Commodores try and avoid Gator bite

Ralph Webb gets tacled by Gators Defenseman.

Ralph Webb gets tackled by Gators Defenseman.

The Vanderbilt Commodores (2-2, 0-1) return home this week for an SEC showdown versus the Florida Gators (3-1, 1-1). Last year it went down to the wire, with Florida barely escaping into the Swamp. This go around, the Commodores hope the result will end up being a win for them.

Speaking of barely escaping, Vandy barely escaped with a 31-30 victory at Western Kentucky last week—thanks to a failed two-point conversion by the Hilltoppers at the end of the first overtime. The Hilltoppers dominated the game on the stat sheet, putting up over 500 yards of total offense. However, despite plenty of mishaps, the Commodores rallied and got out of there with a W.

Vanderbilt’s offense put together two impressive fourth-quarter drives, going 75 yards in the final minute of regulation, with no timeouts, in seven plays to tie the game and force OT.

“We came up big when we needed to,” said coach Mason. Someone’s going to have to come up big for the Commodores this week against the country¹s stingiest defense. Ralph Webb ran 20 times for 95 yards in the game against Western. Webb will need another big game Saturday for Vandy to have a shot.

Don¹t tell Tennessee fans about that smothering Gators defense. They don’t want to hear it. Vandy’s mortal enemy took out 11 years worth of frustration on Florida last Saturday in Knoxville. The Volunteers silenced the Gators, reeling off 38 consecutive points for one of the most epic comebacks in their history. Joshua Dobbs accounted for five second-half touchdowns against the nation’s top-ranked defense, erasing a 21-point deficit to beat Florida 38-28. Dobbs went 16 of 32 for 319 yards. He also rushed for 80 yards. This marks the first time Tennessee has beaten Florida since 2004.

“They took it to us,” said Florida coach Jim McElwain.

The Gators led 21-3 at halftime. Austin Appleby threw three touchdown passes and one interception for the Gators. However, the Florida offense disappeared in the second half, putting more strain on the defense. The Gators’ second-half collapse raised questions about their ability to handle adversity. Perhaps the Gators’ defense isn’t quite as good as statistics suggest. A defense that had been allowing just five points and 130 yards per game couldn’t keep Tennessee’s offense out of the end zone in the second half.

Tennessee coach Butch Jones said: “Nobody flinched. They just kept playing.”

Florida quarterback Luke Del Rio is “highly doubtful” to play Saturday at Vanderbilt. Del Rio injured his left knee against North Texas and sat out Saturday’s loss at Tennessee. Fifth-year senior Austin Appleby, a graduate transfer from Purdue, is expected to make his second straight start for the Gators.

What will Kyle Shurmur and the Dores do this week? It may be another classic. We’ll find out at 11 am on the SEC Network.