After a brutal October schedule saw Florida take on four ranked teams and go winless, the Gators may have righted themselves with a 26-21 victory in The Swamp against better-than-usual Vanderbilt.
That made it so UF needs to beat either South Carolina next weekend or Florida State a couple of Saturdays later to become bowl eligible. As noted last week, the schedule makers didn't do the Gators any favors by setting up a game with FCS-level Furman.
Florida took a positive step by taking care of the Commodores, and now are 5-4 (3-4) heading into a matchup with the Gators former Head Ball Coach, Steve Spurrier, and his Gamecocks.
Here's a look at how UF graded out against Vandy.
Before being forced out of the game in the fourth quarter with an undisclosed injury, starting quarterback John Brantley was 16-of-24 for 173 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.
Backup Jacoby Brissett wasn't just thrown into the contest when Brantley went down. The freshman from Palm Beach was used by offensive coordinator Charlie Weis throughout the afternoon, bulling his way into the end zone from a yard out in the first quarter and also avoided serious pressure and ad-libbed his way to a 40-yard completion on his only pass attempt of the day.
In all, the two Gator quarterbacks finished 17-of-25 for 213 yards with no interceptions, and the lone score came on Brissett's short plunge. Nothing spectacular, nothing wrong.
Florida's leading rusher with 526 yards and leading receiver with 305 yards, senior tailback Chris Rainey went through pregame warmups, but did not play due to injury.
Finally at full strength, Jeff Demps carried 23 times for 158 yards (6.9 ypc) with a pair of touchdowns. He also had two receptions for 14 yards. Backup tailback Mike Gillislee, also hampered by injuries this season, once again showed he is worthy of more touches by rushing for 39 yards on nine carries (4.3 ypc).
Multi-purpose Trey Burton had 11 yards on four carries (2.8 ypc) to go along with three catches for a team-high 41 yards. And true freshman fullback Hunter Joyer ran for 17 yards on three carries (5.7 ypc).
In all, that turnover-free trio ended the contest with 225 yards and two scores on 39 carries (5.8 ypc), as well as five receptions for 55 yards. That's 280 yards, a pretty darn good performance against a Vanderbilt defense that is one of the five or six best in the Southeastern Conference.
Five different wide receivers caught passes, and the unit finished the afternoon with eight catches for 89 yards (11.1 ypc).
They almost got a score, but Vanderbilt stripped Omarius Hines near the Commodores 1 as he fought to get into the end zone. That will mark down the grade here, but only slightly, because the fumble happened when he was doing all he could to make a big play.
Tight ends Jordan Reed (three receptions for 29 yards) and A.C. Leonard (one catch for 12 yards) also were targeted by Brantley.
It wasn't a huge day through the air, but the receivers and tight ends did combine for a very respectable 130 yards on 11 receptions.
After a burn-the-tape performance a week earlier against Georgia in Jacksonville, the Gator offensive line bounced back with a strong performance against Vanderbilt.
Florida delivered a balanced effort on offense (197 rushing yards, 213 passing) en route to rack up up 410 yards against a pretty stout Commodores defense.
The line deserves a lot of credit for its improvement, allowing just one sack (with somewhat-immobile John Brantley playing quarterback) after giving up six (four alone to outside linebacker Jarvis Jones) against the Bulldogs. UF also was flagged for holding just once, and that was declined.
There was an in-game change at center, where Sam Robey replaced Jonotthan Harrison in the third quarter after an errant shotgun snap. Harrison has started every contest in 2011.
The Gators pounded out 27 first downs, averaged 5.8 yards-a-play and held the ball for 31:27. Much of the credit should go to the big guys up front.
As he has been all season, Jaye Howard played at an All-SEC level against Vanderbilt.
The product of Orlando Jones High School finished the afternoon with five tackles, two of which were for a loss of 15 yards. And included in that was an 11-yard sack of Jordan Rodgers.
Sharrif Floyd delivered three tackles, including one for the loss of a yard, and Dominique Easley added three tackles of his own. Easley may not have put up big numbers, but he was plenty disruptive.
Buck Ronald Powell was more of an end than linebacker this week, so we'll grade him here. He too had a nice afternoon, recording three tackles, two of which were for losses totalling 14 yards. Included in that was a 10-yard sack.
Senior end William Green had a pair of solo tackles. Omar Hunter clogged up the middle of the Vandy offensive line and picked up a tackle. Reserve end/tackle Earl Okine broke up a pass in limited action.
In addition to playing without Rainey, Florida also didn't have linebackers Jelani Jenkins and Lerentee McCray due to undisclosed injuries.
Michael Taylor stepped up and may have had the best game of his Gator career, recording a team-high seven tackles (0.5 of which was for-loss). As is often the case, Jon Bostic wasn't far behind with five tackles.
As a team, Vanderbilt ran for just 80 yards on 33 carries (2.4 ypc), and the linebacking corps deserves a lot of the credit for that.
With linebackers and safeties primarily used in coverage, Commodores tight end Brandon Barden had a nice afternoon, catching four passes for 51 yards. However, for the most part, it was a good day for this depleted group.
The Gator secondary has had better games.
Underrated Vanderbilt receiver Jordan Matthews, a relative of Jerry Rice, caught nine passes for 170 yards and a touchdown. He may end up better than Vandy's All-SEC-caliber wideout, Earl Bennett.
Fellow receiver Chris Boyd caught two balls for 41 yards and a touchdown, and, as previously noted, tight end Brandon Barden hauled in four passes for 51 yards against linebacker and safety coverage.
Commodores quarterback Jordan Rodgers (Aaron's younger brother) finished the afternoon 19-of-28 for 297 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Safety Matt Elam was used in a variety of ways, and he finished the contest with five tackles, three of which were for for a combined loss of nine yards. He also broke up a pass and had a quarterback hurry.
Jaylen Watkins tied Elam for the lead among defensive backs with five tackles. He also broke up a game-best two passes.
Josh Evans had four tackles (including a half-a-tackle for the loss of a yard). Cody Riggs added three tackles, while Pop Saunders finished with a pair of tackles and a pass break-up.
For the second consecutive week, Florida delivered a strong performance on special teams.
The major highlights were a blocked field goal by sophomore defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd and a 55-yard field goal from Caleb Sturgis.
A senior from St. Augustine, Sturgis also missed from 49 yards and was successful from 40.
The return game wasn't spectacular like it was against Georgia, as UF had just 54 kickoff return yards (41 by Jeff Demps, 13 by William Green) and no punt return yardage. Vanderbilt also was quiet in the return game, recording 77 kickoff return yards and two punt return yards.
True freshman Kyle Christy averaged 37 yards on two punts.
Florida had a sound gameplan, and it resulted in a much-needed victory.
Two individual plays in the fourth quarter, in particular, had tremendous impact.
The first came when UF had 4th-and-1 at its own 15, and through confusion (quarterback Jacoby Brissett lined up at receiver in a constantly moving formation) and a strong hard count by Trey Burton, the Gators were able to lure Rob Lohr into jumping offsides.
The second came later in the drive when on third-and-1 at the Florida 48, most of the offense went right and Jeff Demps took a pitch left. One knee-buckling juke later, and he was racing 52 yards for the contest's decisive score.
After being penalized for more than 100 yards against Georgia, the Gators were flagged a mere three times for 17 yards against Vanderbilt.
They overcame an in-game injury to John Brantley, as well as not having Chris Rainey, Jelani Jenkins and Lerentee McCray at all.
Florida also was 2-for-2 in the red zone, both for touchdowns.