Home Sports Gators take a big step backward against Vanderbilt in worst loss of Napier era – Whitley

Gators take a big step backward against Vanderbilt in worst loss of Napier era – Whitley

Gators take a big step backward against Vanderbilt in worst loss of Napier era – Whitley

Well, at least they didn’t tear down the goal posts.

That’s about the only solace Florida can take from Saturday’s game against Vanderbilt. After Anthony Richardson’s Hail Mary pass sailed over the end zone and toward Chattanooga, a smattering of Vandy fans wandered onto the field.

They appeared happy but perhaps a little perplexed as coach Clark Lea got a well-earned Gatorade bath.

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Florida fans were nowhere near happy, but they could relate to being perplexed. How could a team that seemed to be coming together so well, fall apart so badly?

The 31-24 loss was by far the worst of the Billy Nspanpier erspan. That era’s only 11 games old, so it’s way too early to draw any grand conclusions.

One day, fans might even look back and be able to laugh about Saturday. Right now, that day seems eons away.

“It’s a setback, there’s no question about it,” Napier said. “A little bit of a reality check.”

Will real Florida football team step up?

The reality is there’s one game left in the regular season, and we still have no idea what to expect out of this team.

The Gators were the picture of efficiency for six quarters heading into the game. Saturday, they gave a master class in ineptitude.

A muffed punt return handed the Commodores one score. The Gators had 80 yards in penalties, lowlighted by personal fouls on critical plays.

That’s how a 14-point favorite finds itself down 28-12 in the fourth quarter. Imagine the double-takes as that score flashed across scoreboards and TV screens all over America.

What was going on in Nashville?

“We played Vanderbilt football,” Lea said.

No, they didn’t. at least it wasn’t the Vanderbilt football we’ve come to know and snicker at for the past century or so.

Kudos to Lea, whose team snapped a 26-game SEC losing streak last week against Kentucky. Imagine the odds you could have gotten on Vandy beating Kentucky and Florida in back-to-back weeks.

Next up is Tennessee. Dare we say, “watch out, Vols?”

Speaking of next week, Florida won’t have Ventrell Miller available in the first half at FSU. The heart and soul of UF’s defense was flagged for targeting in the fourth quarter.

Florida fans can add that to their suddenly growing list of worries. Like, what happened to the running game?

One of the nation’s best managed 45 yards on 21 carries Saturday. Granted, that was 45 more yards than Emmitt Smith managed in 1988, which was the last time Florida lost in Nashville.

But Emmitt was injured that day and didn’t get in the game. There was no such excuse for the Gators Saturday.

Second-guessing time for Napier

After running all over Texas A&M and South Carolina, why did Florida come out pass-happy against Vanderbilt?

The Gators had 12 runs and 14 passes in the first half. After gaining 96 yards the previous week, Richardson had zero carries in the first 30 minutes.

Where were the designed runs that lacerated the Aggies and Gamecocks?

Where was the defense that hadn’t given up a point in six quarters?

Where was the disciplined play?

“There was a lot of Florida beating Florida out there,” Napier said. “That’s my job, having those players ready to play.”

Though the fact is, there was a lot of Florida Florida out there.

It’s still very much in a rebuild. Inconsistency should be expected. But there’s no excuse for what happened Saturday.

“Our team knows what winning football looks like,” Napier said. “That was not winning football.”

They need to figure it out fast. FSU fans might not be so merciful to their goal posts.


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