Quick Hits: No. 4 Florida 31, Vanderbilt 17
The Gators get an expected challenge from the Commodores, but survive on big night from Jeff Driskel.
|Jeff Driskel had a big night for Florida. (US Presswire)|
FLORIDA WON. As has been the case throughout James Franklin's tenure, the Commodores were every inch the proverbial "tough out" at home, and might have pulled off the shocker if not for a cavalcade of special-teams mistakes: a swinging gate Gator 2-point conversion, a blocked field goal, a 54-yard punt fake allowed, a long Gators kickoff return just after the Commodores had halved a 21-7 fourth-quarter Florida lead. But that shouldn't take anything away from the Gators, which made big plays in their defensive red zone all game and got a huge game from Jeff Driskel. Though the sophomore quarterback only threw for 77 yards, he ran for 177 -- 70 of them on a game-icing touchdown with 2:20 to play -- to break Tim Tebow's single-game school record for rushing yards by a quarterback.
WHY FLORIDA WON: Franklin deserves immense credit for taking a Commodore team that has spent so much of its existence rolling over at the slightest hint of adversity and making them such a dangerous outfit, especially at home. But the truth is that Vandy is also not going to get over the hump and win one of these games vs. the SEC's elite without taking better advantage of its opportunities. As was the case in the season-opener vs. South Carolina, the Commodores could get into scoring range ... they just couldn't finish the deal. First-and-10 second quarter at Florida 35? Sack, penalty, punt. Third-and-5 at the Florida 8 after a 13-play drive? Penalty, huge sack, blocked field goal, no points after burning 8:43 off the clock. Third-and-goal at the Florida 4, down 24-14 and just minutes remaining? Perfect pass to tailback Zac Stacy, dropped, field goal, 31-17 before they touch the ball again.
Florida is the No. 4 team in the country and the Commodores have no reason to hang their heads after losing to them, just as the Gators have no reason to worry about struggling with such a feisty opponent. But until the Commodores learn to finish their drives, they're going to remain closer to "close" than they are the cigar.
WHEN FLORIDA WON: When Florida needed just a first down to ice the game, it called for a zone read with Driskel and Mike Gillislee. Understandably, Vandy followed hard after the tailback who's spent all season grinding out just those sort of first downs ... and watched Driskel break free for the 70-yarder that gave him the record, put the Gators up 31-17, and sent Florida into next week's showdown with South Carolina at 6-0.
WHAT FLORIDA WON: With the Gamecocks on deck and Georgia the week after that, there's no rest for the hypothetically weary Gators. But having games of that magnitude in the immediate future speaks to why Saturday's victory -- which preserves the Gators' Top-5 ranking and perch atop the SEC East -- shouldn't be discounted.
WHAT VANDERBILT LOST: When Commodores fans were drawing up their road map to a second consecutive bowl, the Florida game likely wasn't one they were filing into the win column. All the same, it was another chance for a signature win for Franklin, another game which they could have won with just a handful more plays, another game in the loss column instead.
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