Saturday, November 8, 2008

Florida 42, Vanderbilt 14

A lot of Florida fans worked themselves into a lather over tonight's game at Vanderbilt. Georgia's corpse was still warm when fans began panicking about the potential of a "trap game" in Nashville. The Cocktail Party was over for all of five minutes when a poster at posted a thread entitled "Concerned." The Gators were coming off a huge, emotionally satisfying win over their hated rivals. Vanderbilt and its wily head coach Bobby Johnson (who's slowly becoming overrated by the media and opposing fans) had a bye week to prepare for the Gators. It would be a night game, nationally televised. Commodore fans would have all day to liquor up and get loud for the game.


The Gators won by 28 points and the game still wasn't nearly as close as the final score indicated. Vanderbilt put up 14 meaningless points after the game was over and Tim Tebow was sitting on the bench. The Gators clinched the SEC Eastern Division, moved to 8-1 (6-1 in the SEC) on the year, guaranteed themselves a shot at #1 Alabama in the SEC Championship Game and Tebow continued his slow climb back into Heisman contention. So it was a good night all-around.

Tebow passed for three touchdowns and rushed for two more on the best running night of his season. Aside from the two touchdowns, he carried 11 times for 88 yards. (My keen graduate-school wannabe mathematical instincts tell me that's eight yards per rush. And I absolutely did not cheat by looking at the "YPC" column on Florida had a lot of success with the bread and butter zone read play; Vandy's defense simply didn't have the talent to deal with Tebow, who's now up to 27 total touchdowns on the season.

Florida finished the game with 422 total yards, a respectable number against a defense that came into the game ranked pretty well in the various statistical categories. UF again spread the ball around pretty well; Carl Moore had four catches, Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy three apiece, Aaron Hernandez two and Deonte Thompson and Riley Cooper both reeled in one pass. Even rarely used disappointment David Nelson got into the act with a 41-yard touchdown pass at the end of the first half. (I do so love blown coverages)

Emmanuel Moody finally earned some touches in important minutes, picking up 48 yards on seven carries. He's still not a natural fit for this offense, but he has a role to play as a powerful changeup to Harvin, Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey. (The latter two were relatively quiet for the second straight week)

It was, in short, a dominating performance. But I do have to strike one discordant note. After Tebow's second rushing touchdown, he seemed to clutch his lower back from time-to-time. Nothing terribly dramatic, but there was nothing terribly dramatic about how he handled his left shoulder after last year's Kentucky game.

More damning was Meyer's repeated use of what I'll creatively label the Wild Gator formation. Florida will occasionally direct snap to Harvin. They don't use it very often (fewer than once a game, on average), and they don't do anything terribly creative with it; I've never seen Harvin do anything but take the snap and run the ball.

Meyer broke out the formation four or five times tonight, including on a couple of plays at the goal line where Harvin just plowed straight into the Vanderbilt line. Percy's deceptively strong, and he scored with relative ease on the possession, but still, that's Tebow Territory. I wonder if something's bothering Superman.

But, that's all speculative. Florida has three more regular season games: the SEC finale next week with South Carolina and old friend Steve Spurrier, a snoozefest with Citadel and the rivalry game at FSU.

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