The Florida Gators didn’t have the lead after the first quarter against Vanderbilt on Saturday, and only led 14-0 at halftime.
Their afterburners engaged and incinerated the Commodores after halftime anyway.
Kyle Trask threw for 363 yards and three touchdowns and Emory Jones ran in three touchdowns of his own as Florida scored 28 third-quarter points and shut down a woeful Vandy offense in a 56-0 win.
Trask’s line included the most passing yards by a Florida quarterback since Tim Tebow’s school-record 482 against Cincinnati in his Sugar Bowl finale, and Jones’s three rushing TDs were the most by a Florida QB since Jeff Driskel scored three of his own on the hoof against Vandy in 2012.
But about the biggest gripe any Florida fan could have about the Gators on this day would be that Trask’s line should have been slightly less impressive and Jones’s slightly more so, given that Trask was left in the game with the outcome more than in hand deep into the second half. Jones got to throw the ball just three times, but his two completions went for 47 yards and featured a nice deep ball to Jacob Copeland.
Trask’s 25 completions, in contrast, were his typical mix of strikes (like the one to Kyle Pitts that put Florida above the betting line midway through the third quarter), screens and quick outs (one went to Trevon Grimes, who turned it into a 66-yard catch-and-run touchdown), and puzzlers, like the chest-passed touchdown throw to Lamical Perine that came on fourth and goal to begin the second quarter.
Trask also threw two picks on the day, one on a seeming miscommunication and another with Van Jefferson getting mugged in the end zone. And that second play was part of another dreadful day for SEC officials in a game involving Florida, as a questionable catch by Copeland was overturned as an incompletion despite being akin to both Georgia catches that were merely let stand a week ago. Referees appeared to miss a targeting penalty on a play that left a Vandy player injured, as well.
But those struggles — and Florida’s on the day — were mostly minimal and ancillary. Florida’s running game churned out 150 yards despite just 13 for Perine, with Kadarius Toney looking explosive and nearly breaking an all-time run in the second half; Florida’s defense gave up one longish drive to the decidedly overmatched Deuce Wallace (7-for-18, 60 yards, one interception) that it snuffed out with a Mohamoud Diabate (three sacks) strip-sack to give Jonathan Greenard his first touchdown as a Gator, and then picked off Wallace’s reliever, Allan Walters, as well.
This was a get-right game that hewed closely to the script after halftime despite beginning with weirdness — Florida’s first drive ended with a Trask throw to Perine on fourth down being batted down — and giving the Gators ample opportunities to let their guard down after a letdown of a loss to Georgia.
For now, it seems, this Florida team remains fierce.