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Friday, January 27, 2023

Florida tries to avoid "trap game" against Vanderbilt

<p><span id="docs-internal-guid-e7eb0744-7fff-10af-ee69-b5b530464623"><span>Linebacker David Reese (33) and the Gators defense will have their hands full dealing with Vanderbilt running backs Khari Blasingame (23) and Ke'Shawn Vaughn this Saturday.</span></span></p>

Linebacker David Reese (33) and the Gators defense will have their hands full dealing with Vanderbilt running backs Khari Blasingame (23) and Ke'Shawn Vaughn this Saturday.

The term “trap game” has been tossed around a lot this week leading up to No. 14 Florida’s road game with Vanderbilt.

It would be easy for the Gators to look past Vandy (3-3, 0-2 SEC) with a bye week on the horizon and victory over then-No. 5 LSU in the recent past. But Dan Mullen said at Monday’s press conference that he’s not a big believer in trap games in the traditional sense. Linebacker David Reese straight-up denied their existence.

“I don’t believe in them,” he said. “This is a team that we can’t take lightly, and I feel like we understand that.”

The Commodores are more than just sneaky good. They’re a solid, experienced team and there’s plenty of ways to prove it.


They have a veteran leader who’s got a lot of help


Quarterback Kyle Shurmur is very comfortable and confident in the pocket.

The four-year starter has climbed through the Vanderbilt record books, inching his way toward the marks of the program’s all-time greatest passer, Jay Cutler. Shurmur ranks third in career passing yards (7,135) and completions (581), and he ranks second in passing touchdowns (49).

The senior gets a lot of help putting up those numbers, too. His starting offensive line is loaded with experience (three seniors or redshirt seniors), while the underclassmen, left guard Cole Clemens and right tackle Devin Cochran, are big and physical themselves, measuring at 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-7, respectively. The front five has only given up six sacks all season, ranking them in a tie for 20th in the nation.

Shurmur also has useful skill-position players. Junior receiver Kalija Lipscomb is one of the SEC’s premier pass catchers. He’s first in the conference in receptions per game (7.5) and fifth in yards per game (82.7). Lipscomb is also second in the SEC with six receiving touchdowns, behind only Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy (8).

And the weapons don’t stop there. Six-foot-4 tight end Jared Pinkney averages 17.0 yards per reception, while running backs Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Khari Blasingame each average over nine yards per catch out of the backfield.

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The Commodores are not only experienced but have athletes surrounding their field general that provide Shurmur with plenty of attacking options.


They’re disciplined


One of Vanderbilt’s best attributes is staying disciplined and allowing other teams to make mistakes.

Coach Derek Mason’s team has only attracted 33 flags and averages only 43 penalty yards per game. That’s good for a tie for first in the SEC (Tennessee). And it should definitely adhere to that standard at home.

The Commodores cause opponents to rack up 63.8 penalty yards per contest on the flip side. Florida is one of the SEC’s most penalized teams, commiting the second most total fouls (49) and racking up 72.3 yards per game as a result.


They’re good at home


It’s unusual for a lot of SEC teams to play at 11 a.m. local time, but not for Vanderbilt.

The Commodores consistently play their best at Vanderbilt Stadium, repping a 16-13 record under Mason.

Vandy was just terrible during the first two seasons of Mason’s five-year reign, going 3-9 and 4-8 in 2014 and 2015, respectively, despite earning three home wins in each campaign.

However, in the last two-and-a-half seasons, Vanderbilt is 10-6 within its friendly confines, sporting a 3-1 home record in 2018.

Yes, the Commodores are 0-2 in the SEC this year, but they’ve knocked off two ranked teams at home in 2016 and 2017.

A little less than two years ago, they took down Josh Dobbs and No. 24 Tennessee. Last season, No. 18 Kansas State went to Nashville and was stonewalled in a 14-7 defeat. That very same Wildcat team went on to beat No. 14 Oklahoma State 45-40 and only lost to Baker Mayfield’s Boomer Sooner squad by a touchdown.

Sometimes turf monsters claim quality, ranked victims.


Follow Mark Stine on Twitter @mstinejr or contact him at


Linebacker David Reese (33) and the Gators defense will have their hands full dealing with Vanderbilt running backs Khari Blasingame (23) and Ke'Shawn Vaughn this Saturday.

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