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Florida Gators Fall to Vanderbilt on the Road for First Time Since 1988, 31-24

The Florida Gators fall to the Vanderbilt Commodores on the road, 31-24.

The Florida Gators (6-5, 3-5 SEC) dropped their first contest against Vanderbilt (5-5, 2-5 SEC) since 1988 and just their second in the last 32 meetings between the two programs, 31-24.

On Friday night, the Gators men's basketball team rallied in Tallahasse to overcome a 17-point deficit they faced against FSU. The football team failed to replicate that second-half surge as they trailed on the road in Nashville against Vanderbilt at the half.

In fact, Florida crumbled.

After a first half in which Florida sleepwalked into a 14-6 deficit, the Gators came out of the halftime break swinging in their first offensive possession. 

Moving the ball well before being put behind the chains on a five-yard loss by Montrell Johnson on the ground, Florida looked like another promising drive would go without six points to show for it as a 4th and 8 arrived. However, for the second time today, Anthony Richardson took a shot on the boundary on fourth down. He found wideout Justin Shorter with another perfectly placed ball for a gain of 28.

Richardson found Johnson in the flats a few plays later to cut the Vanderbilt lead. The Commodores forced a failed two-point conversion attempt by Florida to maintain a two-point lead, 14-12, early in the second half.

Mike Wright, Ray Davis and the Vandy offense answered with a touchdown of their own on a 12-play, 66-yard drive that amassed nearly seven minutes. Wright found Gavin Schoenwald from seven yards out to cap off the drive.

The Commodores built their biggest lead of the afternoon to that point by going up nine on Florida, 21-12.

The Gators failed to return the blow on the next drive, largely due to their inability to rush the football on the day, finishing the afternoon with just 45 yards in the ground after going for just under 375 a week ago against South Carolina.

Taking a deep shot on the first play to Shorter, the Commodores' defenders made an excellent play to force the ball incomplete. Then, following a screen pass blown up at the line on second down, Florida faced a third and long where Richardson was forced to improvise.

As he looked to escape pressure, Richardson was met by a Vandy rusher in the backfield and flicked the ball to his right toward wideout Thai Chiaokhiao-Bowman. Chiaokhiao-Bowman slid down for the ball, but it popped off his body into the air, where Vanderbilt picked off the ball to set the Vanderbilt offense up with the ball in positive field position.

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They scored on the first play with a 28-yard pass to Ben Bresnahan from Wright. Vanderbilt took a 28-12 lead there and never let it go.

Florida tried to mount a comeback, but it was too late and the margin was too wide.

Two possessions after the back-breaking interception, Richardson uncorked a ball to a streaking Daejon Reynolds as soon as he emerged behind the Commodores' defense. He took it 74 yards for the score to cut the Vanderbilt lead from 16 to 10 after failing another two-point conversion attempt, 28-18.

Reynolds served as a beneficiary of Florida's compiling injuries at wideout, with Xzavier Henderson and Ja'Quavion Fraziars announced as out prior to the game and Ricky Pearsall going down in the first half. He recorded a career-high performance at the collegiate level with eight receptions for 165 yards and two scores.

While the momentum they built there was quickly erased as Vanderbilt continued to drive the ball via their rushing attack — and was aided by a fourth-quarter targeting call on sixth-year senior linebacker Ventrell Miller  Jason Marshall Jr. made a great play on the ball to record his first interception of the year to attempt to re-energize the unit with 6:32 remaining.

The offense turned the ball over on downs deep inside Commodores' territory four plays later. Vandy added a field goal to make it a 13-point game with 4:37 remaining in the fourth quarter.

The Gators marched the ball down the field on the ensuing drive to pull within a touchdown on another Richardson-to-Reynolds connection before getting another stop to get the ball back with 46 seconds.

They looked to pull off late heroics to play for overtime, but the late shot at the end zone they were given fell incomplete.

Florida will look for their seventh win in year one of Napier's tenure as they face off against an 8-3 Florida State team on Friday night in Tallahassee at 7:30 p.m. ET.

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