University of Florida

A targeting call led to a benches-clearing incident between Florida and Vanderbilt

Florida head coach Dan Mullen, center, focused on practices this week.
Florida head coach Dan Mullen, center, focused on practices this week. AP

Dan Mullen and Derek Mason found themselves locked in a heated exchange in the second quarter of the Florida Gators’ meeting with Vanderbilt on Saturday, and multiple Florida players wound up ejected after both benches emptied. A Vanderbilt punt with less than two minutes until halftime led to a pair of penalties on the Gators, including a targeting call assessed against James Houston IV for a crackback block on Dare Odeyingbo.

Odeyingbo, a defensive lineman for the Commodores, chased Florida wide receiver Freddie Swain to the right sideline during a punt return when Houston, a linebacker for the Gators, flung himself into the unsuspecting defender. Houston led with his helmet and referees determined he made forcible contact to the head or neck area.

As Odeyingbo laid on the turf and Vanderbilt’s training staff attended to the senior, Mason made his way out to check on his player. At some point, Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham started yelling at Mason, prompting Mullen and Mason to exchange words. The Commodores bench emptied to rush in defense of the coach, as did the Gators’.

Both benches were assessed personal fouls, which also led to the ejection of Vosean Joseph. The Florida linebacker had already been assessed a personal foul earlier in the game. Players are ejected after accumulating two.

Despite the penalties, the Gators managed to kick a last-second field goal before halftime to cut into Vanderbilt’s lead. The Commodores took a 21-13 lead into the break after leading 21-3 earlier in the game.

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