Vandy beats Florida 34-17, snaps series streak
(AP Photo/Phil Sandlin)
By MARK LONG
AP Sports Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) Florida's injury-riddled season has reached a new low - and it likely will end without a bowl trip.
Tyler Murphy's four turnovers led to three touchdowns, helping Vanderbilt embarrass Florida 34-17 Saturday for the program's first win in Gainesville since 1945.
The Commodores snapped a 22-game losing streak in the lopsided series and moved a step closer to becoming bowl eligible for the third consecutive season under coach James Franklin.
Franklin also notched another signature win, giving Vanderbilt victories over Southeastern Conference powerhouses Georgia and Florida in the same season for the first time in school history.
"The difference in the game was turnovers," Franklin said. "Our defense was able to get turnovers. If you look at it statistically, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. But because of the turnovers ... our offense was in short field a lot of times, and that was the difference of the game."
Murphy was Vandy's MVP.
The Commodores (5-4, 2-4) scored after each of Murphy's three interceptions, building a 24-3 lead after getting the ball inside the 22-yard line three times. Vanderbilt finished with 12 first downs and 187 yards. Florida had 26 first downs and 353 yards.
Once ranked, Florida has its second four-game losing streak in coach Will Muschamp's three seasons, fueling more speculation about his future in Gainesville.
"I certainly don't like the product we are putting on the field, and that's my responsibility," Muschamp said. "I take full credit for that. When it's good, it's good. When it's not good, it's not good - and it hasn't been good. And that's on me.
"I'm not asking for anybody to be happy. I'm not asking anybody to give a pass. This is the real deal. This is the University of Florida. My expectation I'll guarantee is as high or higher than anyone sitting in those stands. There's nobody more let down or hurt or competitive-edge dented a little bit by this. So it's on me. We'll get it turned. I can assure you that."
Murphy completed 28 of 45 passes for a career-high 297 yards. But his three interceptions - he also lost a fumble - were key.
"I didn't play well," Murphy said. "I mean, when you throw three interceptions, you put the defense in a bind, you kill your momentum offensively. I've got to play better."
He overthrew Quinton Dunbar in the first quarter, a pass Andre Hall picked and returned to the Florida 10-yard line. Jerron Seymour scored on the next play, breaking five tackles on the run and putting the Commodores ahead 10-0.
It was a big boost for a team that had been outscored 85-24 in the first quarter in its previous eight games.
It also was just the start of Florida's failures.
Two drives later, Murphy underthew a pass as he was getting hit. Kenny Ladler picked it off and returned it to the Florida 22. Quarterback Patton Robinette, making his second start in place of Austyn Carta-Samuels, scrambled for a 5-yard score four plays later to make it 17-0.
Florida finally got on the board, but only after a chorus of boos.
The Gators had first-and-goal inside the 1 when Murphy checked to an option play to the short side of the field. Murphy pitched to Kelvin Taylor, who fumbled out of bounds for a 5-yard loss. The offense never recovered, and Solomon Patton's third-down drop at the goal line left Florida to kick a field goal.
The homecoming crowd reacted vocally, heckling the Gators as they lined up for the field goal.
The Swamp fell silent after Murphy's third interception.
Murphy threw behind Trey Burton on a third-and-3 play to open the second half. Burton tipped the ball into Andrew Williamson's hands. He juggled it briefly before rambling to the 4. Seymour scored two plays later, putting Vandy ahead 24-3.
Seymour's third touchdown, a 1-yard plunge on the first play of the fourth quarter, erased any doubts about the outcome. It sent many of Florida faithful scrambling for the exits.
It was exactly what Vandy wanted from this trip.
Defensive coordinator Bob Shoop challenged the team before the game, asking players what they wanted to leave as a legacy.
"That's what we wanted to leave," defensive end Walker May said. "We wanted to beat Florida and beat Georgia the same year, and then win out the rest of our games."
Vanderbilt has to beat Kentucky, Tennessee or Wake Forest to make a third straight bowl.
Florida, meanwhile, is still searching for answers in a season defined by significant injuries and mounting losses.
"We've just got to look ourselves in the mirror individually, especially through this time," Florida guard Jon Halapio said. "I've never been through anything really like this, adversity like this."
It could get worse, too.
Florida needs to win twice down the stretch - against No. 13 South Carolina, lower-division Georgia Southern and third-ranked Florida State - to go bowling for the 23rd straight year.
"I'm very critical of myself and what I need to do to be better, and I don't need to hear any fan from the outside telling me what we need to do with this football team," Muschamp said. "I can assure you that."
Updated November 9, 2013