During Florida’s home victory over Vanderbilt, starting quarterback Luke Del Rio was forced to leave the game late in the first half with an apparent shoulder injury. Visibly upset about the injury as he walked off the field, Del Rio’s biggest fear may have just been realized.
Speaking to the media after the win, Florida head coach Jim McElwain announced Del Rio will be scheduled for surgery on Monday. The surgery is expected to sideline Del Rio for the remainder of the 2017 college football season.
Del Rio appeared to land on the same shoulder he had surgically repaired last year when he was brought down by a Vanderbilt defender.
Del Rio had just been handed the starting job for the Gators following last week’s road win at Kentucky, but now the job will be handed right back to Feleipe Franks. Franks lost the starting job to Del Rio but came in off the sideline to help lead Florida to a win against Vanderbilt.
The quarterback carousel continued in Gainesville on Saturday. Luke Del Rio, who was just named the starting quarterback for Florida this week after guiding the Gators to a road win at Kentucky last week, was taken out of the game with an apparent shoulder injury late in the first half. Feliepe Franks came in off the bench and had an immediate impact with a deep pass to setup a key field goal and then had an efficient second half through the air to help guide Florida to a 38-24 victory over Vanderbilt.
It is unknown at this time what the future holds for Del Rio. The injured shoulder was the one he had surgically repaired last year, so the caution level is understandably high for the Gators and Del Rio. If he is out for an extended period of time, then it will be up to Franks to provide a steady and reliable arm in the offense moving forward if Florida is to contend for the SEC East.
At least Florida can still generally rely on their defense. Although Vanderbilt put together some good drives at times, the Gators had enough stops to hold off the upset bid from the visitors. But the offense was keyed by the first 100-yard day on the ground by Malik Davis, who took off 39 yards for the dagger on a 4th and 1 late in the game.
After going to halftime tied at 17-17, thanks in large part to a deep pass from Franks to setup a game-tying field goal as time expired in the first half, Florida scored two touchdowns on two straight offensive series while Vanderbilt was held to a three-and-out and fumbled the football away to the Gators. Florida took a commanding 14-point lead on Vanderbilt and that was enough t grab the win at home.
Florida will stay home next week for a game against LSU. Florida snapped a three-game losing streak to the Tigers last season in a game that was transplanted to Baton Rouge following a rescheduling fiasco following a hurricane. LSU ended up hosting the game that was originally scheduled to be played in Gainesville, and to accommodate the change the Gators gained the home game this season.
Vanderbilt will be home next week for another SEC East battle, this time with Georgia. Vanderbilt upset the Bulldogs last season in Athens, 17-16 and the two schools have split their last four meetings.
A week after being steamrolled at home by Alabama, Vanderbilt appears to be much more competitive this week on the road against Florida with the teams tied 17-17 at halftime. If Florida is going to avoid taking a loss at home, the hopes may have to be placed in the hands of quarterback Feleipe Franks after Luke Del Rio headed off to the locker room a few minutes before halftime with a trainer.
After three back-and-forth three-and-outs to start the game by both offenses, Florida finally got the ball rolling with a 10-play touchdown drive capped by Lamical Perine scoring the first rushing touchdown by a Gators running back in a year. But Vanderbilt answered with a touchdown drive of their own. The Commodores marched 75 yards in seven plays with Kyle Shurmur completing a 13-yard pass to Kalija Lipscomb for the game-tying score.
The teams again exchanged touchdown drives a few possessions later to keep the game tight at 14-14. Vanderbilt took the 17-14 lead with a 42-yard field goal by Tommy Openshaw in the final minute of the half.
After taking over the offense, Franks tossed a deep ball down the field to Tyrie Cleveland for a 49-yard gain, but the Gators could not get in the end zone from a 1st and Goal from the nine-yard line in the time remaining in the half. The Gators settled for a field goal to tie the game heading to halftime.
Before the headlines in Gainesville took a rough turn for the worst off the field, Florida head coach Jim McElwain created some news with addressing the offense. This week, Luke Del Rio will be the starting quarterback for the Gators.
This comes as little surprise for a team that has been struggling on offense for the majority of the season. Despite a miracle finish against Tennessee two weeks ago, Feleipe Franks struggled on the road against Kentucky, forcing McElwain to make a switch to get Del Rio back in the fold on the field. As a result, whether coincidence or not, Del Rio led the Gators to avoid the school’s first loss to Kentucky in over three decades.
First up for Del Rio as the Florida starter will be Vanderbilt, who comes off a drubbing at the hands of Alabama. Before the Crimson Tide came to Nashville, the Commodores were hailed as having one of the top defenses in the SEC outside of Tuscaloosa. This will be no easy task for Del Rio and the Gators against Vanderbilt because they still do not have the kind of offense that can overpower their opponent the way Alabama can.
Florida has a long way to go, but we’ll see if Del Rio can keep any momentum on their side for more than one week.
It’s been a busy day for Florida Gators news, but here’s a nugget about one of the players not facing a suspension this weekend. At least for now.
Feleipe Franks has been tabbed as the official starter for the Gators this weekend when Florida faces Michigan in Arlington, Texas.
Although Florida head coach Jim McElwain had teased the idea of playing as many as three quarterbacks in the season opener (something he could still potentially do, especially if things get off to a rough start offensively), Franks was the leading candidate to start for the Gators coming out of the spring. The redshirt freshman shined in the Gators’ spring game and looked to be the most suitable candidate to handle the job this fall based off the spring.
“He’s ahead, there’s no doubt about it,” McElwain said of Franks at the end of the spring practice schedule in April.
With Franks being named the starter, that likely means Luke Del Rio will serve as the primary backup quarterback, with former Notre Dame graduate transfer Malik Zaire also an option. Although the idea of having Zaire play some wide receiver may become more a necessity than anything with a plethora of suspensions putting a dent in the receiver depth this week.