Feleipe Franks took the field just before halftime. The redshirt freshman quarterback found himself back on the field after being benched the previous week in favor of the more experienced Luke Del Rio, who went down with a shoulder injury.
Soon after, Franks found receiver Tyrie Cleveland streaking down the middle of the field for a 49-yard toss, setting up a field goal and showcasing why he began the season as the starter.
Franks and a strong run game gave Florida its best offensive performance of the season, keeping them perfect in SEC play with a 38-24 victory.
“Thought our runners ran hard,” Florida head coach Jim McElwain said. “There at the end, I thought we wore on them pretty good.”
Florida (3-1, 3-0 SEC) found much of its success on the ground, where a platoon of running backs in Lamical Perine, Mark Thompson and Malik Davis found consistent holes.
Combined, Florida running backs totaled 218 yards and five scores.
Perine opened up the scoring for either side, set up with a 1-yard touchdown up the gut after Florida made its way down field, leaning heavily on the ground game. The score kept the Gators’ consecutive scoring streak alive and tied for the most in NCAA history with 365 games in a row.
Perine added Florida’s two more touchdowns to his name throughout the contest, marking the first multi-touchdown game of his career.
“Momentum,” Perine said. “When you start feeling the momentum, you have to keep going.”
Whenever Florida punched Vanderbilt (3-2, 0-2 SEC) in the first half, the away team would swing back. Vandy QB Kyle Shurmur — who only had 25 yards passing in his 2016 debut against the Gators — found huge holes in the Florida secondary early, picking them apart for two touchdowns and 161 yards in the first half.
The Commodores managed 310 total yards, most of them coming in the opening half. The Gators locked in defensively in the second, keeping their passing game to just 97 yards.
Vanderbilt’s run game was stifled by Florida’s front four all game, allowing just 46 yards. Starter and Gainesville native Ralph Webb only mustered 29 yards.
Short one-yard rushing touchdowns for Davis and Perine in the second half gave the Gators a commanding 31-17 lead that they wouldn’t surrender.
After Shurmur led a late-game score for Vanderbilt to bring the lead within seven, tailback Davis busted a 39-yard run down the right sideline to ice the game.
The matchup proved as an example of the Gators’ ability to lean on the run game.
“Opening up the run game is going to open up the pass game, as well,” Perine said. “We're going to be real dominant when we start doing that."
Franks didn’t pass for a score but paced the offense with 185 yards. The redshirt freshman also showed composure in the pocket.
“I think I can only go up from here,” Franks said. “There’s going to be some bumpy roads, and that’s what I have the other players on the team for.”
The win gave Florida its fourth in a row over Vanderbilt as McElwain kept an unblemished record against the SEC East foe.
The Commodores will try to regather themselves for an Oct. 7 battle with Georgia back in Nashville.
The Gators, riding a three-game win streak, will look toward a homecoming matchup with the LSU Tigers next Saturday. The two teams have had their fair share of drama in recent matchups.
“It’s gonna be a lot of fun,” McElwain. “A lot of excitement, and I know our guys are gonna really look forward to it.”