Vanderbilt put together a solid effort, but special teams and the running of Jeff Driskel sunk the 'Dores upset bid against Florida on Saturday night. The fourth-ranked Gators were able to leave Nashville with a 31-17 victory over their SEC East rivals.
The win was Florida's 22nd straight over Vanderbilt. With that, they tied Tennessee's SEC record for most consecutive wins over the 'Dores.
Vandy opened up the scoring after their defense limited Florida early in the game. On Vandy's second drive, the team rode consistent runs from Zac Stacy and a big 37-yard pass to Chris Boyd to put the Gators on their toes. Jordan Rodgers converted on a big third down play to find Jordan Matthews in the end zone, and Vandy took a 7-0 advantage in the first quarter.
Vanderbilt's early lead was short-lived, however. Two drives later, Florida responded to take an 8-7 lead behind a 37-yard Jeff Driskel run. Instead of kicking the extra point, the Gators caught Vandy off guard with a two-point conversion, giving them the lead early in the second quarter. Both teams stalled out after that, but Florida showed signs of being the better team, especially when they drove 82 yards to close out the half's scoring with a 23-yard field goal from Caleb Sturgis.
The 'Dores came out firing in the second half, but got nothing from their efforts in the third quarter. They used their opening possession to drive all the way to the Florida seven-yard line, but came away with zero points thanks to a myriad of penalties, sacks, and a blocked field goal. The Gators took advantage of Vandy's deflating momentum with a fake punt that Solomon Patton took 53 yards into the Commodore red zone. Two plays later, Driskel capped the Gators' 62-yard drive with a 13-yard touchdown run.
Another Sturgis field goal seemed to put the 'Dores away in the fourth quarter, but Wesley Tate put together a strong performance to bring his team back to within one possession at 21-14. The junior ticked off 28 rushing yards in a drive that was capped off by a goal-line dive from Zac Stacy for the touchdown. Unfortunately for Vandy, their special teams failed them once more and allowed Andre Debose to return their ensuing kickoff 60 yards into Commodore territory. The Gators would use that advantage to kick a field goal and extend their lead to 10 points.
The 'Dores put together a valiant comeback effort, but it was for naught. The team rode a big completion (53 yards) to Matthews before stalling out at the Gators' 3-yard line and settling for a field goal. While that gave James Franklin's team hope, Driskel sucked it all away with a 70-yard touchdown run on a quarterback keeper on the very next play.
Driskel's dash extended the Gator lead to 31-17, and that was enough to put Vanderbilt away at Dudley Field. With the win, Florida improved to 6-0 on the season and 5-0 in the SEC. Vandy dropped to 2-4 and 1-3 in the conference, but got bright spots from Matthews (eight catches, 131 yards and a touchdown) and Stacy (86 rushing yards, one touchdown). The Commodores will now have to regroup before facing an underwhelming Auburn team at home next week.