Gimme 5: Keys to UF’s win at Vandy

Somewhere, Jeff Driskel just ran for another touchdown, and Raul Ibanez just hit another home run.

Both happened in a crazy Saturday night. It’s why we love sports: Just when you think you know what is going to happen, you are surprised, fooled and bamboozled.

In Florida’s 31-14 win against Vanderbilt, Driskel shocked the Gator Nation (and probably the actual nation) by running for 177 yards and three touchdowns.

It was obvious he was good on his feet. But that good? Sure, it was Vanderbilt, a defense that has been gashed for big runs this season, but still. Tim Tebow never ran for 177 yards, so it must mean something.

Meanwhile, LSU rebounded from last week’s loss to beat South Carolina 23-21. In terms of the SEC East race, the loss by South Carolina didn’t mean a whole lot.

But in terms of the eye test, it meant a heck of a lot.

Florida beat LSU, handily some would argue. Suddenly, the narrative became LSU was an over-rated, quarterback-less squad in a funk, one that was surely going to be beat by Steve Spurrier’s team.

Instead, LSU proved that while flawed, it is still one of the nation’s best.

So where does that put the Gators in relation to South Carolina? That is an assessment for another day.

Until we head there, let’s take a look at the five keys to Florida’s win against Vanderbilt.

5. Secondary

Clearly, it was not a perfect game for the defensive backs. Loucheiz Purifoy was flagged for holding on what would have been an interception by De’Ante Saunders. He was also beat deep a few times.

You can’t fault Saunders for Purifoy’s miscue, though, which was away from the ball. Saunders read the pass well and jumped in front of the receiver. If he continues to perform, this defense only gets deeper.

In general, the secondary made some nice plays. Marcus Roberson and Josh Evans each sacked Jordan Rodgers. Evans’ sack pushed Vanderbilt out of field goal position, the type of sack that counts for a little something extra.

Roberson also made a terrific deflection on a pass that would have gone for a first down.

Rodgers threw for 237 yards and one score, but the secondary did enough Saturday night.

4. Depth

From the start, the Gators were under-manned. Dominique Easley, Jelani Jenkins and James Wilson each missed the game with separate injuries. Early on, Xavier Nixon and Jonotthan Harrsion came out of the game, too.

Filling in for Jenkins, freshman linebacker Antonio Morrison led the team with eight tackles (six solo). Earl Okine, who received time in place of Easley, was in on the block of a Vanderbilt field goal.

On the offensive line, Kyle Koehne, Ian Silberman and D.J. Humphries blocked well enough to spring Driskel on a number of runs. He was only sacked once.

It has been talked about throughout this season. This team is deeper than a year ago. There is no question. Though the defense finally surrendered points in the fourth quarter, the Gators controlled much of the second half.

The reason? Depth.

3. Special teams

The much-maligned unit came to life Saturday night in a big way.

In no particular order, the Gators: blocked a field goal, converted on a fake punt, had a long kickoff return to get good field position, made three field goals, didn’t completely mess up on any punt returns and covered punts well.

That sounds like an A+ performance to me.

Really, it had a huge impact in the game.

Gators coach Will Muschamp said the fake punt was out of necessity, as he felt his team needed a boost in energy. Well, it worked.

Andre Debose offered another boost in energy with his long kickoff return into Vanderbilt territory. Though unusual, it is good to see him make plays again.

Intangibles win games. Saturday, the Gators controlled all the intangibles. Muschamp should be happy.

2. Jeff Driskel

What more can be said about the guy?

Yes, he needs to develop a vertical passing game. Yes, he needs to establish better timing with some of his receivers.

Still, he played one monster of a game. He was clearly the best athlete on the field, running through, around and right by defenders.

When Vanderbilt looked to establish momentum, Driskel answered with play after play. His third touchdown killed a Commodores team that refused to die.

Rushing for 177 yards against any team, especially as a quarterback, is impressive. The same goes for three touchdowns.

Passing the ball, he was serviceable, going 11 for 20 for 77 yards. He didn’t record a turnover.

In short, he was the difference in the game.

1. Caleb Sturgis

Sturgis connected on each of his three field goal attempts. OK no, I am kidding.

Though Sturgis continues to be one of the best kickers in the country, Jeff Driskel gets the double-key tonight. He was the first and second biggest reason the Gators won.

It won’t happen often, but it will tonight.

Shortly after the game, I received a text message from a level-headed Gators fan that said: “Jeff Driskel might be the man.”

I thought about it. For the most part, they were right.

Moving forward, Driskel might be the man that leads the Gators to an SEC Championship Game appearance. He might be the man that becomes a Heisman finalist. He might be to Muschamp what Tebow was to Urban Meyer.

That remains to be seen.

However, on Saturday night, he was the man.