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Defense Shows Mettle in Loss
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Ralph Webb fumbled twice on consecutive carries in the second quarter, and Johnny McCrary was intercepted twice before being replaced late by Patton Robinette.
The four turnovers proved just too much for Vanderbilt against Florida on Saturday night as the Commodores remain winless in the Southeastern Conference, losing 34-10 to Florida.
"It would have been a fistfight," Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason said if only his Commodores had protected the ball better. "It would have come down to the fourth quarter and the last possession. We knew they'd throw it a little more. Our corners could have made plays on a couple of balls. It would have gone down to the wire without turnovers."
The loss snapped Vanderbilt's streak of three straight bowl games as the Commodores dropped to 3-7 overall and 0-6 in the SEC. Their 10-game winning streak in November also ended.
Webb set the freshman season rushing record, passing Kwane Doster who had 798 yards rushing as a freshman in 2002. Webb now has 843 yards rushing, but he was smothered by the Gators after rushing for 67 yards on 10 carries in the first quarter alone. His two fumbles in the second quarter came just after the defense had stopped the Gators with a big goal-line stand.
"The first one, he had it high and as he was coming through, his elbow got hit," Mason said. "In the second one, he got hit high and the ball slipped out. We have to protect the ball."
McCrary started his third straight game, and the redshirt freshman gave Vanderbilt a 7-0 lead with a 33-yard pass to Steven Scheu. He finished with 160 yards passing before being replaced by Robinette, and Mason wouldn't say if McCrary will remain his starter.
"We'll look at the tape and evaluate it," Mason said. "I'm not ready to comment on a quarterback."
Florida (5-3, 4-3) got revenge against Vanderbilt for beating them last year in Gainesville for the first time since 1945. Florida has won 12 straight against the Commodores on their own field since its last loss here in 1988. The Gators still must beat South Carolina and needs help in the East with someone knocking off Missouri a couple times and Georgia.
The Gators scored 24 straight points in taking control and also turned four turnovers into 13 points. Florida now has scored 30 or more points in consecutive SEC games for the first time since 2012.
Freshman Treon Harris completed seven of his first eight passes before finishing 13 of 21 for 215 yards. He connected with Quinton Dunbar on a 60-yarder late in the third quarter and also had a 48-yarder to Ahmad Fulwood. Harris also ran 10 times for 49 yards, and padded the lead by running for a 7-yard TD and a 33-yarder in the second half.
The Gators outgained Vanderbilt 429-308 and held the ball for 35 minutes, 1 second.
Kelvin Taylor tied it up with a 13-yard TD run where he escaped a couple would-be tackles late in the first quarter, and the Gators took over in the second quarter when they came up with the two fumbles and held the Commodores to 16 yards of offense.
Florida ran for 418 yards last week against Georgia but could not score from 3 yards out with four cracks at the goal line in the second quarter. Vanderbilt stopped Matt Jones on the first two downs, then stood up Jeff Driskel on third down before Vanderbilt linebacker Zach Cunningham sliced in to stop Jones short again on fourth down.
Jeff Driskel scored on fourth down after a Webb fumble, on a play the Commodores thought they had stopped Driskel short.
"I didn't think he got in, but they called it a touchdown, looked at it, and the call stood," Mason said. "I know those guys played their tails off. Whatever the refs say, hey, we have to play football."