The second quarter against Florida was a lot of things for Vanderbilt – painful, heavy on the mistakes and low on the offense. At least it wasn’t boring.
That probably isn’t very comforting to the Commodores, who would rather forget those 15 minutes, which brought plenty of injuries and a bevy of Florida touchdowns. It also resulted in 34 Gators points, which was more than enough for them to roll to a 55-14 victory at Vanderbilt Stadium Saturday afternoon.
The loss was Vanderbilt’s fourth straight – all against Southeastern Conference oponents. The Commodores have been outscored 168-35 during that span.
“Rough day at the office,” Vanderbilt coach Robbie Caldwell said.
Nothing seemed to go right for Vanderbilt (2-7, 1-5), including the players' health. A total of six had to leave the field, with four getting hurt during the second quarter.
The scariest of the bunch happened early in the period when running back Zac Stacy was knocked unconscious by Lerentee McCray of Florida. The tackle jarred the ball loose, and Terron Sanders scooped it up and returned it for a 45-yard touchdown that gave Florida (6-3, 4-3) a 27-0 lead.
Stacy remained down on the field as several athletic trainers tended to him. After several minutes he was carted off and gave a reassuring hand gesture to the crowd. He was sent to the hospital for an MRI but was not kept overnight. Caldwell said that Stacy had a concussion and was “doing great.”
Stacy started in place of Warren Norman, who had season-ending surgery Tuesday for a dislocated wrist. Stacy’s backup, Wesley Tate, injured his ankle near the end of the half and Caldwell said his status is uncertain for next week against Kentucky. Kennard Reeves finished out the game.
Defensive end Walker May sprained his ankle early in the game and was wearing an orthopedic boot afterwards. Cornerback Eddie Foster, linebacker Chris Marve and wide receiver Jonathan Krause all left the field after sustaining blows but all three returned to the game.
“When guys are out there that you are depending on to make plays, myself included, and we have to come out of the game of course it is going to put a dent in the game plan. It hampered us a little bit. You see the result.” Marve said. “It is football. People get injured. We play in the SEC every week. This was just a bad week for us.”
The game turned Florida’s way on the first play of the second quarter. Tight end Jordan Reed was put in at quarterback in the middle of a Gator drive. After two runs to end the first quarter, Reed stroked a 31-yard touchdown pass to Deonte Thompson, who had a step on Vanderbilt cornerback Casey Hayward and hauled in the pass in the corner of the end zone.•
From there it only got worse for Vanderbilt.
The Gators scored in all different ways – on a 40-yard flea flicker pass, a 45-yard fumble return, a 39-yard touchdown pass and a 42-yard blocked punt return – to build a 41-0 halftime lead.
“We got beat in every phase – offense, defense, special teams – in every way,” Caldwell said.
Especially special teams.
Though the unit provided a touchdown – a blocked punt in the third quarter – it also was responsible for several mishaps.
Florida’s Chris Rainey blocked two Richard Kent punts, the first one resulting in the first score of the game and the second one capping off the second quarter scoring surge.
“I don’t think we can put that on any one guy,” Kent said. “It is always frustrating when something like that happens. We knew they were going to be coming for it. They always do. We didn’t stop them and those were momentum changers.”
In the first quarter, trailing just 7-0, Vanderbilt decided not to kick a 32-yard field goal. Instead the Commodores faked it. But placekicker Ryan Fowler’s pass went off of Kent’s hands.
“I thought we would score,” Caldwell said. “We weren’t moving the ball very well. We’ve executed it probably all seven times a week since we’ve started. We didn’t get out, didn’t get where we were supposed to be. Everything was like it should be, had a chance to score. It should have been an easy one for us, trying to get them back on their heels.”
Adding to the special teams woes, returners Eric Samuels and Andre Hal each mishandled two kickoffs, though none resulted in turnovers. Vanderbilt had seven fumble (two lost), one interception, several dropped passes, 109 total yards of offense and 12 punts.
“I don’t have much to say. We got physically outmatched. They dominated in all phases of the game,” quarterback Larry Smith said. “That is embarrassing to the Vanderbilt community as a whole.”
At least it wasn’t mundane. None of Vanderbilt’s season has been.
• Florida has won 20 straight against Vanderbilt. The Commodores’ last win came in 1988 when they defeated the Gators 24-9.
• Defensive tackle Adam Smotherman did not dress due to soreness in his knee. The senior captain played in the last three games after missing the first five games. He had surgery to repair a torn ACL that he injured in the spring. Defensive end Tim Fugger, who suffered a neck injury against Arkansas, played and had one tackle.
• A moment of silence was taken before the game for Nick Bell.
Bell was a sophomore at Mississippi State and earlier this week he died from skin cancer. He underwent emergency surgery on Sunday and slipped into a coma Monday.
Bell was a defensive end from Bessemer, Ala. who was starting earlier this season. But at the beginning of October he had a tumor on his brain removed and the cancer quickly spread. He was just 20 years old.