GatorZone.com Senior Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Florida coach Urban Meyer told the media on Monday during his press conference that redshirt freshman quarterback Jordan Reed was going to throw his first career pass at Vanderbilt.
Meyer didn’t say it was going to be a touchdown pass.
Reed, in his official coming-out party, hit Deonte Thompson for a 31-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the second quarter in the Gators’ 55-14 thumping of Vanderbilt on Saturday. The pass gave the Gators a 14-0 lead and opened a 34-point second quarter.
Reed split snaps with starter John Brantley and back-up Trey Burton in the first half. However, with the Gators in total control after halftime, Reed took over and finished 11 of 19 for 120 yards. Reed also led the Gators in rushing with 16 carries for 84 yards.
Reed became the first UF player since Andre Caldwell in 2006 to catch, run and throw for a touchdown in the same season.
“He’s a freak athlete,’’ Meyer said of the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Reed. “I think we did it right … how we’re pushing him into this offense. You can see what a dynamic runner he is. He’s got a nice arm. We don’t have that big runner, and he gives us that.’’
A prep quarterback in Connecticut, Reed has been used mostly at tight end. His combination of speed and size makes for an interesting contrast to Brantley and Burton.
“He is pretty hard to tackle,’’ receiver Frankie Hammond said. “He can hit the holes hard and get through a lot of things, and then he can drop back and pass and put it where it needs to be. He is coming along as a quarterback.’’
Reed was excited to get more of an opportunity at quarterback in the second half.
“It was fun. I’m just trying to do the best I can. I just try to play as hard as I can. Every other quarterback is just as good if not better. It’s a team game. I just try my hardest in everything I do. I miss playing QB a little bit.
“I don’t know where I’m at on the depth chart. I just go out and play.’’
Meyer said he plans to continue using Brantley, Burton and Reed at quarterback the rest of the season.
RAINEY’S BLOCK PARTY
Chris Rainey has quickly made an impact since returning from his five-game suspension.
Rainey blocked two punts, caught a 40-yard touchdown pass from Brantley, and led the Gators with 136 all-purpose yards Saturday.
Maybe senior center Mike Pouncey knows what he is talking about.
“I’ve told you all year long he is the best player on our team,’’ Pouncey said. “He shows it week in and week out. We’re just glad to have him back.’’
Rainey blocked his first kick in the first quarter, stuffing Commodores punter Richard Kent’s attempt racing around the edge. The Gators took over at Vanderbilt’s 3, and two plays later, Mike Gillislee gave Florida a 7-0 lead on a 3-yard run.
Rainey struck again in the second quarter, blocking Kent’s punt late in the second quarter. UF’s Solomon Patton picked up the loose ball and raced 42 yards for a touchdown, giving the Gators a 41-0 lead after Chas Henry’s extra-point was blocked.
The two blocked punts were the first for the Gators this season, and their first since Rainey blocked a punt at Mississippi State last season. Rainey now has four career blocked punts, tied with Tim Paulk (1987-91), Sam McCorkle (1992-95) and Carlos Dunlap (2007-09) for the most in school history.
Rainey is being watched closely by Meyer to make sure he stays out of trouble.
“I think he hit rock bottom and he had one way to go,’’ Meyer said. “Good for him he’s doing much better in school. My thumb is on him real hard. His whole work ethic has changed.’’
SANDERS RUMBLES FREE
As 312-pound defensive tackle Terron Sanders scooped up a fumble and ran for the end zone, he flashed back to a fumble return against Georgia in 2008 when he was caught inside the 15-yard line.
Sanders didn’t get caught Saturday, returning a fumble by Vanderbilt running back Zac Stacy 45 yards for a touchdown that gave Florida a 27-0 lead.
“I didn’t want anything to keep me from scoring,’’ Sanders said. “It was something that I wanted to do before I graduated from here. It felt good to celebrate with my teammates in the end zone.’’
While Sanders celebrated his touchdown, he was also upset at missing a blocking assignment on Vanderbilt’s first touchdown, a blocked punt by Ryan van Rensburg that was recovered in the end zone by Javon Marshall.
“That was on me,’’ Sanders said. “He worked a move on me. I was real disappointed afterwards.’’
Brantley finished 11 of 18 for 157 yards and two touchdowns Saturday.
Brantley’s touchdown pass to Rainey was his first scoring throw since Sept. 25 against Kentucky – and he later connected with Frankie Hammond for a 39-yard scoring pass.
Brantley entered the game with six touchdowns and six interceptions.
“It felt good,’’ Brantley said of throwing a touchdown. “I mean, it was a heck of a catch by Rainey. It kind of floated on me and slipped out of my hand. I’m not used to this cold weather.’’
QUOTE OF NOTE
“Rough day at the office. We got beat in every phase: offense, defense, special teams. We got beat in every way. We couldn’t seem to catch a kickoff.’’ – Vanderbilt coach Robbie Caldwell, whose team fell to 2-7.
Gators RB Jeff Demps (sprained foot) did not play, missing his second game of the season. “Jeff was available but we wanted to be smart. He didn’t practice much. I plan on him being ready for South Carolina,’’ Meyer said. … RT Xavier Nixon suffered a minor knee injury in the first half and did not return … LG Carl Johnson (calf) played after Nixon was hurt and the Gators shuffled the offensive line … WR Andre Debose (ankle) returned to action after missing the Georgia game; Debose had one catch for 14 yards. “He was just scratching and clawing to be able to return … so we put him in there a little bit,’’ Meyer said. … In the second half, the Gators’ offensive line was LT Kyle Koehne, LG Jonotthan Harrison, C Sam Robey, RG Jon Halapio and RT Nick Alajajian … DT Jaye Howard (foot/ankle) did not make the trip … DB Moses Jenkins (elbow) played for the first time since the season opener.
Meyer said freshman DT Dominique Easley did not make the trip for “a lot of reasons.’’ … UF has now blocked 31 kicks since Meyer took over in 2005 (20 punts, 11 field goals) … Reed became the fifth UF player since 1990 to catch, run and throw a touchdown in the same season, joining Jacquez Green (1997), Doug Johnson (1998), Travis McGriff (1998) and Caldwell … Before Sanders’ fumble return for a touchdown Saturday, Dustin Doe was the last Gator to return a fumble for a touchdown on Sept. 15, 2007 against Tennessee … The temperature at kickoff was 44 degrees, the lowest since Meyer arrived … Sophomore Josh Evans returned the first interception of his career 36 yards … Redshirt sophomore Josh Postell, who didn’t have his name on the back of his No. 87 jersey, caught the first pass of his career in the fourth quarter.