In the fourth quarter of their fourth game in a season with enough drama for a full four-year career, the Florida Gators finally held a two-touchdown lead.
Then the Vanderbilt Commodores sliced it in half.
And then Florida ran it down Vandy’s throat one last time.
Malik Davis capped a 124-yard, two-touchdown performance with a 39-yard scamper around end on fourth and one with just more than a minute to go in the fourth period, and Florida running backs scored five rushing touchdowns — after not getting one over the Gators’ last eight games — in a 38-24 victory.
Davis, Lamical Perine (15 carries, 58 yards, three touchdowns), Mark Thompson (24 yards), and Kadarius Toney (22 yards) gave Florida the foundation on the ground to make up for an uneven day of play from quarterbacks Luke Del Rio and Feleipe Franks, who shared duties under center for the second straight week thanks to an injury that knocked Del Rio from the game in the second quarter.
Franks would throw for 185 yards and make a few superlative passes before day’s end, including a bomb to Tyrie Cleveland to set up the Gators to tie the game at 17-17 at halftime and a ricocheting rocket caught by Freddie Swain on a fantastic play in the third quarter.
But the day was won by the Gators on the ground, as 51 carries netted 218 yards despite just Davis’s game-sealing sprint covering more than 13 yards. Florida’s offense, for once, kept its defense largely off the field — a good thing, given how the Gators allowed Kyle Shurmur’s 18 completions to cover 264 yards and score three touchdowns — and wore down the opposing defense, as Vandy was leaned on all day before ultimately collapsing.
Florida may find such a plan harder to execute in October, as the Gators play LSU, Texas A&M, and Georgia during the meat of their SEC schedule.
But on this Saturday, that plan secured a 3-1 record after one of the most dramatic and draining months in Florida football history. On this Saturday, the plan worked.