Thursday, October 11, 2012
Five storylines: Gators vs. Vanderbilt
By Michael DiRocco
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- No. 4 Florida plays at Vanderbilt on Saturday, the classic "trap" game before the Gators play host to No. 3 South Carolina on Oct. 20. The Gators (5-0, 4-0 SEC) have won 21 in a row in the series and haven’t lost to the Commodores since 1982.
Here's five storylines for the game:
1. Avoid an emotional letdown: Florida had a huge victory over then-No. 4 LSU last Saturday and is now squarely in the national championship race. With a showdown against South Carolina looming, it’s natural that the Gators wouldn’t be as ready emotionally for this game considering the fact that none of UF’s players were alive the last time the school lost to the Commodores. However, the Gators can’t get caught looking ahead because this Vanderbilt team is essentially the same one that came into Gainesville last season and nearly won.
2. Keep QB Jordan Rodgers contained: Rodgers hurt the Gators with his feet last season, running for 20 yards and one touchdown. He was sacked twice for minus-21 yards but kept several plays alive with his feet. The Gators struggled in the first half of the Texas A&M game containing QB Johnny Manziel but played more disciplined football in the second half and shut Manziel down. They’ll have to play like that against Rodgers.
3. Limit WR Jordan Matthews: This goes hand-in-hand with containing Rodgers. He kept plays alive last season and often ended up finding Matthews, who caught nine passes for 170 yards and a touchdown. Matthews leads the SEC in receptions (25) and receiving yards (357) and is averaging 119.0 receiving yards a game. UF CBs Marcus Roberson, Jaylen Watkins and Loucheiz Purifoy have played well so far this season. It’s a similar situation to what they faced against Tennessee. Matthews is going to get his catches. The key is to keep him from making big plays.
4. Get QB Jeff Driskel back into a groove: The LSU game was his worst of the season (8-for-12, 61 yards) and he reverted back to holding onto the ball too long and got caught up in trying to do too much. He needs to get back to making his read and getting the ball out quickly. Some short passes early could get him in a rhythm.
5. Field a punt: The Gators’ punt returners have struggled with their decision making. Andre Debose, De’Ante Saunders and Roberson have all let punts bounce that should have been fielded or fair caught a punt they should have returned. Their decisions are costing the Gators field position. They have to be smarter or the coaching staff has to find another returner.