No. 11 Florida gets shot at SEC East, redemption vs. Vandy
Grady was on the opposite sideline. The visiting sideline. The winning sideline.
''It was great,'' said Grady, a graduate student who transferred from Vanderbilt to Florida this summer. ''A lot of guys here don't understand that beating Florida is like winning the Super Bowl for every other team. It was one of the greatest feelings I've had. Being from Florida, I was able to say we beat the Florida Gators.''
Florida hasn't forgotten about that 34-17 homecoming loss two years ago. The 11th-ranked Gators have a chance to atone for the debacle Saturday when Vanderbilt (3-5, 1-3) returns to Gainesville.
More importantly, it's a chance for Florida (7-1, 5-1) to clinch the Southeastern Conference's Eastern Division and earn the program's first trip to Atlanta for the league title game since 2009.
''This game is probably the most important game we are going to play,'' Florida defensive end Joey Ivie said.
The Gators can't afford another letdown against Vandy, a three-touchdown underdog.
Florida had 39 yards rushing, 11 penalties and four turnovers in the 2013 game, losing at home to the Commodores for the first time since 1945.
''It was a real hurtful in the locker room,'' Gators linebacker Antonio Morrison recalled. ''It was just bad. It's just bad to even try to remember that.''
Added receiver Valdez Showers: ''It definitely was an ugly game, and I don't want to see that happen again.''
The Gators look nothing like they did two years ago, when they finished 4-8 and missed a bowl game for the first time since 1990. First-year coach Jim McElwain has them playing with confidence and masking some offensive deficiencies with stout defense and ball security.
And they're on the verge of winning the division for the 11th time since 1992. For Grady, Florida's backup quarterback, it would top his 2013 victory in the Swamp.
''Now, we're definitely reaching for something better than that: to seal the deal on the SEC East,'' he said.
Here are some things to know about Vanderbilt and Florida heading into the game:
EARLY START: McElwain challenged fans, especially students, to arrive on time for the noon start. It's Florida's first home game in a month, and McElwain would like to get some early energy in the Swamp. ''Let's make sure we stumble on into that stadium and be ready for when we're hustling out of the tunnel,'' he said.
STINGY DORES: Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason brings a defense that leads the SEC in a couple categories and in the top 25 in a few others nationally. Vanderbilt is the SEC's best on third-down conversions and best in the red zone. The Commodores have allowed only 10 touchdown drives, a big reason why they are allowing 18.5 points a game.
TAYLOR-MADE: Florida running back Kelvin Taylor has scored in seven of eight games this season. He has 10 rushing touchdowns, including eight in SEC play. Those eight league scores are the program's most since his father, retired NFL standout Fred Taylor, had nine in 1997.
WEBB'S HOMECOMING: Vandy running back Ralph Webb will have his own homecoming. He played at Gainesville High School, and the sophomore gets his first chance to play in the Swamp. ''I'm pretty sure he's stoked about going back there even though it was one of his dream schools,'' fellow Vandy running back Darius Sims said. ''And that puts another edge on his back, so I expect Ralph to run well.''
WOE LINE: Florida could be without two starting offensive linemen. Left tackle David Sharpe (ankle) and left guard Martez Ivey (knee) missed practice this week. Sharpe is considered doubtful, while Ivey is probable.
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