GAINESVILLE -- After watching Florida steamroll LSU in the second half of last weekend’s victory, Vanderbilt coach James Franklin said he knows what to expect Saturday.
In coach Will Muschamp’s second season, the Gators have steadily built a reputation for having a punishing ground game designed to wear down and defeat teams late in games. Through five games, Florida is averaging 214.8 rushing yards per game. Against LSU, UF only attempted four passes in the second half and ran it 25 consecutive times to close the game.
“They’re going to run it down your throat,” Franklin said.
That’s what the No. 4 Gators (5-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) will attempt to do again Saturday against the Commodores (2-3, 1-2 SEC) when the teams meet at 6 p.m. in Nashville. Vanderbilt, giving up an average of 179 yards rushing per game, will have its hands full with UF’s rushing attack.
Under Muschamp, Florida is 12-1 when it rushes for at least 125 yards. This season, the Gators have not rushed for fewer than 142 yards and have been overpowering defenses with power runs from formations featuring six and sometimes seven offensive linemen instead of five. Against LSU, UF scored both of its touchdowns on power runs with at least six offensive linemen, and running back Mike Gillislee went into the end zone untouched both times.
Offensive coordinator Brent Pease said the formation has so much success for one simple reason.
“Some of the [defensive] ends are used to having tight ends on them and all of a sudden you have D.J. Humphries or Ian Silberman — you’ve got a guy that’s 300 pounds,” Pease said. “When you look at that one time, there’s seven guys there that are probably 300-plus [pounds]. What’s your math on that? Seven times three is, what, 2,100 pounds coming at you? That’s probably not — I don’t know that I would want that falling on me.
“You know what they say: ‘Mass kicks ass.’ So that’s our theory behind it.”
Vanderbilt’s defense struggled against the run last week against Missouri, allowing 150 yards, while Florida’s running game thrived against one of the toughest front sevens in the country, gaining more than 200 yards not counting the five sacks quarterback Jeff Driskel took on designed passing plays.
Franklin has called Vanderbilt’s defensive line the team’s strength, but he added that this will be a tough test and that the unit has room to grow.
“I still have higher expectations of them,” Franklin said. “I’m pleased with how they’re playing, but I think we can play better.”
And, Franklin said, just because opposing coaches and defensive coordinators know what Florida wants to do — ride Gillislee, control the clock and wear down teams with the run — doesn’t mean that they are capable of stopping it.
“Everybody is going into it with the same plan,” he said.