Updated at: 10/13/2012 8:05 PM
By TERESA M. WALKER
(AP) NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The fourth-ranked Florida Gators remain perfect thanks to quarterback Jeff Driskel running the ball better than even Tim Tebow.
Driskel ran for 177 yards and three touchdowns, and the Gators beat Vanderbilt 31-17 on Saturday night to remain undefeated going into their big showdown with No. 3 South Carolina.
The quarterback threw for only 77 yards and ran only 11 times. But the sophomore set the Florida record for yards rushing by a quarterback, topping Tebow’s 166 yards against Mississippi in 2007 on 27 carries.
The Gators (6-0, 5-0 SEC) finished off their last SEC road trip outside of the state of Florida with their 22nd straight win over Vanderbilt. Florida, which rallied in the second half to beat Texas A&M, Tennessee and LSU already this season, took control early this time. The Gators scored 21 straight points, including 11 in the second quarter where they took the lead for good.
Vanderbilt (2-4, 1-3) now has lost 47 straight against Top Five teams.
The Gators also had three sacks, forced a turnover, blocked a field goal and used a fake punt to put away Vanderbilt. Caleb Sturgis kicked three field goals.
Florida did give up its first points in the fourth quarter this season as Zac Stacy scored on a 1-yard run with 8:57 left, pulling the Commodores within 21-14. Carey Spear’s second field goal, a 22-yarder, with 2:35 left to pull Vanderbilt within 24-17 after Stacy had a Rodgers’ pass go through his hands on third-and-goal.
Each time, the Gators answered in a big way. First, Andre Debose returned the kickoff 60 yards as he bounced off a couple Commodores to set up Sturgis’ 26-yard field goal. The Commodores had a short kick after pulling within 24-17, and Driskel went 70 yards on the next play for the sealing TD.
Florida showed the effects of a bit of an emotional letdown after a big win over LSU last week that even had coach Will Muschamp crowd-surfing in his locker room after that game. The Gators didn’t cross midfield until early in the second quarter and helped Vanderbilt out repeatedly with 10 penalties for 80 yards.
Vanderbilt used an interference penalty on a punt to take its only lead at 7-0 in the first quarter. Jordan Rodgers threw a 10-yard TD pass to Jordan Matthews in the back of the right corner.
Driskel capped a 91-yard drive when he faked a handoff to Mike Gillislee so well that the Florida quarterback ran back to his left and up the sideline untouched 37 yards for a touchdown. Trey Burton then took a direct snap and ran in for 2-point conversion and an 8-7 lead with 11:27 left in the second.
Florida led 11-7 at halftime even after failing to convert after getting first-and-goal at the Vanderbilt 2 before settling for a Sturgis field goal.
Vanderbilt had its chances, especially on the opening drive of the third quarter. Stacy took a direct snap in the wildcat and went up the middle 57 yards to the end zone. Matthews was flagged for holding as he grabbed the shoulder of a Gators defender, wiping out the TD.
They still drove to the Florida 7 before a false start, then Rodgers was sacked by Josh Evans. Earl Okine blocked Spear’s 44-yard field goal attempt and Loucheiz Purifoy recovered, finally getting Florida the ball for the first time in the half with 6:17 left in the third.
The Commodores forced Florida to punt three plays later, but the Gators caught Vanderbilt with a fake punt. Solomon Patton ran up the left sideline 54 yards to the Commodores 3. A hold wiped out a touchdown, then the Commodores bit again on Driskel’s fake handoff as he ran 13 yards untouched for his second TD late in the third.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)