No. 21 Florida loses Del Rio, beats Vanderbilt
Just as quickly as Luke Del Rio regained the starting quarterback job, his season is over.
The Florida junior broke his left collarbone during Saturday’s 38-24 victory over Vanderbilt in SEC play at Gainesville, Fla. Redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks came off the bench to go 10-of-14 passing for 185 yards for the No. 21 Gators (3-1, 3-0 SEC).
Gators coach Jim McElwain said Del Rio will undergo season-ending surgery on Monday.
“It’s hard,” McElwain said. “I just feel horrible for him, and yet the guys rallied behind Feleipe.”
True freshman Malik Davis rushed for 124 yards and two touchdowns and Lamical Perine rushed for three touchdowns to help the Gators defeat Vanderbilt for the 26th time in the past 27 meetings.
Perine, a sophomore, is the first Florida player to rush for three touchdowns in a game since quarterback Jeff Driskel in 2012 and the first running back to do so since DeShawn Wynn in 2005.
Franks guided the Gators on three second-half touchdown drives as he rebounded quickly from his brief demotion.
“We talked about it all week,” McElwain said. “Obviously he was disappointed as any competitor would be, and yet when you look at the last game he was one of the (most excited) guys for the win. He handled it like a competitor should and a good teammate should ... yet he knew his time was not done by any stretch of the imagination.”
Commodores junior quarterback Kyle Shurmur threw for 264 yards and three touchdowns but completed just 18 of 40 attempts. The loss was the second in a row for Vanderbilt (3-2, 0-2), which was trounced 59-0 by Alabama one week earlier.
Shurmur attempted to rally the Commodores from a two-touchdown deficit, throwing a 7-yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Nathan Marcus to cap a 14-play, 77-yard drive and pull the Commodores within 31-24 with 3:14 to play.
Florida went for it on fourth-and-1 on its next drive and Davis exploded through the right side of the line for a decisive 39-yard scoring run with 1:42 remaining.
“This was a game of attrition,” Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason said. “This game was won and lost in the trenches. Defensively, you’ve got to get off the field.”
Earlier, Davis put the Gators ahead for good at 24-17 with a 1-yard scoring run with 6:56 left in the third quarter. Perine tacked on a 1-yard run 42 seconds into the fourth quarter to make it a 14-point margin.
Del Rio was knocked out the game when he took a solid hit with just under five minutes left in the second quarter. Vanderbilt junior defensive end Dare Odeyingbo hit Del Rio just after he unleashed a pass, and the Florida junior landed hard on his surgically repaired non-throwing shoulder.
Del Rio headed to the locker room and Franks entered when the Gators next had the ball with 43 seconds left. He quickly caught the Commodores’ secondary off-guard with a 49-yard completion to sophomore receiver Tyrie Cleveland, a play that set up a field goal as well as set the tone for his performance.
“He has a big arm, and we needed to get back and stop those explosive plays,” Vanderbilt junior safety LaDarius Wiley said. “He came right in and threw a big deep ball, and that’s on us to stop those.”
Franks started Florida’s first three games but lost his job when Del Rio — the son of Oakland Raiders coach Jack Del Rio — rallied the Gators to a victory over Kentucky last Saturday.
“You don’t want it to happen,” Franks said of losing the starting role, “but you want the team to win at all times.”
Perine got Florida on the board with a 1-yard scoring run with 6:12 left in the opening period before the Commodores tied it nearly four minutes later when Shurmur tossed a 13-yard touchdown pass to sophomore receiver Kalija Lipscomb.
Perine’s 13-yard scoring dash gave the Gators a 14-7 advantage with 10:03 remaining in the first half. Shurmur connected with senior receiver Caleb Scott on a 12-yard tying pass with 6:51 remaining before the teams traded field goals in the final minute for the 17-17 halftime score.
NOTES: Florida was again without nine suspended players who have been charged with a collective 62 felony counts of fraud in a credit-card scandal. The list includes standout junior WR Antonio Callaway and junior RB Jordan Scarlett. ... Vanderbilt senior RB Ralph Webb was limited to 29 yards on 11 carries. He has just 198 yards this season after setting a school record with 1,283 last season. ... Florida QB Luke Del Rio went 5-1 as a starter last season before suffering knee and shoulder injuries. He underwent offseason surgeries on both shoulders. ... The Commodores’ lone win over the Gators since 1988 occurred in a 2013 visit to Gainesville. ... Florida running backs had gone nine consecutive games without a rushing touchdown until breaking out with five versus Vanderbilt.