Gators Struggle Early, Enter Halftime Leading Winless Commodores 17-10
The No. 6 Florida Gators (5-1) entered its contest against the Vanderbilt Commodores (0-6) with all the reason to expect a big-time victory, but it didn't look to be heading in that direction from the onset of the contest with Florida entering halftime with just a seven-point lead, 17-10.
Entering the contest, Florida ruled out several starters, including tight end Kyle Pitts, who is not expected to be available until next week against Kentucky at the earliest.
With that, here is the full list of the players Florida deemed unavailable against Vanderbilt:
Anthony Richardson, David Reese, Jeremiah Moon, Kahleil Jackson, Ethan Pouncey, Kamar Wilcoxson, Nick Oelrich, James Houston, Stewart Reese, Lamar Goods, Hayden Knighton, Jaelin Humphries, Trent Whittemore, Kyle Pitts and Lucas Alonso.
While today's game was slated to be a blowout in favor of the Florida Gators, it was anything but in the first half. The Florida defense began the game incredibly sluggish, failing to get off of the field early and giving the Gators' offense limited time to make plays.
Vanderbilt would open the game with an impressive 11-play 75-yard touchdown drive, giving the Commodores its first lead of the season against any opponent in this year's conference-only schedule. Vandy freshman quarterback Ken Seals would complete all five of his passes for 61 yards and a touchdown on his opening drive.
As the game progressed, the Florida defense made a few stops, forcing two punts, but with 196 yards allowed, the sluggish start casts doubt about any rebound the team has had defensively over the past few weeks of the season.
With 2:45 remaining in the first quarter, Florida would trail Vanderbilt 10-7, a stunning scoreboard for the Gators to be involved in, especially given the play over the last few weeks with current Heisman-candidate quarterback Kyle Trask leading the way.
While the Florida offense would have more success than its Todd Grantham-led defense, it wouldn't be by much. Not much better than last season against Vanderbilt, Florida was only able to muster three scoring drives, including two touchdowns and a field goal at halftime.
Much of the struggles Florida had offensively would come as a result of the pass protection. For multiple plays over the first 30 minutes of action, Trask would be pressured, leading to errant or ill-advised passes that could have been intercepted. Florida would be forced to punt two times in its first three drives of the game.
On the Gators' first drive of the game, the Florida offense would look routine. Trask completed four out of six of his passes for 71 yards, including a 27-yard touchdown to receiver Kadarius Toney who had three receptions for 51 yards on three targets on the team's first drive.
Florida's final drive of the half would be its best, with the team hoping to carry that momentum into halftime. Trask would go on to complete all five of his passes for 83 yards and an incredible 34-yard touchdown connection to Florida receiver Trevon Grimes.
With his most recent touchdown, Trask passed former LSU quarterback Joe Burrow for the most touchdown passes thrown by an SEC quarterback through seven games in its history with 30 passes. Burrow had 29 touchdown passes last year.
Trask would ultimately complete 14 of 19 of his passes for 193 yards and two touchdowns.
Although the Gators defense forced four punts to end the half, the concern felt from the first quarter and a half of the game was something Florida has dealt with all season, giving up four big passing plays (gains of 15 yards or more.
Against a winless team, Florida will hope to carry the momentum and come out of halftime with vigor.