Gator running backs find end zone against Vanderbilt

Florida running back Lamical Perine drags a Vanderbilt defender during the first half Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Alan Youngblood/Gainesville Sun]

Florida had gone eight games without a rushing touchdown before breaking through for a pair of rushing TDs last week against Kentucky.

On Saturday at The Swamp against Vanderbilt, Florida’s running backs were able to find the end zone even more frequently.

Florida finished with five rushing touchdowns in its 38-24 win over Vanderbilt, with three coming from sophomore running back Lamical Perine and two more coming from freshman running back Malik Davis.

The five rushing TDs were the most for the Gators since running for five touchdowns on Nov. 1, 2014 against Georgia.

“The runners ran hard,” Florida coach Jim McElwain said. “The guys up front are starting to get it. There at the end, I thought we wore on them pretty good.”

Perine’s three TDs were the most for a Gator player since quarterback Jeff Driskel ran for three TDs against Vanderbilt on Oct. 13, 2012. The three TDs were the most for a Gator running back since DeShawn Wynn rushed for three TDs against Kentucky on Sept. 24, 2005.

“The offensive line, they’ve had juice, the past two or three weeks,” Perine said. “We’re feeding off those guys. Every time they go, we go.”

Perine finished with 58 yards on 15 carries. Davis, meanwhile, recorded his first two career TDs and first 100-yard game, finishing with 124 yards on 17 carries. Davis sealed the game with a 39-yard TD run on a 4th-and-1 play with 1:39 remaining, putting the Gators up 38-24. Davis became the first UF true freshman to rush for more than 100 yards and two TDs in a game since Jeff Demps did it against Arkansas on Oct. 4, 2008.

“The nation should know about Malik Davis,” Perine said. “That’s a good dude. He’s a good running back. He’s gonna score a lot of touchdowns in The Swamp and in a lot more stadiums.”

Florida has come a long way from its season opener against Michigan, when the Gators were unable to establish the run, finishing with just 13 yards rushing on 28 carries. Against Vanderbilt, the Gators gained 218 yards on 4.3 yards per carry. Florida has rushed for 150 or more yards in three straight games since the Michigan loss.

Florida sophomore right tackle Jawaan Taylor said there’s been better communication along the offensive line, which has helped open holes in the run game.

“Coach Mac really told just do our jobs and everything will work out, our running backs will create plays,” Taylor said. “We just did what we had to do.”