NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -The Florida Gators spent a couple minutes with their fans in a mini-celebration Saturday night at Vanderbilt
The big party? It can wait. The Gators will get their shot at No. 1 Alabama in the Southeastern Conference championship on
Dec. 6 in Atlanta.
threw for three touchdowns and ran for two more, and the No. 4 Gators routed Vanderbilt 42-14 in clinching the SEC Eastern
Division title for the second time in three years. This ensures their ninth appearance in the SEC title game, and Florida
is 3-2 in that game against Alabama.
Florida coach Urban Meyer praised his team for a great win and how they jumped on Vandy early.
''The attention to detail and the fact that we represent the eastern side of the SEC as a champion is a great accomplishment
for our players,'' Meyer said.
The Gators (8-1, 6-1) answered the question of whether they would have a letdown coming off their emotional 49-10 win over
Georgia by scoring on each of their first four possessions,
intercepted a pass and
got his hand on two punts in building a 28-0 lead.
And that was just within the first 18 minutes.
''Making it to Atlanta for the SEC championship was one of our goals at the beginning of the season, but our goal is to take
care of business every Saturday,'' Tebow said.
The national title is still in Florida's plans, too. To have a shot to get there, the Gators need to keep winning and arrive
in Atlanta with an 11-1 record.
These teams played at night for the first time since 1982 largely because Vanderbilt had a chance to force a tie atop the
SEC East by beating the Gators. But the Commodores (5-4, 3-3) instead lost their fourth straight in their bid to become bowl
eligible for the first time since, yes, 1982. They now have lost 18 straight in this series.
''We played a really outstanding football team tonight,'' Vandy coach
said. ''Their speed is really impressive ... That's no way to compete in one of these games.''
The Commodores had been winning with opportunistic defense and hadn't allowed an opponent to score more than 24 points in
a game this season. That was lost in the opening minutes of the second quarter, and they gave up 330 yards in the first half
''I don't know what else we could have done to play much better than that,'' Florida receiver
A defense that led the SEC in sacks got close to Tebow but couldn't stop the quarterback who looks very capable of winning
a second Heisman Trophy. He finished with 88 yards rushing and threw for 171 yards playing less than six minutes into the
third quarter before heading to the bench.
Tebow completed his first five passes for 66 yards with a TD and topped his season-high in rushing in a game with 57 yards
on six carries in the first quarter. He tossed TD passes to Murphy,
while scoring himself on runs of 26 and 8 yards. He sidestepped defenders, then tossed a 41-yard TD pass to a wide-open Nelson
for a 35-0 halftime lead.
''He doesn't get flustered even though he's getting pressured, people around his ankles, and we just couldn't tackle him,''
Johnson said of Tebow. ''He comes out of it and makes big plays, looks like he's going to be sacked and they throw a touchdown.
I think he's a really outstanding player.''
Florida wasn't completely perfect. Vandy linebacker
of the ball near the goal line as the Gators tried to finish off their fifth possession with another TD in the second quarter.
D.J. Moore intercepted a
pass with 3:45 left, giving the Gators a total of eight turnovers this season.
Harvin made up for the fumble by scoring on a 1-yard run on Florida's opening drive of the second half.
The Gators forced Vandy to punt with 1:33 left until halftime, and that was more than enough time for Tebow to move them 80
yards in seven plays for the big cushion.
Vanderbilt avoided the shutout when
, who suffered a neck pointer, for the second half.
Nickson drove the Commodores on drives of 81 and 87 yards. He capped the first with a 2-yard TD to
at the end of the third quarter, then tossed a 14-yarder to
late in the fourth on a drive kept alive when Dunlap ran into Vandy punter
''We finally stopped making stupid mistakes and started moving the football,'' Nickson said.
Way too late.