Saturday November 8, 2008Gators Clinch SEC East With 42-14 Win Over Vanderbilt
The No. 4 Florida Gators defeated the Vanderbilt Commodores, 42-14, on Saturday night in front of 39,773 fans at Memorial Stadium in Nashville, Tenn. With the win, the Gators clinched the Southeastern Conference East Division and will face No. 1 Alabama in the SEC Championship Game on December 6.
Junior quarterback Tim Tebow (Jacksonville, Fla.) accounted for five touchdowns, all of which came in the first half, and finished the game 12-for-17 for 171 yards and three touchdowns. He also led the squad in rushing with 88 yards on 11 carries and two scores.
The Gator defense opened up the game holding the Commodores to a three-and-out situation, forcing Vanderbilt to punt from its own 37-yard line. Sophomore defensive end Carlos Dunlap (North Charleston, S.C.) got a hand on the punt for the first time on the night, allowing the Florida offense to take over at its own 40-yard line.
Percy Harvin (Virginia Beach, Va.) accounted for 32 yards on the offense’s first drive as Tebow connected with senior wide receiver Louis Murphy (St. Augustine, Fla.) on a 12-yard strike for the opening score of the game to put the Gators ahead, 7-0, after the extra point by senior kicker Jonathan Phillips (Wellington, Fla.).
On the Commodores’ second offensive drive, the Florida defense struck again when junior linebacker Brandon Spikes (Shelby, N.C.) took down Vandy’s redshirt senior wide receiver Sean Walker for a loss of seven yards on third down to force another punt. Tebow took control on the next drive, accounting for all 58 yards, capped off by a 26-yard touchdown run, pushing the lead to 14-0, after the extra point.
Vanderbilt’s next possession ended when sophomore safety Ahmad Black (Lakeland, Fla.) picked off quarterback Mackenzi Adams for his team-leading fifth pick of the season. Tebow completed a 19-yard pass to Murphy on the ensuing play and two plays later Tebow punched the ball into the endzone from eight yards out, putting the Gators ahead, 21-0.
The Commodores didn’t pick up a first down until the 1:32 mark of the first quarter, but Dunlap blocked his second punt of the game, setting the Gators up with excellent field position again at the Vanderbilt 24-yard line.
It didn’t take long for Florida to capitalize on the good field position, as Tebow connected on an 11-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Riley Cooper (Clearwater, Fla.) for Cooper’s first score of the year, giving the Gators a 28-0 advantage with 12:01 left in the first half.
After another Vanderbilt three-and-out situation, Florida put the momentum in redshirt sophomore Emmanuel Moody’s (Coppell, Texas) hands. Moody got in on the action with a 25-yard carry, followed by a 10-yard Harvin reception and four-straight Harvin rushes, totaling 35 yards, before Harvin fumbled into the endzone where the Commodores recovered.
After taking over at its own 20-yard line, Vanderbilt converted their first third down when Adams connected with Vandy freshman wide receiver Jamie Graham. Dunlap sacked Adams for a 10-yard loss on the next play, forcing an additional Vanderbilt punt.
The Gators took possession of the ball with 1:29 left in the half and drove 80-yards for a score. After a roughing the passer penalty kept the drive alive, Tebow threw a 41-yard pass to redshirt junior wide receiver David Nelson (Wichita Falls, Texas) with eight seconds left in the half to take a 35-0 lead into the locker room after Phillips connected on the extra point.
The Orange and Blue opened the second half with a 10-play, 64-yard scoring drive highlighted by sophomore tight end Aaron Hernandez’s (Bristol, Conn.) 19-yard reception, that set up a one yard touchdown run by Harvin.
The Commodores got on the board on their next possession when redshirt senior backup quarterback Chris Nickson threw a two-yard touchdown pass to Graham with 1:04 left in the third quarter.
Vanderbilt tacked on another seven points with 5:07 remaining in the game on a 14-yard touchdown pass from Nickson to Walker to narrow the Gators’ lead 42-14.
Nelson led the Orange and Blue in receiving with one catch for 41 yards and a score followed by Murphy, who collected 39 yards on three receptions with one touchdown.
The Gators return home to The Swamp to face South Carolina on Nov. 15th. The start time and network will be announced on Sunday.