Driskel, Gators run away with road conference victory against Vanderbilt

By Josh Jurnovoy

Driskel, Gators run away with road conference victory against Vanderbilt

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Florida Gators’ skill position players did less on Saturday than they had in any game all season, but Jeff Driskel made sure it didn’t matter.

The sophomore broke Tim Tebow’s UF record for rushing yards in a game by a quarterback with 177 as No. 4 Florida (6-0, 5-0 Southeastern Conference) defeated Vanderbilt 31-17.

“I don’t know that he surprises anybody at this point in the season,” coach Will Muschamp said of Driskel. “But he is really fast.”

With the win, the Gators took sole possession of first place in the SEC East as they look towards next Saturday’s game against No. 3 South Carolina (6-1, 4-1 SEC).

The Commodores (2-4, 1-3 SEC) held UF’s leading rusher, Mike Gillislee, to 67 yards on 17 carries — his lowest yards per carry average of the season. No Gator had more than 21 yards receiving. The Florida passing game was held to less than 100 yards for the second straight week. But Driskel provided plenty of firepower with his legs, running the ball 11 times for 177 yards and three touchdowns.

Tebow previously set the record rushing record for a Florida quarterback with 166 yards on 27 carries in Florida’s 30-24 win at Ole Miss in 2007.

Driskel consistently found room to run against the Commodores as offensive coordinator Brent Pease called several read-option plays.

“They were keying in on Gillislee all night, which they should,” Driskel said. “He’s had a great season. When two or three guys go for him, it opens up lanes.”

The Commodores did not adjust to defend the option, even after Driskel had already accumulated 107 yards on the ground. So Pease called it again with 2:31 remaining in the game to begin UF’s drive after Vanderbilt cut the lead to 24-17. Driskel took the ball around the right side and outran the Commodores’ secondary for a 70-yard touchdown — the longest run of his career and his third score of the game.

“If something is working, keep going to it, so that’s really what we did,” Driskel said.

Muschamp said he understood why Vanderbilt’s defense took the approach it did, but he knew Florida would have the opportunity to take advantage of it.

That’s what the Gators did when they got on the board with 11:27 remaining in the second quarter as Driskel took the ball around the left side on a read-option. He scored untouched from 37 yards out as freshman wide receiver Latroy Pittman cleared the way with a block.

Driskel then scored on the same play to the right from 13 yards out on Florida’s first drive of the second half.

After being named the starting quarterback following the season opener against Bowling Green, Driskel’s passer rating improved with each of the next two games. Against Tennessee, he had his best game as a Gator, completing 14 of 20 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns.

But his passer rating has dropped with each of the last three games and he threw for just 61 yards against LSU and 77 against Vanderbilt. However, his 177 rushing yards on Saturday were 28 more than he had in the first five games combined.

Driskel said he is content with continuing to win games on the ground if that is what is working.

“No. No it doesn’t matter to me,” Driskel said of not throwing much. “We’re 6-0 right now and getting great wins on the road,  and it doesn’t matter at all.”

The win raises the stakes for Florida’s showdown with South Carolina. The Gamecocks’ fell 23-21 to LSU on Saturday, which gives the Gators a chance to go up two games on their SEC East rivals.

“It’s going to be a huge game,” Driskel said. “We’re going to be ready to go. It’s another big-time SEC East game, and we’re going to do what we can to win the game.”

South Carolina beat Florida each of the last two seasons, and the Gators are keeping that in mind.

“It’s personal,” cornerback Louchiez Purifoy said. ”They took one last year in South Carolina, (and we’re) trying to get them back.”

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