Driskel runs Florida past Vanderbilt, 31-17

Chris Lee, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange


NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Great special-teams play and the feet of quarterback Jeff Driskel, who rushed for 177 yards and three touchdowns, helped Florida to a 31-17 victory over Vanderbilt on Saturday night.
Florida didn't register a single passing yard in the second half but didn't need it with the way Driskel was running. The sophomore had scoring runs in the second, third and fourth quarters, and the Gators added big plays on a fake punt, a two-point conversion and a blocked field-goal attempt at various points of the game.
"A large part of it was what they were giving us. They were showing us some packages and they were a little feast or famine. When you stunt and do as much as they do, you're eventually going to hit them on some things," Gators coach Will Muschamp said of Driskel's big runs.
The fourth-ranked Gators ran their record to 6-0 overall and 5-0 in the Southeastern Conference, keeping them on top of the Eastern Division. Vandy fell to 2-4, 1-3.
With the Gators leading 11-7 at halftime, Driskel led a five-play, 62-yard drive that ended when he ran for a 13-yard score on a first-and-goal midway through the third quarter. That was set up by a 54-yard run by upback Solomon Patton on a fake punt on a fourth-and-5 that moved the ball to the Vandy 3.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Vandy quarterback Jordan Rodgers fumbled at his 14. Florida's Neiron Ball recovered and Caleb Sturgis kicked a 29-yard field goal to put the Gators up 21-7.
Vandy's Zac Stacy answered with a 1-yard touchdown with 8:57 to pull the Commodores closer, but Andre Debose returned the next kickoff 60 yards to put Florida in scoring position at the Vandy 37 and Sturgis added a 26-yard field goal to push the margin to 10.
Then Carey Spear kicked a 22-yard field goal to keep the Commodores within striking distance at 24-17. But on the next offensive snap, Driskel fooled Vandy once again on a 70-yard touchdown dash around the right side, giving the Gators a comfortable 31-17 lead.
"We really just kept running the same play and they didn't make adjustments, so we kept going to it. If something is working, keep going to it," Driskel said.
Driskel's 177 yards included a 4-yard sack for a loss that was part of his 11 carries. He broke Tim Tebow's school record for rushing yards by a quarterback.
"We put too much emphasis on stopping (running back Mike Gillislee) that we overcompensated and were susceptible to a big run by the quarterback," Vandy coach James Franklin said.
Vanderbilt struck first on a Rodgers pass to Jordan Matthews in the back-right corner of the end zone on a third-and-5 play from the Florida 10. Rodgers had set up the score with a beautiful 37-yard bomb to Chris Matthews that put the Commodores at the Gators' 14.
But Florida struck back when Driskel completely fooled the Vanderbilt defense on a fake handoff, looped to his left and strolled down the sideline untouched for a 37-yard scoring run.
Instead of kicking the PAT, the Gators used a swinging-gate formation and put most of their men on the far left side of the field. Trey Burton took the direct snap and easily darted into the end zone for a two-point conversion and an 8-7 lead.
Driskel led the Gators on a 12-play, 83-yard scoring drive that culminated with a Sturgis field goal with 10 seconds left in the first half. Driskel had runs of 17 and 19 yards on the drive, but a 5-yard penalty from the half-yard-line on a second-and-goal helped kill a touchdown opportunity.
Vandy's Franklin was frustrated by his team's penchant for shooting itself in the foot all evening. The Commodores played well statistically -- 363 yards, 23 first downs to UF's 15 -- but couldn't come up with the big plays when it mattered.
"Overall, our offense played well," Franklin said. "If you take away the (turnover), it's a different situation. We had a touchdown called back (by penalty). That was a huge play in the game."
NOTES: Florida defensive end Dominique Easley (non-specific injury), linebacker Jelani Jenkins (hamstring) and guard James Wilson (undisclosed injury) did not play. The Gators also lost center Jon Harrison and tight end Jordan Reed to injuries during the game, though Reed later returned. ... Vanderbilt center Spencer Pulley was hurt in the first quarter but did return. ... Saturday marked the first time the Gators had given up fourth-quarter points this year. ... Stacy is tied for second all-time on VU's career rushing touchdown list.