In what is assuredly a big upset, Vanderbilt’s backup players were able to shut out Florida’s backup players 14-0 on a chilly night in Nashville, Tennessee. QB Chris Nickson, filling in for injured starter Mackenzi Adams, led the way for the Commodores’ reserves with two touchdown passes and 39 rushing yards on 10 attempts.
“We just decided to throw them out there and see what happened,” explained Vanderbilt head coach Bobby Johnson. “They did a heck of a job against a group of players that had some guys who could probably start for us.”
The two schools’ starters played a little more than a half of football, resulting in a resounding 42-0 win for Florida. It could have been 49-0 as a controversial review of a goal line plunge by Florida WR Percy Harvin appeared to show him breaking the plane of the end zone before the ground caused him to fumble, but replay officials determined it to be a lost fumble and Vanderbilt possession.
Florida starting QB Tim Tebow exerted his will in a manner reminiscent of his Heisman-winning 2007 campaign, accounting for five touchdowns and leading the team with 88 rushing yards. He easily could have had seven touchdowns if he had been used in goal line scenarios as normal, but the Florida offensive staff chose to use Harvin instead. The win catapulted the Gators into the SEC Championship Game for the second time in head coach Urban Meyer’s four seasons.
Still, the Florida head coach did not seem pleased after the contest between the reserve players.
“I was real disappointed by their play out there,” said Meyer. “They did not play Florida football, and that’s why we got shut out. The twos and threes have a lot to think about going into this week’s practice.”
Despite the disappointment in the way the Gators fared in garbage time, the segment with the starters provided many positives. The Gators blocked two punts to once again give the offense several short field situations to work with. The defense got three-and-outs on the Commodores’ first three possessions, and it picked up a turnover with S Ahmad Black’s fifth interception of the season.
The shutout was a disappointment for the Florida backups, however, after scoring in each of Florida’s past three games. The 14 points allowed were also the most given up by the backups this season, surpassing the previous high of 10 allowed against Hawai’i. The main consolation for them is that Nickson has been a starter on and off throughout his career.
The overall Florida team remains on course to play for the national championship if it wins out from here.