No. 11 Florida edges Vanderbilt on late field goal

Nov. 7, 2015

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Mason | Webb | Stokes | McCrary | Cunningham & Herring | Pulley

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason showed his team the Buster Douglas-Mike Tyson fight from 1990 on Friday night.

The Commodores nearly pulled off a similar upset Saturday in the Swamp.

Austin Hardin's 43-yard field goal with 2:22 remaining helped No. 11 Florida beat pesky Vanderbilt 9-7 and clinch a spot in the Southeastern Conference championship game.

"What it comes down to is there's a time in the fight where you've got to take the punch," Mason said. "You've got to jab, take the punch, when the opening comes, hopefully you hit it.

"For us, we jabbed, jabbed, jabbed and then we went for the knockout blow and we came up a little short," he said. "I told our guys, 'Don't hang your head. You've got nothing to regret.'"

Vanderbilt (3-6, 1-4 SEC) held Florida to 258 yards, including 57 in the second half. But the Gators (8-1, 6-1) did just enough on their next-to-last possession to set up Hardin's winning kick.

Tommy Openshaw got it started with a 12-yard punt, allowing Florida to start at the Vandy 45-yard line.

"We're frustrated about this game," center Spencer Pulley said. "We know we should have won this game. ... We should have done more."

For much of the game, though, it looked like Vanderbilt had done enough.

Florida's Kelvin Taylor was stuffed, finishing with 47 yards rushing and a touchdown on 17 carries. Treon Harris completed 12 of 24 passes for 158 yards and was sacked three times.

And the Gators, who entered the game ranked second in the nation in turnover margin (plus-13), turned the ball over four times.

But Vanderbilt's offense sputtered most of the day.

Ralph Webb, who grew up in Gainesville, ran 22 times for 118 yards. His 74-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter put Vandy ahead and the defense nearly made it hold.

"Credit the offensive line for doing a great job getting a push up front," Webb said. "They got movement and that made the hole real big. I just had to get to the hole as fast as I could. Once I got through, I definitely wasn't worried about getting caught. No way, not a chance."

Vanderbilt had one final chance after Hardin's winning field goal, but the Commodores failed to pick up a first down on a fourth-and-25 play. They gained positive yardage once in eight plays, but were aided by a holding call on fourth down and a questionable targeting call a few plays later.

Vandy might have had a better chance with better quarterback play.

Kyle Shurmur, who started the last two games, sat out because of a concussion. Johnny McCrary completed 3 of 14 passes for 30 yards and was sacked five times.

"It's hard to decipher whether you had a good game or a bad game," McCrary said. "I think you can always make more plays out there. The defense played a phenomenal game. We've got to do our part and put more points on the board."

Florida's final points were the difference, with coach Jim McElwain pulling walk-on kicker Neal MacInnes and replacing him with junior Hardin.

It turned out to be the right move -- and it sent Florida back to Atlanta for the 11th time and first since Tim Tebow's senior season.

"Let's face it, we stole one," McElwain said. "When you're on a championship run, sometimes there are games like this. And champions figure out ways to win them. These guys are SEC East champs."



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