University of Florida

Next up on Gators’ wish list: Revenge against Vanderbilt

Florida lost at home to Vanderbilt last season for the first time since 1945.
Florida lost at home to Vanderbilt last season for the first time since 1945. AP

The SEC Eastern Division is muddled in mediocrity, but despite the chaos, Florida (4-3, 3-3 SEC) is simply focusing on itself … and revenge.

Following a resounding upset over Georgia, UF unexpectedly flipped the narrative from coach Will Muschamp’s future to a potential road trip up Interstate 75.

Still, the Gators need help, so instead of setting its sights on Atlanta they’re more concerned with righting wrongs from last season’s disastrous 4-8 campaign.

“At the end of the day we need to win,” Muschamp said. “And that’s laser focus for our football team. No scenario matters unless we win.”

It starts at Vanderbilt (3-6, 0-5) on Saturday (7:30 p.m., SEC Network).

The Commodores shocked the Gators 34-17 on homecoming in The Swamp last season, snapping a 22-game winning streak in the series.

“They completely embarrassed us last year,” senior center Max Garcia said. “We’re going to go to their house and we want them to experience the same disappointment they gave to us last year. We have to redeem ourselves in that way.”

Vandy, which won in Gainesville for the first time since 1945, has struggled under first-year coach Derek Mason. Following surprising consecutive 9-4 seasons under former coach James Franklin, the Commodores look like the ’Dores of old, ranking last in the league in scoring offense and next-to-last in scoring defense.

Still, Florida wants payback.

“There’s not really a word to describe the loss [last season],” defensive end Bryan Cox Jr. said. “We shouldn’t have lost that game. That’s not a game you lose. Vanderbilt’s not supposed to come into the Swamp and beat us. So we’ve definitely got it marked on the calendar to beat them.”

Considering last year’s result, Florida isn’t wary of overconfidence. Players say motivation won’t be a factor Saturday despite last week’s blowout win against the Bulldogs.

“A lot of people were pointing the finger after the Missouri loss. After the Georgia win, we’ve got those same people patting us on the back,” senior right tackle Chaz Green said. “We’ve got to make sure we don’t get complacent. Just look at the film from last year and that should be all the motivation we need.”

Florida – which rushed for 418 yards against UGA – continues to search for offensive balance, hoping to expand the duties of freshman quarterback Treon Harris in his second career start.

The Gators believe the former Miami Booker T. Washington standout can develop as a passer who is not turnover-prone, yet Harris attempted just six passes against UGA.

“We’ve traveled down that road as far as being outrushed, having four turnovers,” Muschamp said. “Those things have been addressed with our football team. … We have all the confidence in the world in Treon throwing the football. He’s an accurate thrower. Again, we’re going to gameplan each week for what we need to do to win the game. If that means throwing it 40 times, we’ll throw it 40 times.”

What Florida most needs to do is simply win its remaining games, and it’s well aware of the complicated outcomes it needs to reach Atlanta for the SEC Championship game.

“Missouri has to lose to Tennessee and another SEC opponent. I think Georgia has to lose again, also. But you know it’s not in our hands, none of that matters if we don’t win out either,” Garcia said.

“We need to do our part and that’s [winning] five straight.”

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