SportsCollege SportsUniversity of Florida


Gators handle Vanderbilt 38-14 at home

Graham Mertz throws 3 TD passes, including 2 to Arlis Boardingham
Florida Gators running back Montrell Johnson Jr. celebrates his 7-yard touchdown run against Vanderbilt Commodores with quarterback Graham Mertz, offensive lineman Jake Slaughter and tight end Hayden Hansen, Oct. 7, 2023
Posted at 11:11 PM, Oct 07, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-07 23:15:38-04

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida's latest home win had more to do with Kentucky than Vanderbilt.

One week after an embarrassing road loss to the Wildcats, the Gators "got off the mat" and delivered a resounding victory against the Commodores.

Graham Mertz threw three touchdown passes, including two to converted tight end Arlis Boardingham, and Florida handled Vanderbilt 38-14 on Saturday and improved to 4-0 this season in the Swamp.

"If you get knocked down, you got to get back up," Mertz said. "That was kind of our theme this week."

Added defensive end Tyreak Sapp: "Wipe the dirt off. You try to not let that happen, but it does. The thing is how do you respond?"

The Gators (4-2, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) bounced back from a 33-14 drubbing in Lexington and avenged a stunning loss in Nashville a year ago.

Mertz and Boardingham came up big in the rematch. Mertz, who got knocked to the ground several times and once that forced him to miss two plays, completed 30 of 36 passes for 254 yards before giving way to Max Brown in the fourth. Mertz had scoring throws of 2 and 15 yards to Boardingham, who spent all week lamenting a tipped pass that turned into an early interception against Kentucky.

"It was a lot," Boardingham quipped.

Boardingham, who entered the game with six receptions for 51 yards, finished with seven catches for 99 yards and two end-zone celebrations.

After getting gouged for 329 yards rushing last week, Florida's defense gave up 64 on the ground against Vandy.

Vanderbilt Commodores QB Ken Seals scrambles from pocket as he is pressured by Florida Gators safety R.J. Moten, Oct. 7, 2023
Vanderbilt quarterback Ken Seals scrambles from the pocket as he is pressured by Florida safety R.J. Moten during the second half Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023, in Gainesville, Fla.

"Sometimes you don't play the way you want to play," Gators coach Billy Napier said. "You've got to get up off the mat and go back in the ring as a competitor. ... We played a little more like we want to today."

The Commodores (2-5, 0-3) have dropped five in a row, including three consecutive league games by at least 17 points each.

Florida racked up 495 yards, including 215 rushing. Montrell Johnson led the way with 135 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries.

Vanderbilt can point to three failed fourth-down plays as the difference. Quincy Skinner fumbled on one. Kamrean Johnson dropped another. And Ken Seals was sacked on the third.

"The key for us today was missed opportunities," Vandy coach Clark Lea said. "We have to be better in those moments to give ourselves a chance to win."