It’s safe to say that Florida football is back. The No. 3 Florida Gators topped a gritty and underrated Vanderbilt team, 31-17, Saturday night in front of a sold out Vanderbilt crowd; the first sell out for the Commodores since 2008, also a Florida vs. Vandy matchup.
The Gators improve to 6-0 (5-0 SEC), while the Commodores are now 2-4 overall and 1-3 in the SEC. With the win, Florida is bowl eligible just halfway through the season.
Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel set a school record for rushing yards in a single game by a QB, running for 177 yards on 11 carries. He broke the previous record held by the legendary Tim Tebow.
As has been accustomed this season, the Gators got off to a slow start, but managed to finish strong. The Commodores had 88 total yards in the first quarter compared to Florida’s 66.
The Gators scored 21 straight points after trailing 7-0 in the first quarter. Vandy quarterback Jordan Rodgers connected with wide receiver Jordan Matthews on a 10-yard touchdown pass for the first score of the game.
Florida answered early in the second quarter. Driskel finished a 91-yard drive when he faked a handoff to running back Mike Gillislee and then ran up the sideline for a 37-yard touchdown. The Gators opted to go for two-points, taking an 8-7 lead.
Kicker Caleb Sturgis then hit a 23-yard field goal to give Florida an 11-7 lead at the half.
The ‘Dores became the first team to turn the scoreboard in the fourth quarter this season against Florida when running back Zac Stacy scored on a 1-yard run with 8:57 left to play.
That score would bring the Commodores within one touchdown of the Gators, 21-14. Florida and Vandy exchanged field goals before Jeff Driskel put the game away with a 70-yard touchdown run with 2:20 left to play.
Florida finished the game with 403 yards of offense, 326 on the ground. Vanderbilt totalled 363 yards of offense.
Even though it was Vanderbilt, this win demonstrates that the Florida football team is not getting complacent midway through the season. With the loss of South Carolina to LSU, the Gators now sit alone atop the SEC East standings.
Sometime during spring 2012, I predicted the team would win at least eight games. Now I’m certain the Gators will win at least 10, or even 11, by the end of the season. Not many so-called experts, or fans, expected the Orange and Blue to start 6-0 this season.
Next up, the Gators face two straight games against ranked opponents, No. 9 South Carolina and No. 13 Georgia, that will likely determine the SEC East. If Florida can manage to come out of the other end of this two week stretch unscathed, the rest of the season should be in the clear until the regular season finale against Florida State.
When you mix an experienced former defensive coordinator like Will Muschamp, along with a competent offensive coordinator like Brent Pease – magic happens. Florida defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is exceling in his position as well.
“We’ve got a lot of season to go and some tough opponents starting week with South Carolina,” Muschamp said. “I’m very pleased with where we are. Have we arrived? Absolutely not.”
Gator Nation is extremely excited with the way Muschamp has built this program back up. In my three years as a student at UF, two Saturday’s ago against LSU was the first time I had experienced The Swamp in full form; I expect nothing less this weekend when the ‘Ol Ball Coach and ninth-ranked Gamecocks come to town.
Lets make it hard for Spurrier and crew to even think when they walk into the loudest stadium in the country this weekend.
The Gators and Gamecocks will kick off this Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS.
It’s GREAT to be a Florida Gator!
Swampland >> Gators move up in latest AP Poll