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Gators Sleepwalking Against Vanderbilt, Trail 14-6 at Halftime

The Florida Gators trail 14-6 on the road against Vanderbilt at halftime.

The Florida Gators (6-4, 3-4 SEC) are on the road in Nashville, taking on the Vanderbilt Commodores (4-6, 1-5 SEC) on Saturday.

They head into the halftime break trailing Vandy, 14-6, after the 11 a.m. local time kickoff.

In recent weeks, the Gators have utilized fast starts to produce their most complete performances of the season. In the first half, the Gators looked like that trend would continue.

However, it didn't.

The Gators overcame an errant snap by center Kingsley Eguakun on drive one with a 25-yard completion from Anthony Richardson to wideout Ricky Pearsall, who caught it in the intermediate part of the field, cut outside and made a guy miss to push upfield on the boundary for a first.

A play later, a targeting penalty against Vanderbilt's defensive back BJ Anderson pushed Florida from their own 15 into Commodores territory. The Gators used that and a 31-yard gain on a 4th and 7 conversion to wide receiver Daejon Reynolds gave Florida its first red zone trip of the afternoon.

However, Florida failed to convert that red zone drive into six points after running back Montrell Johnson dropped a ball in the flats despite wide-open turf ahead on third down. The Gators settled for a 26-yard field goal by Adam Mihalek to take a 3-0 lead with 8:21 remaining.

On the ensuing Vanderbilt possession, the Commodores found a more sustained offensive attack than the three-and-out first drive indicated they were going to on the day. However, as the Commodores started to gain some steam and push into Florida territory, linebacker Ventrell Miller made a play on the ball to force it free from Vanderbilt wideout Will Sheppard.

What looked to be a fourth down conversion for Vandy quickly turned into Florida's football as Miller forced the unit's 20th takeaway of the year and cornerback Jaydon Hill recovered.

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The Gators have now forced a takeaway in every game this season.

However, they failed to capitalize and punted it back to Clark Lea's squad just four plays later. 

Vanderbilt would pick up where it left off on the previous drive to march the ball down the field against the Gators behind the legs of running back Ray Davis. Two 15-yard penalties against Florida (a personal foul on Princely Umanmielen and a facemask by Antwaun Powell-Ryland Jr., both on third down) helped keep the drive alive for the Commodores.

The 12-play, 81-yard drive ended on the lone passing attempt of the drive as Mike Wright found Jayden McGowan as he beat Gators nickel defensive back Jadarrius Perkins through the air to punch the ball into the end zone for six on third and 10 from the UF 10. The Commodores took a 7-3 lead on UF with 11:04 remaining.

The Gators added a field goal from Mihalek on their next offensive series to make it 7-6 despite multiple promising pass completions to Reynolds, Thai Chiaokhiao-Bowman and Caleb Douglas, paired with an apparent breakthrough in the rushing game before another penalty proved detrimental to success.

Four penalties for 50 yards and Billy Napier's offense failing to score a touchdown in the first half for just the second time this season (Georgia) is the storyline at the break

The miscues trickled into the third phase of the game as Jason Marshall Jr. muffed a Vanderbilt punt. The Commodores recovered it in the end zone to take the 14-6 lead they will take into the halftime break.

Florida won the coin toss and elected to defer their option to the second half. The Gators will receive the second-half kickoff looking to right the ship with a statement drive to open the second half. 

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