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Gators junior receiver Andre Debose provided a boost Saturday with a 60-yard kickoff return.

Sunday October 14, 2012Gators Notebook: Gators Not Concerned about BCS Rankings, Debose Returns to Forefront, Plus More

Gators junior receiver Andre Debose provided a boost Saturday with a 60-yard kickoff return.

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER
GatorZone.com Senior Writer

GatorZone.com senior writer Chris Harry contributed to this report.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Gators capped the first half of the regular season Saturday with a 31-17 win over Vanderbilt. It was Florida's sixth win, matching its regular-season total from a year ago.

The Gators' turnaround hasn't gone unnoticed. They lead the SEC East and host South Carolina on Saturday in a game with huge implications on the division race.

With the first Bowl Championship Series rankings to be released Sunday night at 8:30, the Gators are squarely in the national title picture if they can win out. The top two teams in the final BCS rankings play for the national title.

But after Saturday's win -- Florida improved to 3-0 in SEC road games -- the Gators downplayed their recent ascension up the polls and into the national championship chatter.

"It’s still early. But we’re undefeated,'' quarterback Jeff Driskel said. "There’s a long way to go, but our record couldn’t be any better as of right now.”

There were certainly no plans to have a BCS rankings watch party on Sunday night.

"Not at all, man,'' safety Josh Evans said. "For fun, it’s great to look at because of where we’ve been the last two years. So it’s definitely something that excites you, but we won't let that go to our heads. On any given day in the SEC you can go from No. 3 to No. 7 or No. 9 or not even ranked. So we’re not paying a lot of attention to it."

QBs TO THE HOUSE 

When’s the last time Florida had two quarterbacks with touchdown runs of at least 70 yards or more in a season? 

That’s a question for the stat nerds at Elias, but it says something about the identity of this team, this offense, that Jeff Driskel’s spectacular 70-yard option touchdown sprint that iced the game was the second-longest run by a Gators quarterback this season.

Trey Burton, from his wildcat spot, went 80 yards for a score in UF’s 37-20 win at Tennessee last month.

"We have the same type of speed,” Burton said with a grin. “Once we get past 30 [yards], then we get running."

Added Vanderbilt safety Andre Hall on Driskel: “The quarterback was way faster than we expected.”

Florida linebacker Jon Bostic may have summed it up best.

"That boy can run,'' Bostic said. "He does surprise people with this speed."

NO. 23 FACTOR 

Senior tailback Mike Gillislee, the SEC’s rushing leader coming in at more than 109 yards per game, carried 17 times for just 67 yards, but don’t think for a second his impact wasn’t far more reaching.

Gillislee, in fact, was the biggest reason Driskel ran 11 times for 177 yards and three touchdowns (or 16.1 yards a carry).

The mere threat of Gillislee getting the ball on the read options froze Vandy’s defense. That split-second indecisiveness created space for Driskel to take off, particularly on the trio of touchdowns.

On each, Driskel scored untouched. 

“We did not adjust well to the quarterback running game,” Commodores coach James Franklin said. “There’s always somebody responsible for contain in every defense we call. ... We put so much emphasis on stopping their running back that they would ride that running back down to the side and we wouldn’t do our responsibility.”

UF offensive coordinator Brent Pease said Driskel is mastering that part of the offense in great part due to his backfield mate.

"You have to honor people,” Pease said. “And he’s making good reads on it.”

CLEAN IT UP 

The Gators racked up 403 yards of offense against the Commodores, including 326 on the ground, but there will be plenty of things the coaching staff will look to address this week on that side of the ball.

Clearly, UF is forging an identity as a running team -- one that can control the clock and take over the game in the fourth quarter, just like Muschamp and Pease want -- but eventually the Gators are going to need more from a passing game that has combined for 138 yards the last two weeks.

“Guys got to catch the ball. We have to protect better. We have to make better reads,” Pease said. “It’s unacceptable.”

