. Because it was 4th and a long 1 (or a short 2), the Gators were able to be more aggressive.

10:38: The good news? Terrific stick by Eddie Foster on Florida returner Brandon James. The bad news? This highlight came on a punt… a punt that Florida didn't fumble.

8:28: Florida's speed and playmaking ability taking over. As long as Vandy can't generate a consistent pass rush, it's not going to remain much of a contest.

6:48: There's the pass rush Vandy needed, and better yet, it comes on third down. Another job (reasonably, not completely) well done by Bruce Fowler's crew.

4:40: Terrific play call by Ted Cain, but the Florida crowd performs a golf clap, because that throwback pass could have gained 20-30 more yards with more precise and aggressive running.

3:38: Adams had an open man, and simply missed him… by a few yards. Just not up to par for Vandy's starter-turned backup-turned starter.

1:57: Vandy's defense will hold Florida to 13 first-half points, barring something wild. Once again, no complaints about that side of the ball. If anyone felt the Georgia Tech game was cause for concern, they felt wrong; that's a unique and, moreover, incredibly difficult offense to plan for. Back in the old-school SEC, which feels a lot like the 1980s (or before Steve Spurrier came to Florida as a head coach), Vandy's defense is well-positioned to register a more-than-credible showing.

1:16: Just as one night of bad defense wasn't cause for alarm, one night of good offense wasn't proof of a full-scale forward leap. At least the Commodores tasted offensive improvement for one game (which they so desperately needed before the end of 2009), but they're hardly at a point in their evolution where they've made solidified, consolidated gains.

0:00: WHEW!

Halftime Score: Florida 13, Vanderbilt 0.

12:48 left, third quarter: Tebow can't take advantage of a third-down pass rush. He's an all-time college football legend, a top-10 player in the sport's 140-year history, but he's not your 2009 Heisman Trophy winner. Not even close.

12:30: If Norman or Stacy can tear off one… big… run… here…

10:00: There's a big run… not all the way to the house, but close. A gain of 15 more yards in the next minute would make this a one… possession… ballgame. (Believe it.)

8:52: Who looked like the receiver, and who looked like the cornerback on that pass?

8:46: Just not good enough. When I said "one… big… run," I meant a dash to paydirt (or perhaps, to the 1).

5:44: Once again, Florida doesn't get a first down, but the Gators get close enough to go for it on fourth down. Better tackling is needed there to force 4th and 4 and a subsequent punt. History repeating itself in an ugly way for this generally solid Commodore defense.

5:17: And once again, Florida converts a fourth down after getting within one and a half yards on the third-down snap.

1:52: Football statisticians should create a niche category: Fourth-down conversions following positive plays on third down. That one aspect of competition has been the biggest key to this game. Florida's two touchdowns came after turning third-and-long into 4th and 1, and then converting.

End of Third Quarter Score: Florida 20, Vanderbilt 3.

14:52 left, fourth quarter: Bob Davie makes the point that Vandy's the only SEC team without an open date. Let's be honest: In this punishing league, teams need breathers both for recuperation and teaching. This kind of schedule flow cannot be replicated in future years… not if the Dores want to be more successful.

13:06: You're still seeing maximum effort from this defense. Take a bow, guys. You've earned it. Don't let the scoreboard get you down.

11:19: NO! You're down 17, what the heck do you have to lose? There is absolutely no point in punting when trailing by 17.

10:54: Brett Upson kneeled on the ground to receive the snap. Uh, there are 10 trillion things I could say right now, and that simple admission probably says everything that needs to be communicated.

9:22: This has turned into a decidedly absurdist theatrical production. Bad breaks aside, though, that's what the football gods do to you when you decide to (try to) punt when trailing by 17 in the fourth quarter.

6:25: Adams uncorked a terrific throw. It's not caught. Yeah, the night has been that frustrating on the offensive side of the ball.

5:20: It's getting ugly. And now Meyer pulls Tebow, which tells you that we've hit garbage time.

2:13: That defense deserved that result. The Commodores never gave up the ship. There's a huge difference between a losing team that dogs it and a losing team that's long on heart but short on talent at quarterback and receiver.

1:38: What else is there to say? Good defense, bad offense, an unfortunate special teams lapse, and Bobby Johnson punts when down 17 in the fourth quarter, with disastrous results. On to the Kentucky-Tennessee finishing stretch.

Final Score: Florida 27, Vanderbilt 3. 

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