Not to see the Grand Ole Opry, but to see the Florida Gators take on the Vanderbilt Comodores. This is the first time I’ve been there for a night game, and in November that isn’t necessarily a good thing for the person watching the game or for those warm blooded Florida players on the field–but on this night the chill in the air did not stop the Florida team from performing on all eight cylinders. From the Tennessean:
The Gators (8-1, 6-1 Southeastern Conference) scored on each of their first four possessions — taking advantage of an interception and a pair of blocked punts for three of those touchdowns — and converted five of their six first-half drives into a 35-0 lead at halftime.
“We have a lot of confidence in our defense and our team as a whole,” said safety Ryan Hamilton, who finished with 13 total tackles. “We really felt we were going to come out here and shut them down, make them punt the ball. We weren’t making them punt the ball. We weren’t doing our job.
“Playing a team with that many good athletes, you’ve got to tackle, and we didn’t. We weren’t doing our job.”
Florida — which clinched the SEC East title with the victory — rolled up 407 offensive yards in the opening three quarters, with reigning Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow rushing for 88 yards and a pair of touchdowns while throwing for 171 yards and three more scores.
Vanderbilt, meanwhile, didn’t pick up a first down until the last minute of the first quarter. By that point, the Commodores had seen a Brett Upson punt partially blocked and a Mackenzi Adams pass intercepted, with both plays leading to Florida scores.
The Commodore defense finally came up with a stop in the second quarter, with Chris Marve stripping Percy Harvin at the goal line and Hamilton recovering in the end zone.
Vanderbilt’s offense was unable to take advantage of the break, though, and Florida scored on its next possession to take a five-touchdown lead into halftime.
“That was a huge play,” Johnson said of the Gators touchdown — a 41-yard pass from Tebow to David Nelson — with eight seconds remaining in the half. “From 28 to 35 at the half is extremely different.”
Trailing 42-0 — and with starting quarterback Mackenzi Adams sidelined by a second-quarter hip injury — fifth-year senior Chris Nickson led the Commodores on consecutive scoring drives of 81 and 87 yards. Nickson threw 2 yards to Jamie Graham for a touchdown and 14 yards to Sean Walker.
“We were moving the ball pretty well in the first half,” Nickson said. “We just had some crazy penalties, hurting ourselves. In the second half, we … eliminated the penalties and just executed the way we could.”
The Commodores’ wait for the sixth victory they need for bowl eligibility will carry into next weekend’s trip to Kentucky, which barely lost Saturday to Georgia.