What a difference a week makes.
Just seven days after arguably UF’s worst performance of the season, a 24-17 loss to Georgia, the No. 10 Gators turned in arguably their best Saturday with a 56-0 win over Vanderbilt in The Swamp.
Of course, Georgia is the No. 6 team in the country. Vanderbilt is 2-7. Still, the Commodores are a team that has given UF trouble in the past, notably in 2015 (a 9-7 UF win), 2016 (13-6 UF win) and last year (UF was down 21-3 at one point before winning 37-27).
Saturday’s slaughter was not only a marked improvement over past seasons; it was one of the best games Florida has played in years.
UF earned its first shutout over an SEC opponent since Kentucky in 2012 and had its largest margin of victory in the conference since a 63-5 homecoming win over UK in 2008.
Here are all the ways UF improved from last week:
Stopping the run
This was one area you can’t pin on playing a lesser opponent.
Vanderbilt running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn entered the day as the SEC’s fourth-leading rusher. He was a non-factor against Florida, however, tallying 28 yards on 15 carries. As a team, Vandy had just 51 yards rushing, the lowest total UF has allowed this year.
Georgia, on the other hand, had 119 rushing yards last week.
Improved pass defense
Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm torched Florida’s zone defense for 279 yards last week.
Against Vanderbilt, UF utilized more man-to-man coverage, limiting the Commodores to just 77 yards through the air. It took nearly two quarters for quarterback Deuce Wallace to record his first completion.
Vandy’s failures in the passing game can also be attributed to Florida’s relentless pass rush — after not recording a sack last week, the Gators recorded six on Saturday.
Freshman Mohamoud Diabate was responsible for three of those, the last one resulting in a strip sack that was returned 80 yards for a touchdown by Jonathan Greenard.
Florida also picked Vanderbilt off twice (both by safety Donovan Stiner) to go along with the forced fumble. The Gators — who led the country in interceptions heading into the LSU game on Oct. 12 — had forced just one in their past three games before Saturday. The Vanderbilt game was a return to form for the UF defense as a whole.
Historic quarterback play
Quarterback Kyle Trask had a historic performance against Vandy.
His 363 yards passing were the most from a Florida signal-caller since Tim Tebow’s last game, the 2010 Sugar Bowl. He also added 25 yards on the ground.
Not bad for a guy who started the season as a backup.
Trask did throw two interceptions, but made up for it with three passing touchdowns and a rushing score.
What makes his performance even more incredible is the fact that backup Emory Jones got plenty of playing time, especially in the fourth quarter when the game got out of hand. The UF offense didn’t skip a beat with Jones under center, and the redshirt freshman finished with 47 yards passing, 34 yards rushing and three scores on the ground.
Follow Sam Campisano on Twitter @samcampisano. Contact him at [email protected]