Saturday October 13, 2012Gators Defeat Vanderbilt, 31-17, Behind Driskel's Three Touchdowns
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Jeff Driskel scored three touchdowns and rand for 177 yards to lead the fourth-ranked Florida Gators to a 31-17 win over Vanderbilt at Dudley Field.
Driskel's third touchdown of the day, a 70-yarder, iced the game with 2:20 remaining and came after Vanderbilt had cut the lead to seven.
The teams combined for 23 points in a wild fourth quarter.
Florida (6-0, 5-0 SEC) did most of its damage on the night on the ground, finishing with 403 yards of offense, 326 on the ground. Driskel carried 11 times for a career-high 177 yards. He finished 11-of-20 passing for 77 yards.
Vanderbilt (2-3, 1-2 SEC) finished with 363 yards of offense, most of it through the air, as Jordan Rodgers finished 17-of-31 for 237 yards and a touchdown.
Shortly after Caleb Sturgis hit his third field goal of the night, a 26-yarder to put the Gators up 24-14, Vanderbilt responded with a 22-yard field goal to cut it to a one-score game. Driskel's final touchdown run of the night proved to be too much to overcome.
Zac Stacy scored on a 1-yard touchdown run mid-way through the fourth quarter to pull Vanderbilt within 21-14 but Andre Debose responded with a 60-yard kick off return to set up the Sturgis field goal and extend UF's lead.
Florida had scored 21 straight points to grab a commanding 21-7 lead before the Commodores became the first team to score in the fourth quarter against the Gators this season. It appeared Pop Saunders had intercepted Vanderbilt quarterback Jordan Rodgers and thwarted the drive, but a holding penalty on the Gators set up the Commodores at the UF 13-yard line and moments later they cut it to a one-score game.
The touchdown reenergized Vanderbilt after it appeared the Gators were poised to break the game open.
Solomon Patton raced 54 yards with a fake punt and Driskel scored on a 13-yard run to give the Gators an 18-7 lead, then Neiron Ball recovered a fumble to set up a 29-yard field goal by Sturgis to give the Gators a two touchdown lead early in the fourth quarter.
Lerentee McCray set up Sturgis' field goal by sacking Jordan Rodgers and forcing a fumble at the Vanderbilt 16 that Ball pounced on. Unable to punch it in, the Gators settled for a short field goal from Sturgis.
After the Commodores presumably had forced a punt from the UF 41, the Gators (5-0, 4-0) snapped to fullback protector Trey Burton, who handed off to Solomon, who tore around left end all the way to the Vandy 3.
After a holding penalty pushed the ball to the 13, Driskel went 13 yards for his second rushing touchdown of the game, also going over 100 yards on the ground for the first time in his career.
The scoring drive, which put the Gators ahead by two possessions for the first time in the game, came after UF thwarted a huge drive by the Commodores (2-3, 1-2), who had a first down at the UF 6. But false-start penalty and 14-yard sack by blitzing safety Josh Evans forced Vandy, instead, to settle for a 45-yard field goal attempt.
The kick was blocked by defensive end Earl Okine and recovered by Loucheiz Purifoy at the 38.
The Commodores thought they had a three-and-out, but the Gators had other plans.
The big play added to an 11-7 lead that came when Sturgis kicked a 23-yard field with 10 seconds left in the first half Sturgis' kicked capped a 12-play, 83-yard drive by the Gators, who had a second-and-goal at the 1, but were called for a costly illegal substitution penalty that moved them back to the 6. Back-to-back passes by Driskel fell incomplete, forcing the kick.
Then again, it could have been worse.
On first-and-goal from the 2, Omarius Hines fumbled, but UF tailback Mike Gillislee fell on the ball at the 1.
UF used the league's third-rated rushing attack to erase a 7-0 deficit.
Driskel raced 37 yards for a score and Burton converted the two-point conversion to give Florida an 8-7 lead at 11:27 of the second quarter. Driskel scored on an option keeper moving left, but would not have done so had true freshman wide receiver Latroy Pittman not taken out two Commodores defenders with a block downfield.
The score capped an 11-play, 91-yard march that was UF's longest drive of the season.
On the PAT, the Gators lined up in a super unbalanced line, with Burton keeping the ball, optioning right and scoring untouched for the conversion and the one-point lead.
The march to Sturgis' field goal later in the quarter was a 12-play, 83-yarder.
Vandy drew first blood when quarterback Rodgers hit wide receiver Matthews for a 10-yard touchdown pass to give the Commodores a 7-0 lead midway through the first period.
Vandy went 66 yards in six plays, with the key play coming when Rodgers wobbled a long pass down the left sidelines. Purifoy, the UF cornerback, did not look back for the ball and wideout Chris Boyd took advantage. Boyd turned caught the ball for a 37-yard completion to the Florida 14.
Three plays later, on third-and-6, Rodgers lofted another pass. The result was similar. This time, it was Matthews out-timing safety Matt Elam for the ball and early lead. Carey Spear's point-after made it 7-0 at the 6:45 mark.
Off to its best start since 2009, Florida now turns it attention to South Carolina next Saturday at the Swamp. The Gamecocks have won the last two in the series, Florida will be looking for its first win in the series since 2009.