As big a role as Burton, for example, has played on special teams, he dropped two third-down passes that would have been first downs. 

“Guys want opportunities, then they need to take advantage,” Pease said. “They’re crying about playing time, then go do you job. Go make plays.”

Muschamp also wasn’t happy about an illegal substitution penalty -- out of a timeout, no less -- that cost the Gators a second-and-goal at the 1 and eventually forced UF to settle for a field goal.

The Gators didn’t break the huddle with 12 guys, but with 13.

"We had a chance right there to go 7-up, and we come out of a timeout and we've got 48 guys on the field,” Muschamp said. “I mean, come on! That can't happen.”

Florida was penalized 10 times for 80 yards.

DEBOSE SIGHTING 

Cancel the BOLO on Andre Debose. 

Though the speedy junior wide receiver has yet to make an impact on offense (1 catch for 5 yards through six games), Debose chose a most opportune moment to bust a season-long 60-yard kickoff return.

It came in the fourth quarter after the Vanderbilt had drawn to within a touchdown. The play set up a Caleb Sturgis field goal that pushed UF back in front by two possessions, 24-14, with 5:22 to play.

"Andre is an explosive guy. He’s a guy who can run through tackles,” Muschamp said. “He’ll hit it. We need to do a better job of blocking.”

Special teams coordinator D.J. Durkin agreed.

Debose’s longest return before that was a 38-yarder -- his 21.8-yard average on nine returns ranked 12th in the SEC -- but the Gators never lost confidence in him.

“A lot of that has nothing to do with Andre,” Durkin said. “We have to get better up front blocking and we did that tonight. You saw it. His teammates are busting it for him and he’ll be just fine. He’ll come through for us again.”

QUOTE OF NOTE I

"We feel much more comfortable than maybe what you're seeing on game day with our passing game. We felt there were some things there. We had a couple drops. We had an opportunity to convert there coming off our goal line. We feel like we’re further along than maybe what we’ve seen on Saturdays. At the end of the day, we’re going to do what it takes to win games." -- Muschamp on lack of passing yards in last two games

QUOTE OF NOTE II

"We're playing up to our expectations now, we're playing together, we're playing as a team. We're not letting each other down and hanging our heads in the second half." -- sophomore defensive back Loucheiz Purifoy on the biggest difference he has noticed from last year

SECOND-HALF DOMINANCE

Once again the Gators fell behind early on the road, which has happened in each of their three SEC road trips. And once again, the Gators took control in the second half, outscoring Vanderbilt 20-10 after halftime.

Florida has now outscored opponents 98-23 in the second half. The Commodores did snap Florida's perfect record of pitching a shutout in the fourth quarter. The Gators entered the game as the only FBS team not to allow a point in the fourth quarter.

Vanderbilt scored 10 points in the fourth quarter Saturday. Still, the Gators won the quarter -- they scored 13 points in the fourth.

"The second half is our half because we just know we're going to wear them down,'' said center Sam Robey, who took over for an injured Jon Harrison in the first quarter and finished the game.

EXTRA POINTS

Florida improved to an SEC-best 69-23 in conference road games since the league split into divisions in 1992 ... Vanderbilt quarterback Jordan Rodgers' 10-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Matthews in the first quarter was the first touchdown given up by the Gators since the third quarter at Tennessee on Sept. 15 (nine quarters) ... Florida's 11-play, 91-yard scoring drive in the second quarter marked the Gators' longest drive of the season in terms of yardage ... Earl Okine's blocked field goal gave the Gators seven blocked kicks against Vanderbilt since 2005 ... The Gators did not have a turnover and forced one, improving to plus-7 in turnover margin; they were last in the SEC a year ago at minus-12 ... Senior kicker Caleb Sturgis improved to 11-for-13 on field-goal attempts after making all three of his attempts Saturday ... Freshman receivers Latroy Pittman and Ralph Andrades both started, Pittman's second career start and Andrades' first.

 

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