Florida Gators Lock Up SEC East Title, Defeat Vandy 9-7
By By Chris Harry GatorZone.com // November 8, 2015
GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA (GatorZone.com) – Jim McElwain tried. Over and over, he talked about Vanderbilt’s defense as a formidable force heading into Florida’s homecoming date at The Swamp. How many actually bought into it — whether inside the locker room or out — really didn’t matter late in the fourth quarter Saturday.
Next to nothing had gone right for the Gators, who trailed the heavy-underdog Commodores by one point inside of three minutes. And now McElwain had to rely — of all things — on a struggling field-goal kicker to rescue UF’s season.
“When you’re on a championship run — and let’s call it what it is: we are on a championship run — sometimes there are games like this,” McElwain said after watching his team survive a horrific (and uncharacteristic) four-turnover afternoon by the offense.
“And champions figure out ways to win.”
Austin Hardin, replaced by a student body walk-on in midseason, piped a 43-yard field goal with 2:22 remaining to give the No. 11 Gators a numbing 9-7 win over the Commodores that wrapped the program’s first Southeastern Conference Eastern Division title in six years in front of 90,000 freaking-out fans at The Swamp.
The Commodores had a chance to win the game, but the Florida defense — outstanding on the day except for one play — halted Vandy quarterback Johnny McCrary on downs with 36 seconds left after a fourth-down completion fell short of the mark at his own 45.
The Gators (8-1, 6-1) are going to Atlanta for the SEC title game for the first time since 2009 and will likely play a West Division champ expected to come from the trio of Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss.