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November 5, 2011Vanderbilt got outstanding performances from quarterback Jordan Rodgers and receiver Jordan Matthews, but dug too big of a hole and couldn't overcome its own crucial mistakes at the end in a 26-21 loss at Florida on Saturday.
Rodgers completed 19-of-28 throws for 297 yards and two touchdowns, with nine of those throws going to Matthews for 170 yards, helping VU nearly erase a 17-0 halftime deficit. Rodgers also ran for another score.
The pair was almost single-handedly responsible for the Commodores being down 20-14 late in the fourth quarter, and the Gators facing a fourth-and-1 from their own 16.
Florida lined up in its regular offense in an obvious attempt to draw the Commodores offsides. Defensive tackle Rob Lohr bit, giving UF a first down.
Later in the drive, Sean Richardson committed a pass interference penalty on a third-and-7 play with 3:15 left. That set up Jeff Demps' game-clinching, 52-yard touchdown run less than a minute later.
UF fumbled on its 2-point conversion, and Rodgers answered with a 10-yard toss to Chris Boyd with 1:16 left, pulling VU to within five.
But the Commodores couldn't grab the onside kick, and Florida ran out the clock.
Demps rushed 23 times for 158 yards and two scores, and UF's John Brantley completed 16-of-24 throws for 173 yards.
The snake-bitten Commodores also couldn't catch a crucial break in the second half, when Rodgers led the team to the UF 39 on a third-and-8 play. He threw to a wide-open Matthews in the middle of the field, but officials kept their flags in their pockets when Matthews was shoved in the before the pass fell incomplete.
Instead of a first down, the 'Dores Richard Kent punted the ball out of bounds at the UF 6, which was the origination of the Gators' game-winning drive.
The two mistakes on that drive were typical of a day in which VU's self-inflicted wounds played a big part in losing. The Gators came in as the nation's most-penalized team, yet drew three flags for 17 yards, whereas the Commodores were whistled 12 times for 106.
Florida scored first, when Jacoby Brissett nudged his way across the goal line on a sneak from less than a yard out with 8:39 left in the second quarter.
Just under four minutes later, the Gators ended a seven-play, 60-yard drive when Demps went untouched on a 5-yard touchdown run around the left side.
Caleb Sturgis added a 55-yard field goal with six seconds left in the half, giving UF a 17-0 lead at the break.
The Gators, who hadn't cracked the 230-yard mark in offense in their previous four games, didn't punt in the first half.
Vandy finally got on the board midway through the third quarter, when Rodgers was hit as he threw but still managed to find Matthews open in the end zone for a 26-yard score.
But the Gators answered immediately when Sturgis hit a 40-yard field goal on the game's next drive.
Still, VU hung in and answered on its next drive on Rodgers' 8-yard keeper on a third-and-goal play pulled VU within six after Ryan Fowler's extra point.
But after officials missed the call on Matthews on the follow-up drive, and Kent punted to set up UF's winning drive.