NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Chris Leak ran for a touchdown and threw
for two more, and Florida snapped a two-game losing streak by
beating Vanderbilt 34-17 Saturday for its 14th straight victory in
The Gators (5-4, 3-4 Southeastern Conference) gave coach Ron
Zook his first victory since being fired on Oct. 25, and they
avoided losing a third straight game for the first time since the
end of the 1999 season.
Leak was 22-of-29 for 307 yards, and Ciatrick Fason ran 26 times
for 170 yards and a touchdown as Florida outgained Vandy 500-372 in
total offense despite the Commodores holding the ball for 34
But the Gators couldn't have started the game with less emotion,
turning the ball over four times in the first 25 minutes. They hurt
themselves repeatedly with 12 penalties for 108 yards, once even
erasing a touchdown with a personal foul.
Luckily, Florida was playing Vanderbilt (2-7, 1-5), which
converted those turnovers into 17 points but couldn't get into the
end zone on its own.
The Commodores' best chance to beat Florida for the first time
since 1988 came when they drove from their own 7 to the Gators 10
trailing 24-17. But Vanderbilt bogged down and Patrick Johnson
missed a 38-yard field goal short into a brisk wind.
Vanderbilt had one final chance to score in the final seconds
only to turn the ball over on downs at the Florida 5.
Leak put Florida up for good by shaking off the penalty that
erased his 11-yard TD pass to Chad Jackson by finding Tate Casey on
the next play for a 26-yard TD with 11:36 left in the third
quarter. Leak he padded the lead with a 35-yarder to Dallas Baker
in the fourth.
Fason became the seventh Florida running back to top 1,000 yards
in a season and the fourth-quickest, doing it in just nine games.
Matt Leach added field goals of 49 and 47 yards for Florida.
Vanderbilt led 17-14 at halftime despite losing starting
quarterback Jay Cutler at the end of its first drive. He sprained
his right ankle when sacked by Marcus Thomas, who had two sacks.
Bright only threw three passes, completing only one for 8 yards, in
the first half.
Moses Osemwegie fell on a fumble after Kevin Joyce sacked Leak
and knocked the ball loose in the end zone for a 10-0 lead. Norval
McKenzie scored his first TD of the season on a 19-yard run, making
it 17-7 midway through the second quarter.
Leak completed his first 10 passes, and he almost
single-handedly kept the Gators in the game by setting up their
first TD and diving over for a 2-yard TD himself just before
But in a play that symbolized Florida's troubles, a Leak pass
into the wind to Andre Caldwell bounced off the receiver's hands
and to Vandy cornerback Bill Alford at the Commodores' 7 for the
Gators' fourth turnover.