GAINESVILLE (AP) — Vanderbilt defensive coordinator Bob Shoop challenged his players before the game, asking what they wanted to leave as a legacy.
The answer was the same across the board: The Commodores wanted to become the first team in school history to beat Georgia and Florida in the same season.
They accomplished it with an exclamation point Saturday.
Jerron Seymour scored three touchdowns, and Vanderbilt took advantage of Tyler Murphy’s four turnovers to upset the Gators 34-17 in the Swamp. It was the program’s first win against Florida since 1988 and first in Gainesville since 1945.
“That’s what we wanted to leave,” defensive end Walker May said. “We wanted to beat Florida and beat Georgia the same year, and then win out the rest of our games.”
The Commodores snapped a 22-game losing streak in the lopsided series and moved a step closer to becoming bowl eligible for the third consecutive season under coach James Franklin.
This one was huge, although Franklin tried to downplay the significance.
“All that stuff that happened 80 years ago,” he said. “We don’t really talk about that. As a program, we’ve been here three years, and that’s what we talk about. We focus on the things that we can control. Those other things are outside our area of control.”
Florida certainly had a hand in Vandy’s win.
The Commodores (5-4, 2-4 SEC) scored after each of Murphy’s three interceptions, building a 24-3 lead while getting the ball inside the 22-yard line three times. Vanderbilt finished with 12 first downs and 187 yards. Florida had 26 first downs and 353 yards.
“The difference in the game was turnovers,” Franklin said. “Our defense was able to get turnovers. If you look at it statistically, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But because of the turnovers … our offense was in short field a lot of times, and that was the difference of the game.”
Florida (4-5, 3-4) has its second four-game losing streak in coach Will Muschamp’s three seasons, fueling more speculation about his future in Gainesville.
“I certainly don’t like the product we are putting on the field, and that’s my responsibility,” Muschamp said. “I take full credit for that. When it’s good, it’s good. When it’s not good, it’s not good — and it hasn’t been good. And that’s on me.
“I’m not asking for anybody to be happy. I’m not asking anybody to give a pass. This is the real deal. This is the University of Florida. My expectation I’ll guarantee is as high or higher than anyone sitting in those stands. There’s nobody more let down or hurt or competitive-edge dented a little bit by this. So it’s on me. We’ll get it turned. I can assure you that.”
Seymour finished with 66 yards on 23 carries. Patton Robinette ran for the other score. He also was 6-of-12 passing for 57 yards. Star receiver Jordan Matthews caught five of those for 45 yards.
Once the Commodores got the big lead, they milked the clock and tried to keep Florida off the field.
Florida, which is down nine players because of season-ending injuries, did little to mount a comeback.
Murphy completed 28 of 45 passes for a career-high 297 yards. But his three interceptions — he also lost a fumble — were key.
“I didn’t play well,” Murphy said. “I mean, when you throw three interceptions, you put the defense in a bind, you kill your momentum offensively. I’ve got to play better.”
He overthrew Quinton Dunbar in the first quarter, a pass Andre Hall picked and returned to the Florida 10-yard line. Seymour scored on the next play, breaking five tackles on the run and putting the Commodores ahead 10-0. It was a big boost for a team that had been outscored 85-24 in the first quarter in its previous eight games.
Vanderbilt pretty much coasted from there. Seymour’s third touchdown, a 1-yard plunge on the first play of the fourth quarter, erased any doubts about the outcome.
Now, the Commodores have to beat Kentucky, Tennessee or Wake Forest to make a third straight bowl.
“I’m really proud of our kids, really proud of our program,” Franklin said. “That’s a talented team. We’ve got a lot of respect for them, got a lot of respect for this program and the history and tradition here. This is a good win for our program, so we’re proud of them.”
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