Frederick Breedon - Getty Images
It wasn't pretty by any stretch, but the Gators eventually took care of business in Nashville.
Everyone saw that this was a potential trap game for the Gators, and they certainly played like it could have been. Vanderbilt pushed Florida hard, but a late touchdown sealed the deal as No. 4 UF remained unbeaten.
The player of the night was Jeff Driskel, but not because of his throwing. He was just 11/20 through the air for 77 yards with no touchdowns or picks. Instead, he torched the Commodore defense on the ground. Take out the one sack he had and he rushed 10 times for 181 yards. He scored all three of the Gators' touchdowns on runs of 37, 13, and 70 yards, the last one finally putting Vandy away with 2:20 to go in the game. Vandy's defense locked up Mike Gillislee, allowing him just 67 yards on 17 carries, and none of the visitors caught more than two passes.
Vanderbilt drew first blood on a Jordan Rodgers touchdown pass to Jordan Matthews in the back corner of the end zone, but Florida scored 11 unanswered to lead a the half. VU missed a golden chance by holding onto the ball for the first 8:43 of the second half, but Florida blocked the field goal attempt. On the ensuing drive, Florida faked a punt for a 53-yard gain by Solomon Patton. Driskel ran it into the end zone to swing momentum decisively and seemingly take control, and Caleb Sturgis extended the lead to 21-7 early in the fourth.
The Commodores wouldn't go away, however. They answered with an 11 play, 75 yard touchdown drive to pull within a score. Another Sturgis field goal extended the lead, but Vandy again matched it on the next possession. It was then that Driskel iced it with his 70-yard run on the first play of the next possession. Vandy almost pulled within a score again, but a wobbly Rodgers pass hit the end zone turf on fourth down with under 30 seconds to go.
It was a stressful win in many respects for the Gators. They came in shorthanded on the lines, with starters OG James Wilson and DE Dominique Easley not playing. They witnessed more go down, with LT Xavier Nixon and C Jonotthan Harrison leaving the game in the first half. DT Leon Orr also got examined for injury. The last thing a top 10 team wants on the road against a lower tier team is injuries, but the Gators found plenty tonight.
For the Commodores, there are things to build on. They fought hard all night and gave up. Their 363 total yards are the most Florida has given up on the season, and they also scored the first 10 points that UF has allowed in the fourth quarter all year. Zac Stacy, with 87 yards on the ground, also joined Tennessee's Rajion Neal as the only players to rush for more than 60 yards on the Gators. The Florida coaches felt the need to pull out all the stops, including a surprise two point conversion and fake punt, and it turns out they did need them to win in this fashion. Still though, it doesn't feel much like a moral victory.
The Gators picked up another win on the road in the SEC. It was a survive and advance kind of Saturday, and they did just that. The injuries and stretches of ineffective and inattentive play leave plenty of room for doubt as the year goes on, though.