Coming into Saturday’s meeting with Vanderbilt, Florida running backs didn’t have a single rushing touchdown on the season.
But when it rains, it pours.
The Gators scored five times on the ground as the Florida offense put up its best performance of the season in a 38-24 win over Vanderbilt.
Commitment to the Run
Vanderbilt gave up 496 yards on the ground last week to Alabama, and the Gators attacked that same weakness. Florida pounded the rock, carrying 49 times to the tune of 223 yards.
Florida stayed committed to run game throughout the game, both with Luke Del Rio under center, and when Feleipe Franks came in for him after Del Rio appeared to suffer a shoulder injury late in the second quarter. It was later announced by Florida head coach Jim McElwain that Del Rio will undergo surgery Monday for a broken collarbone. Del Rio will miss the rest of the season.
Malik Davis and Lamical Perine did the heavy lifting in the ground game. Davis had himself a day, rushing 17 times for 124 yards and two touchdowns. The freshman had the game-clinching touchdown as well. On a fourth-and-one with the Gators up 31-24 with less than three minutes left, Davis broke the run for 39 yards to the house.
Perine chipped in with the other three rushing touchdowns to go with 58 yards. The run game looked well for the Gators thanks to the commitment to running the ball and good run blocking from the offensive line.
Perine: "Offensive line, they have juice… they've had it the past two, three weeks… when they go, we go."
— Jonathan Acosta (@jonacosta_10) September 30, 2017
Franks played well in relief of Del Rio as well. He went 10-for-14 for 185 yards, and rekindled his connection with Tyrie Cleveland on a 49-yard pass to set up an Eddy Piniero field goal right before half-time.
Franks Fills In
“Feleipe came in and took care of business,” McElwain said. “He handled it well. Obviously that drive right before half was huge.”
That field goal tied things up at 17 in a high scoring half. Perine struck first from a yard out to put Florida on top in the first quarter. Vanderbilt answered right back though, driving down the field in just over three minutes. Quarterback Kyle Shurmur connected with Kalija Lipscomb on 13-yard pass on one of his three touchdown passes to tie things up late in the first. Shurmur had success attacking Florida’s secondary for most of the day, throwing for 264 yards on 18-of-40 passing.
“Thought Vanderbilt played hard and thought obviously gave us some trouble throwing the football,” McElwain said. “With some of the motions and shifts, I don’t think our communication was great.”
The teams traded touchdowns from Perine and another pass from Shurmur in the second quarter before each team kicked a field goal to close out the tied half.
Strong in the Second Half
Then, the Gators took over in the second half.
Malik Davis’s first touchdown as a Gator came halfway through the third on a 1-yard run to give Florida a 24-17. It was a lead they wouldn’t give up.
— Gators Football (@GatorsFB) September 30, 2017
The defense hunkered down, especially putting Gainesville native and Vanderbilt running back Ralph Webb on lock. Webb only managed 29 yards on 11 carries and never really got going. Jordan Sherit had an especially good game on a dominant defensive line, totaling five quarterback hurries and a tackle for loss.
The defense limited Shurmur to just one pass touchdown in the second half as well. That came late in the fourth, down 31-17, to make the game a one-possession affair. The Commodores were limited to just seven second-half points because they were unable to extend drives. For the game, they were just 3-for-13 on third down.
After Vanderbilt made it 31-24, they failed to recover their onside kick. Florida iced the game from there, with Davis’s fourth down, 39-yard touchdown run shoring up the victory.
“Thought our guys ran hard,” McElwain said. “Thought the runners ran hard, and the guys up front are starting to get it.”
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) September 30, 2017
Next up for the Gators, they’ll welcome LSU to the Swamp for homecoming.