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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Vanderbilt Effect was evident on the scoreboard at the Swamp, reading 42-0 after Florida’s one-sided win.
On the field, the Gators did not overwhelm the overmatched Commodores when it mattered or rebound from the Kentucky loss with the expected verve of a team facing upcoming dates with LSU and Georgia.
Coach Dan Mullen even needed to dig into his bag of tricks, calling a fake punt to keep alive the first series of the second half, to give the No. 20 Gators (4-2, 2-2 SEC) the boost needed to stroll past the SEC’s doormat.
A 21-0 halftime lead was an illusion thanks to Vanderbilt missing two field-goal attempts and having a touchdown catch overturned on a questionable replay review. A 21-13 game would not have sat well with the reported homecoming crowd of 86,258.
Those who showed up on a glorious Gainesville day to support the Gators already had watched Anthony Richardson look more like a redshirt freshman than rising star and the defense struggle to contain Vanderbilt’s punchless attack.
Richardson threw an interception on his first snap. Meanwhile, starter Emory Jones tossed a career-high four touchdowns, including a 61-yard strike over the middle to tailback Dameon Pierce. Pierce’s score was his third vs. the Commodores and eighth of 2021, matching his total from the past two seasons.
Florida’s defense ended with a shutout, but the goose egg had cracks.
Vanderbilt’s Joseph Bulovas finished with missed field goals of 39, 41 and 33 yards.
The Commodores (2-4, 0-2) entered averaging SEC-low 4.42 yards per play, but gained 200 yards during the first half (6.1 yards per snap).
Mullen’s halftime assessment of his defense to SEC Network’s Taylor Davis? “Awful,” he said.
The Gators’ coach was sure to soften his stance in the afterglow of victory. Yet, Mullen had to wonder about his team’s lack of passion and execution a week after a sloppy, frustrating loss at Kentucky.
Florida has to find some answers quickly. A noon visit to LSU next Saturday is a pivotal game for two blue-blood programs amid lukewarm seasons.
Two weeks later, Florida squares off with Georgia which delivered Vanderbilt a 62-0 beatdown in Nashville and would love nothing more than to embarrass the rival Gators.