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No. 4 Gators remember scare from Vandy last season

No. 4 Gators remember scare from Vandy last season

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The fourth-ranked Florida Gators remember only too well how close Vanderbilt came to knocking them off last season in The Swamp.

The Commodores rallied with three touchdowns in the second half before Florida pulled out a 26-21 win last November, and Gators cornerback Jaylen Watkins said Vanderbilt is a sneaky good team.

``It lets you know this is not a joke week or anything like that,'' Watkins said. ``We've got to play or something bad will happen.''

Overlooking a program the Gators (5-0, 4-0) have beaten 21 straight games would be understandable, especially with Florida hosting No. 3 South Carolina on Oct. 20 followed by the annual showdown in Jacksonville with No. 14 Georgia. It's a three-game stretch that could put the Gators atop the SEC East on the road back to Atlanta for the conference championship.

Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel said the Gators understand that every SEC game is big going into Saturday night's game with Vanderbilt (2-3, 1-2).

``You can't take anybody lightly because anybody can beat you,'' Driskel said. ``This league is full of players and full of athletes, and they're going to be well-coached and ready to go. So we can't take this week off or take it lightly. We're going to prepare like we have been the whole year, and we'll be ready to go Saturday.''

The Commodores have strong memories of their last game with Florida as well, a game that drove home the need to start better and finish strong.

``This year we're just going to come out, play well and finish,'' Vanderbilt senior defensive tackle Rob Lohr said. ``It's just about finishing, and that's kind of the mentality our defense has taken. We can't give up plays at the end of the first half and end of the fourth quarter.''

Florida is coming off a strong 14-6 win over LSU, while the Commodores got a big boost with a 19-15 win at Missouri that was their first road win since 2010. The win combined with hosting the fourth-ranked Gators helped Vanderbilt sell out for the first time since Florida's visit in 2008.

Now coach James Franklin wants to see his Commodores go play well Saturday night.

``Selling out is great, but we have to put a product on the field that people can be excited about and that people want to keep coming back see,'' Franklin said.

Both Florida coach Will Muschamp and Franklin are in their second seasons, though Franklin's job of rebuilding is much bigger at a program he took to only its fifth bowl game ever in 2011. The Gators won their third national championship in 2008.

``I think he did a fantastic job last year,'' said Muschamp, who has coached at Franklin when both previously worked elsewhere. ``You turn the tape on you see guys playing fast, hard and physical. Multiple offensively. Bob Shoop does a great job defensively attacking, and what they do on special teams ... there's no question that's James' personality written all over it.''

Franklin is just as complimentary of the Gators. He said many defensive coaches try to take away one piece of an offense yet Florida takes everything away with a defense ranked 12th nationally allowing 284 yards. The Gators, playing their last SEC game this season away from Florida, haven't allowed a touchdown in two straight games or a single point in the fourth quarter this season.

``You get 3 yards in this game on a run you're happy with it,'' Franklin said. ``You're going to have to keep grinding it out, and you're going to have to make plays down the field.''

Vanderbilt's best chance is giving Jordan Rodgers enough time to throw down field to Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd, the SEC's top duo averaging 170.8 yards receiving per game. Matthews leads the SEC averaging seven catches per game and is second with 97.2 yards receiving. He had 170 yards receiving against Florida last season.

Watkins also remembers the trouble Matthews gave the Florida secondary, and he said they look at it as another challenge. Rodgers also is a threat to run just like Driskel, and the Commodores use a lot of misdirection and trick plays. Watkins trusts the Gators' defensive line to contain Rodgers.

The Commodores know what to expect from Florida with the Gators and running back Mike Gillislee averaging 214.8 yards rushing per game. That's third-best in the SEC and 24th nationally. Driskel is completing 69.2 percent of his passes when he does throw, and Franklin said that's why Vanderbilt can't simply load up near the line of scrimmage.

``They're 5-0 for a reason,'' Franklin said.

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Follow Teresa M. Walker on Twitter at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: On to Vegas!

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: On to Vegas!

The Capitals are the Eastern Conference Champions!

After dispatching Tampa Bay in Game 7, the Caps claimed the conference crown for just the second time in franchise history. But they're not done yet. Now it's on to Vegas to face the Golden Knights for the Stanley Cup.

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir break down the Caps' win over the Lightning and look ahead to the matchup with the Knights.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

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Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

The pre-draft workout process can be an exhausting journey for players, with so many flights, hotel rooms and NBA arenas that they can all blend in together. Michigan big man Moritz Wagner, though, may have felt a sense of comfort in Washington for his pre-draft workout for the Wizards on Wednesday.

It was just over a year ago that his Michigan Wolverines cut down the nets at Capital One Arena as champions of the Big Ten conference.

"It was good memories, man. Never gets old," he said while glancing around the stadium.

Wagner, 21, will be seeing a lot more of Capital One Arena once he joins the NBA ranks and it is conceivable he ends up in Washington. They hold the 15th pick in the first round and the 44th pick in the second round and Wagner could be within their reach.

Wagner had an impressive workout in Washington and could provide what the Wizards need. He is a big, mobile and can spread the floor. Wagner was terrific at stepping out to hit threes off pick-and-rolls at Michigan and that ability would work well with Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall.

Wagner measured in at just under 7-feet at this month's NBA Combine, fifth-tallest among those who attended. He averaged 14.6 points as a junior this past season and made 39.4 percent of his threes on 4.1 attempts per game.

With three years of college experience and an NBA-ready jumper, Wagner believes he can step right in and help the Wizards.

"I think what we did at Michigan, sharing the ball and playing as a team, very organized basketball, that can help big-time," he said. "It's basically pro basketball I was playing on a different level."

As Wagner will tell you, he is very confident in his abilities. He is comfortable in his own skin and that includes openly discussing his faults. He feels good about his ability to score at the next level. Defense is where he needs to prove himself.

Despite his size, Wagner wasn't much of a rim protector in college. He averaged just a half-block a game as a junior. The Wizards need rim protection badly and he likely would not provide that.

Wagner, though, believes he can bring more to the table defensively than the numbers would suggest.

"I think I've been an offensive guy all of my life, but the more that you mature as a player, you understand that both sides are important. Without defense, you aren't going to play at any level," he said.

"I think the most important thing that I wasn't able to show in college is that I'm able to switch the ball-screen, especially with the way the league is going. Switch on everything and stay in front of guards as a big guy."

Wagner is from Germany and looks up to Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki, who is entering his 21st season and will be in the Hall of Fame someday. Nowitzki's game has always been built around shooting and, though he developed into a decent shot-blocker in his prime, was never an elite rim protector.

Wagner hopes to follow in his footsteps playing a similar style.

"He was my MJ. He kind of shows you 'okay, this is possible and this is doable.' It's just basketball," Wagner said. "It gives you a lot of hope. It gives you a lot of belief and motivation."

Hear more from Wagner in his one-on-one interview with Chris Miller in our latest Wizards Tipoff podcast. His interview can also be found in the video above:

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