Saturday November 7, 2009No. 1 Florida Tops Vanderbilt, 27-3
In front of 90, 694 Gator fans, No. 1 Florida won its 19th consecutive game with a 27-3 victory over Vanderbilt Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The Gators (9-0, 7-0 SEC) held the Commodores (2-8, 0-6 SEC) to just 99 yards rushing and 100 yards passing, the sixth time this season the UF defense has held its opponent to under 100 yards rushing.
The 9-0 start is just the third in school history.
Led by senior quarterback Tim Tebow (Jacksonville, Fla.), who completed 15-of-20 passes for 208 yards and one touchdown, the Gators racked up 227 yards through the air to accompany 148 yards on the ground against the Commodores.
Junior tight end Aaron Hernandez (Bristol, Conn.) had a career day, tallying a career-tying seven receptions for a career-high 120 yards through the air, including a career-long 64-yard haul in the fourth quarter.
After both teams got off to a slow start, including two punts for Vanderbilt on its first two possessions, and a punt for UF on its first possession, the Gators put their first points on the board with one minute left in the first quarter with a 27-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Caleb Sturgis (St. Augustine, Fla.). Florida swung into action with a 13-play, 75-yard drive that included a 14-yard reception by redshirt senior David Nelson (Wichita Falls, Texas) and a 21-yard catch by Hernandez to take the early 3-0 lead.
Florida’s defense came alive on the next drive as redshirt senior Ryan Stamper (Jacksonville, Fla.) picked off Vanderbilt’s Mackenzi Adams’ pass, and returned the ball 18 yards to set up a 25-yard Jeff Demps (Winter Garden, Fla.) touchdown scamper that put the Gators ahead, 10-0, at the top of the second quarter. The pick marked Stamper’s second career interception and his second in the last two games. Demps led all UF rushers in the match-up with seven carries for 57 yards on the ground.
The Orange and Blue capitalized on the Commodores’ third punt of the game when Sturgis found the uprights for his second field goal of the night, a 45-yard success at the 6:08 mark that took the Gators into the locker room ahead, 13-0, at the half. The first-half shutout marked the first time since UF’s Nov. 8, 2008, win over the Commodores that the Gators held an opponent to zero points through the first two quarters.
After forcing Florida to three-and-out on its first possession of the second half, the Commodores put three points on the scoreboard with a 32-yard Ryan Fowler field goal at the 8:40 mark, aided by a 30-yard Warren Norman rush into UF territory, bringing the margin to 13-3.
A one-yard quarterback keeper by Tebow, the 52nd touchdown of his career, capped off a 64-yard, 11-play drive with 1:52 left in the third quarter, extending the Gator lead, 20-3, and tying Tebow for second place in the Southeastern Conference in total career touchdowns (rushing and receiving) with Georgia great Herschel Walker (52). Tebow trails former LSU Tiger Kevin Faulk (53) by one touchdown for sole possession of the record.
With nearly 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter, Florida took advantage of a Vanderbilt error when punter Brett Upson dropped to a knee after receiving the snap on the Commodores’ second punt of the half, counting as a 14-yard loss, which gave UF possession on the VU 13-yard line. An eight-yard connection from Tebow to Nelson extended the Florida lead, 27-3. The score marked Nelson’s first touchdown this season and concluded the scoring for both teams, resulting in the final score.
Florida hits the road for its final SEC regular season game Nov. 14 when the Gators travel to Columbia, S.C., for a match-up with South Carolina (6-4, 3-4 SEC). Kick off is slated for 3:30 p.m. and the game will be carried by CBS.