– In the aftermath of Vanderbilt's 37-27 loss to No. 14 Florida on Saturday, Derek Mason
shook his head.
"This ballgame came down to us not getting off the field defensively, and them getting us off the field offensively," Mason said. "With that being said, that's a tough thing."
Florida's efficiency on offense spelled doom for Vanderbilt all afternoon. The Gators converted 12 of their 19 attempts on third down and all three of their fourth-down attempts vs. the Commodores. That allowed visiting Florida to reel off 576 yards, 92 plays and, during one stretch, 24 consecutive points en route to a win.
Those numbers didn't sit well with a defensive coach like Mason. But what hurt the Commodores more was watching another game slip away, one that could've ended in their favor. That's why the Sunday film study for the Dores might sting for a while.
"Guys are going to look back at this game and see some missed opportunities and and opportunities to strain," Mason said.
For the first time in a while, Vanderbilt looked like the aggressor in the first half. It built an early 21-3 lead and led 21-13 at halftime thanks, in part, to 14 points off two Florida turnovers.
The story was different in the second half. Florida tacked on a pair of touchdowns to take a 27-21 lead early in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Feleipe Franks (19-29, 284 yards) kept the Gators' offense humming while running backs Lamical Perine and Jordan Scarlett each notched 100-yard rushing outings. While the Gators thrived, the Commodores looked gassed.
In the end, Florida reeled off three touchdowns and a field goal during one 24-0 run that snuffed out Vanderbilt's momentum. Third- and fourth-down conversions ultimately gave the Gators a commanding lead in time of possession, as they held the football for 36:14 compared to Vanderbilt's 23:46. That also allowed Florida to run 92 to plays to Vanderbilt's 58.
"Way too many," Mason said. "When you look at the time of possession in this ballgame, it was way out to whack. More defensively snaps mean guys getting worn down, and obviously we're not as deep as we want to be."
On a day in which the Commodores forced Florida into three turnovers, most defenders said the effort wasn't enough.
"We got takeaways. That's a great thing about our defense, we were ripping at the ball," linebacker Josh Smith
said. "But we've got to be better on third down. They played 92 plays, and part of that is on us as a defense. We've got to get off the field on third down."
The Commodores will look to bounce back next Saturday at Kentucky (6:30 p.m. CT on SEC Network). At 3-4 overall and 0-3 in the SEC, Vanderbilt's goal of reaching the postseason remains in play given its late-season schedule. But Mason said he knows the Dores will need to do more than they did against Florida -- much more.
"We didn't do enough, nearly enough, to win this ballgame," he said.
Zac Ellis is the Writer and Digital Media Editor for Vanderbilt Athletics.