Vandy got a break on Florida's 71-yard opening drive after an Omarius Hines reception was fumbled in the end zone and recovered by the Commodores for a touchback.
The Commodores then responded with a 66-yard drive highlighted by Jordan Rodgers' passes of 34 and 20 yards to Jordan Matthews. However, the drive ended in a mishap when a 32-yard field goal by Ryan Fowler was blocked. Rodgers continued to improve completing 19 of 28 passes for 297 yards and two touchdowns.
John Brantley, who was 16 for 24 for 173 yards, responded by driving the Gators 48 yards to attempt a Caleb Sturgis field goal that just missed wide right.
Florida's first scoring drive was paved by their speedy rushing attack in a 15 play, 85-yard drive. The Gators rushed nine consecutive times with most of the load being shared between Jeff Demps and Mike Gillislee. Jacoby Brissett clawed in for the touchdown on third and goal on the 1-yard line to put the Gators up 7-0.
Vanderbilt was forced to punt after going three-and-out and Florida took little time to put more points on the board. A 26-yard Brantley completion to Andre Debose and the one-two rushing punch of Hunter Joyer and Demps put the Gators up 14-0 with less than five minutes in the half.
After moving the chains once on the ensuing series the Commodores were again forced to punt. Three Brantley passes and a face mask penalty would put Sturgis in range to make a long 55-yard field goal to put the Gators up 17-0 before the end of the half.
The Brantley led Florida offense moved the ball with ease in the first half, averaging 9.8 yards per pass and 4.2 yards per rush. They racked up 277 yards against a Commodore defense that averaged just 297.25 yards allowed a game.
The 'Dores got the ball first in the second half but would be held to a three-and-out after a holding penalty and a sack for a loss of 11 yards by Jaye Howard. After forcing Florida to punt the Vanderbilt offense would come to life, both on the ground and through the air. A pair of Rodgers passes to Barden and some quick runs from Zac Stacy and Jerron Seymour would set up a tight 26-yard Rodgers touchdown pass to Matthews. Rodgers was hit as he threw the ball but a pump fake would give Matthews plenty of space to make the catch with three Florida defenders trailing.
Florida responded swiftly using the legs of Demps and Gillislee who rushed for 26 yards on 4 carries to put Sturgis in range for a 40-yard field goal that put the Gators up 20-7.
Despite starting the responding drive shaky with a 10 yard intentional grounding call. Rodgers would pick apart the Florida secondary connecting with Matthews three times for a total of 40 yards as well as two other Commodores to set himself up an 8-yard touchdown run to pull the 'Dores within six points.
The Commodore defense would get Rodgers the ball back soon. He responded by hooking up with Chris Boyd on a 31-yard pass to put Vandy back within Florida territory. On third and 8, a controversial no call pass interference on an attempted Rodgers-Matthews connection would force the 'Dores to punt, pinning the Gators back on their own 6-yard line.
The Commodores would be tricked and drawn off sides on fourth and 1 on the Gators own 15, extending a drive that was all about Demps. It concluded with a 52-yard Demps touchdown run to put the Gators back up 26-14. Demps would finish with 158 yards and two touchdowns on the day.
The Gators attempted a two-point conversion which was almost brought back by the Commodores for two points of their own. An illegal lateral was called and Vandy was drug down out of bounds after a strong attempt to bring it the other way.
Vanderbilt was not done yet. Down 12 with a little more than two minutes left, a 32-yard Rodgers-Matthews hookup and some smart running by the signal caller would drive the 'Dores down 80 yards for another score. Rodgers would hook up with Wesley Tate for 18 yards and capped off the drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Chris Boyd.
Down by five with 56 seconds remaining and no timeouts the Commodores would attempt on-side kick to give them one more chance at the end zone. The ensuing kick bounced over the first row of defenders heads and was recovered to seal the victory for the Gators.
The Commodores' rushing game was held to 80 yards on the day managing just 2.4 yards per run. The continued emergence of sophomore receiver Matthews after an impressive performance against Arkansas last week is sure to have people excited for future games. Matthews caught nine passes for a total of 170 yards and a touchdown against the vaunted Florida secondary. Tight end Barden also helped move the chains multiple times finding soft spots in the defense with four catches for 51 yards.
Next Vanderbilt will welcome the struggling Kentucky Wildcats to Nashville in a battle to get its fifth win of the season.
Florida 26, Vanderbilt 21
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