GatorZone.com Senior Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- These Tim Tebow comparison questions directed at Jeff Driskel seriously need to stop.
But they probably won’t.
Not as long as the Florida quarterback has No. 15-like nights like Saturday when Driskel gashed Vanderbilt for 177 yards rushing and three touchdowns as the fourth-ranked Gators defeated the Commodores 31-17 to stay unbeaten.
The yards were a record for a UF quarterback, breaking the five-year-old mark of 166 yards set by you-know-who at Ole Miss in 2007.
Driskel was asked afterward if he ever imagined he’d come to Florida and erase Tebow records from the books.
“I never thought about that stuff until you guys brought it up,” he said.
When Driskel emerged from the winner of an offseason/preseason duel with Jacoby Brissett to be UF’s starting quarterback, the current state of the Florida offense probably was not what Gators fans had in mind.
Against Vandy, UF cranked out 403 yards of total offense, but finished with just 77 yards passing, including zero after halftime.
Last week, in the 14-6 upset of then-fourth ranked LSU, the Gators attempted just 12 passes and ran the ball their final 25 offensive snaps, totaling just 61 yards through the ground for the game.
So that’s two straight games with less than 100 yards through the airs. Oh, and two straight wins. The once space-age Gators are putting up offensive numbers worthy of the Don Gaffney days.
“I don’t care,” said Driskel, who completed 11 of 20 passes for 77 yards and no touchdowns or interceptions. “We’re going to run the ball if it works.”
“Passing yards are not the objective,” offensive coordinator Brent Pease said.
Obviously, winning is.
Florida, now 6-0 and in sole possession of first place in the SEC Eastern Division, won Saturday in great part because Vandy so respected the threat of tailback Mike Gillislee, who led the SEC in rushing at 109.6 yards per game coming in. In overcommitting to Gillislee, the Commodores found themselves flailing at air when Driskel turned the corner on option plays.
He was untouched on touchdown runs of 37 yards, 13 yards and a game-sealing 70 yards with 2:20 to go in the game when he absolutely dazzled the sellout crowd with his speed.
“We were getting great perimeter blocking,” Driskel said. “I could have walked in on a couple of them.”
Freshman wide receiver Latroy Pittman took two Commodores out downfield to spring Driskel’s for his first touchdown, to which the Gators tagged on a two-point conversion to lead 8-7. His second score came after a blocked field, then a 54-yard run off a fake punt by Solomon Patton to make it 18-7.
The third came one play after a Vandy field goal cut UF’s lead to seven points with just 2:31 to go and had the home crowd’s attention. The Commodores had all three timeouts, but Driskel made that a moot point. He optioned right, faked to Gillislee, then tucked it around right end and mad-dashed through Vandy defenders, easily out-racing them for the 70-yard score.
“I don’t know that he’s surprising anyone at this point of the season,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said. “But he’s really fast.”
“He really showed his wills tonight,” teammate and safety Josh Evans gushed when told his quarterback amassed 177 yards on just 11 carries. “Is that some kind of record or something?”
As a matter of fact, it was.
No doubt, more such questions are coming.