Six early takeaways from Florida’s week 12 loss to Vanderbilt

Florida drops their fifth game of the season as they fall 31 to 24 against Vanderbilt in week 12. If it could go wrong for Florida today, it did. The Gators lost to the Commodores in Nashville for the first time since 1988.

Florida outgained Vanderbilt 445 to 283 but allowed self-inflicted wounds to be the deciding factor.

Gator Country provides six early takeaways from today’s game.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Like I’ve said all season, poor special teams play is a season-long takeaway. Jason Marshall muffed a punt that fell into Florida’s endzone for a Vanderbilt touchdown in the 2nd quarter. Marshall is the Gators third string punt returner and was thrown into the role after Ricky Pearsall’s injury. Marshall stayed away from punts for the rest of the game.

Adam Mihalek was 2/2 on FG attempts today but missed what would have been a crucial XP if the Gators had found a way to score at the end of the game. He’s been far too inconsistent this season and I believe the Gators should find another option next season.

Kick return coverage was below average in week 12. Vanderbilt had two kick returns for 62 yards. Florida had two returns for 41 yards. Special teams coordinator is a “must get” in the offseason.

PENALTY

Florida shot themselves in the foot all game long with penalties. The Gators were called for seven penalties, costing them 80 yards in this contest. Three times throughout the game Florida made a stop on 3rd down but were called for an unnecessary roughness, facemask, and defensive holding, giving Vanderbilt a first down and leading them to touchdowns. I can live with the facemask penalty called on Antwuan Powell-Ryland because he was held and shoved into the QB. Princely Umanmielen and Amari Burney’s penalties are inexcusable.

Florida’s been one of the least penalized teams in the SEC this season, but that wasn’t the case in week 12.

TACKLING

This was one of the worst tackling displays on the season for Florida. Princely Umanmielen was caught flat footed multiple times and couldn’t wrap up in the backfield. Ventrell Miller was even missing tackles; just wasn’t one of Florida’s better tackling days. Ray Davis had his way in this contest, running for 122 yards on 30 attempts.

3RD DOWN CONVERSIONS

Even with all the self-inflicted wounds, Florida had chances to get off the field on 3rd down and couldn’t do it. Vanderbilt was 7-13 on third downs despite entering the game ranked 77th in third down conversion percentage. Many of the conversions were Vanderbilt running right at Florida. Mike Wright only threw for 108 yards in the contest.

DAEJON REYNOLDS

One bright spot for the Gators was the emergence of Daejon Reynolds. He caught eight passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns. His only blunder was his dropped TD pass late in the 4th quarter, which he quickly made up for by catching a touchdown on the same route a few plays later. Richardson connected with Reynolds on 8 of his 9 targets today.

Reynolds displayed poor burst on his 74-yard TD catch. I think he’s faster than what he showed today; I wouldn’t be too worried about his speed.

Florida’s WR room is shaping up a lot better entering the 2023 season. You have something cooking with Reynolds, Douglas, Fraziers, and Pearsall (If he returns). The Gators will also have young and talented freshmen to work with next season.

SITUATIONAL FOOTBALL

Florida has struggled in situational football all season long and today was much of the same. Florida’s offense froze in the red zone on the opening drive of the game for the Gators. This was largely due to Richardson’s unwillingness to pull the football on a zone read on 1st and 2nd down. Richardson has the option to pull some of those zone reads and RPOs and he’s not doing it.

Florida failed to put points on the board once again down eight points with 3:22 to go until halftime. It didn’t help that Kingsley Eguakun was flagged for an unnecessary roughness on a 15-yard run to start the drive. Two and four-minute drills have been an area of ​​weakness for Billy Napier this season.

The final straw was Richardson chunking the final play of the game 20 yards out of the back of the endzone down by seven points.

Preparation has to be MUCH better if Florida wants a chance at upsetting the Noles in Tallahassee next week.

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