Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Florida has score to settle with Vanderbilt

Florida seeks payback for last season’s upset loss to Vanderbilt when the teams meet in Southeastern Conference action on Saturday at Gainesville, Fla.

The Gators (3-2, 1-1 SEC) are double-digit favorites this year, just as they were in last year’s 31-24 setback at Vanderbilt. The Commodores (2-4, 0-2) arrive at The Swamp with a four-game losing streak.

Florida had a three-game winning streak snapped last Saturday at Kentucky, where Ray Davis rushed for 280 yards and accounted for four touchdowns in the Wildcats’ 33-14 victory.

Florida ranks last in the SEC in scoring offense (25 points per game). Gators coach Billy Napier confirmed Monday that he will still call plays but acknowledged things need improvement.

“There is no sugarcoating this thing,” he added. “We have no excuse. We can coach better and we can play better. Hopefully, we will do that.”

The Gators need more from running back Trevor Etienne, who has rushed 19 times for 77 times in two games since his 23-carry, 172-yard performance in a Sept. 16 upset of then-No. 11 Tennessee.

Florida’s Graham Mertz (1,195 yards, six touchdowns, two interceptions) ranks fifth in the SEC in passing efficiency. His favorite target is Ricky Pearsall (29 catches, 424 yards, two TDs).

The Florida defense only has one takeaway through five games.

That could change against Vanderbilt (2-4, 0-2), whose 12 turnovers are four more than the SEC’s next-worst team (Auburn). Quarterback AJ Swann had seven interceptions, which resulted in his benching last week for Ken Seals.

Seals connected on 20 of 31 throws for 259 yards, two touchdowns and an interception while adding a rushing score in a 38-21 loss to then-No. 23 Missouri last Saturday.

Swann and Seals are listed as co-starters, though head coach Clark Lea’s remarks Tuesday indicated he was pleased with Seals.

“I’m really proud of him,” Lea said. “I thought the performance was gutsy and confident, and I was really glad to see him go out there with confidence.”

The Commodores’ top target is wideout Will Sheppard, who has 32 receptions for 443 yards and seven touchdowns.

The Gators had won eight consecutive games in the series before their defeat last year.

–Field Level Media

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Reportng - Field Level Mediahttp://fieldlevelmedia.com
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