Gators’ 21-point second half puts Vandy away

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Florida Athletics

Photo: Matthew Maxey/Icon Sportswire

WHAT HAPPENED: Quarterback Kyle Trask threw for 383 yards and three touchdowns and the sixth-ranked Gators shook off a slow start with a run of 24 consecutive points over the two halves to claim a victory over the winless Commodores in their Southeastern Conference game Saturday at Dudley Field/Vanderbilt Stadium. Trask threw touchdown passes of 27 yards to wingback Kadarius Toney, 34 to wide receiver Trevon Grimes and 2 to tight end Kemore Gamble. The latter two scores, along with a field goal from Evan McPherson and 1-yard run by tailback Dameon Pierce, accounted for the Florida scoring run of two-dozen straight. After a Vandy TD closd the margin to 14 points late in the third quarter, UF backup quarterback Emory Jones fired a 30-yard catch-and-run TD to Gamble to take the margin back out to 21 points with less than seven minutes to go, allowing the Gators to leave Nashville with their 14th straight road win in the series. Vanderbilt scorched UF for 138 first-quarter yards and led 10-7 on a 16-yard touchdown pass from freshman Ken Seals to Chris Price and 25-yard Pierson Cooke field goal. That’s when Florida went on its 24-point roll, starting with a tying field goal by McPherson of 33 yards. Trask and the Gators then drove to touchdowns with 49 seconds to go in the first half, when Grimes made a terrific catch between two defenders, and Pierce finished a 75-yard march to start the second half that included a fourth-and-1 gamble by UF coach Dan Mullen from his own 34-yard line. Trask’s 2-yard score to Gamble pushed the Gators in front 31-10 with 2:55 to go in the third period. Vandy temporarily cut the lead back to 14, but Florida answered with a six-play, 99-yard touchdown drive to ice the game. Trask finished 26 of 35, with completions to different receivers and no interceptions, as UF rolled up 586 yards of total offense. With the three touchdown passes, he ran his season’s total to 31 through seven games, which was one shy of Texas Tech’s B.J. Symons’ NCAA record of 32. Trask tied both Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell (2007) and Tulsa’s David Johnson (2007) for the second-most scoring throws after seven games. For Vandy, Seals completed 22 of 34 passes for 319 yards, two scores and one interception for a Vandy unit that totaled 406 yards.

WHAT IT MEANS: A fourth straight win and a step closer to clinching the program’s first berth in the SEC Championship Game since 2016. The Gators maintained their one-game-plus lead Georgia in the SEC East Division, with the “plus” being the all-important head-to-head tiebreaker edge, courtesy of UF’s 44-28 defeat of the Bulldogs earlier this month. Florida can wrap up the East’s title-game bid by winning two of its last three games, no matter what Georgia does.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: With superstar tight end Kyle Pitts sidelined for a second straight week since going into concussion protocol, Gamble stepped up with a trio of big plays. After snaring his second TD of the season late in the third quarter, Gamble added a 35-yard reception to get his team off their own 1-yard line, then five plays later had a 30-yard catch-and-run for a score on a pass from backup quarterback Emory Jones. Gamble had three catches for 66 yards and the two TDs. STAGGERING STATISTIC: UF has scored at least 35 points in straight games, including seven consecutive SEC games. Those are both school records, which is pretty impressive given the numbers Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer put up back in the day.

UP NEXT: Florida (6-1, 6-1) is back home for Thanksgiving weekend for its annual SEC East date against Kentucky (3-4, 3-4), which Saturday is on the road at No. 1 Alabama. The Gators no longer are masters of the Wildcats, who two years ago came to Gainesville and snapped the infamous 31-game losing streak in the series. UF got back on the winning side last season, with a 29-21 come-from-behind victory at Lexington on a night when much changed for the program; namely at the quarterback position. Expect to hear a lot about that next week.