Sunday October 14, 2012Special Teams Deliver Game-Changing Effort for Gators
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Florida Quarterback Jeff Driskel's 177 rushing yards and three touchdowns made him the individual star of Saturday night's 31-17 win at Vanderbilt, but the Gators bedeviled the Commodores on special teams with momentum-changing plays that struck at the most crucial times of the game.
“Those kinds of plays just kill a team,” said Florida’s do-everything junior Trey Burton, who had a hand in a couple of those daggers.
The Gators faked kicking an extra point for a two-point conversion, blocked a field goal, got a 54-yard run off a fake punt and a 60-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter.
The Commodores ran five razzle-dazzle type plays in last week's road win at Missouri, only to have the tables turned on them by the Gators Saturday night.
“These guys were put in position and they executed,” special teams coordinator D.J. Durkin said.
The first came after UF’s first touchdown when Burton, who saw Vandy line up a certain look and gambled on the run. Instead of a tie, the Gators led 8-7.
“It’s just a numbers game and he trusts me with my decision,” said Burton, who said he balked at a similar opportunity earlier in the season when Texas A&M gave him a favorable alignment. “I was little timid that game. I didn’t want to mess up. But [the coaches] have been telling me to be confident.”
That confidence oozed Saturday, especially after UF defensive end Earl Okine thumped a 45-yard field goal try from Carey Speer.
The Gators started at their 38, but faced a fourth-and-5 at the 43 when Coach Will Muschamp, leading 11-7, sent out the punt team armed with the fake.
“I felt good about it all week,” Muschamp said. “We’d been practicing it, practicing it. I got tired of practicing it. I just wanted to run it.”
Just before the snap, gunner Solomon Patton came in motion and things quickly morphed into one of Patton’s patented jet sweeps. The snap went to Burton, who handed off to Patton, who scooted around the left side for 54 yards to the Vanderbilt 3.
“I looked upfield, saw nothing but green grass and got really excited,” Patton said.
Perfect call, perfect time, perfect execution.
“It’s a feel thing,” Durkin said. "You call it if it feels right."
He and Muschamp felt great about it at that time.
“We needed to create some momentum in the game,” said senior linebacker Jon Bostic, who had a huge block on Patton’s play. “We said going into the game that we may call it, we may not. But that was one of the plays that kind of turned everything and got everybody going.”
Sort of like Andre Debose’s 60-yard kickoff return after Vanderbilt scored on a Zac Stacy 1-yard run to draw within 21-14 with 8:57 to play.
Stacy’s touchdown was the first scored against the Gators in the fourth quarter this season and easily could have been a rallying point for the Commodores. Debose, however, made good on UF’s call to take the kick up the middle, as opposed to the sideline returns the Gators have mostly worked this season.
Debose hit a crease, shook a tackler and zipped to the Vandy 37.
“It flipped the field,” Muschamp said.
And it led to a 26-yard field goal from Caleb Sturgis, who was another special teams bright spot, hitting all three of his three-pointers, and pushed the Gators back up by double-digits.
All told, it was a special kind of night for Durkin's troops.
“Those kinds of plays can change the game,” Durkin said. “They get a big stop. They’re fired up, all of a sudden, you suck the life out of team, especially on the road.”