GAINESVILLE — If winning is all that matters, then the Gators are exactly where they want to be.
If consistency, big-play ability and continued improvement on offense are important, then Gators still have some work to do.
In last week's 41-17 win over Georgia, the Gators opened up a previously conservative offense and vowed they were finally on the right path to showcasing the talent they possess. Then came Saturday night, and Florida seemed to revert to its old ways.
Yet through it all, one thing remains constant: The Gators are undefeated.
No. 1 Florida extended its nation-best winning streak with a 27-3 win over Vanderbilt in front of 90,694 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
"We're 9-0 for only the third time in University of Florida history, and that's pretty impressive," coach Urban Meyer said. "The best thing about 9-0 is the chance to go 10-0."
It was Florida's 19th consecutive win over the Commodores (2-8, 0-6 SEC). The Gators (9-0, 7-0) now have won 19 consecutive games, the longest win streak in school history and the longest in the SEC over the past 15 years.
It's not as if the Gators aren't putting up numbers and utilizing the offense in a variety of ways. Five different players carried the ball and seven different players caught a pass as they put up 375 yards of offense (227 passing).
But it wasn't until about five minutes remaining in the game, when quarterback Tim Tebow connected on a 64-yard pass to tight end Aaron Hernandez, that the Gators showed off any big-play prowess. Prior to that, their longest pass play was 21 yards to Hernandez.
But even Meyer acknowledged things still aren't clicking as well as he would like, and there is reason for concern.
"We just didn't have that big-play production," Meyer said. "We had four sacks, and we didn't have any home run shots. We need to get some more production out of the offense; a little more than 27 points or whatever.
"We're working on it."
Vanderbilt, which entered with the league's third-best passing defense, held the Gators to 83 passing yards in the first half. And Florida was 2-of-7 on third-down conversions.
"I think you have to give credit to Vanderbilt. They did a good job," said Tebow who finished 15-of-20 for 208 yards and also rushed for a touchdown.
"They were putting some pressure on us and doing some different things. We moved the ball pretty well. We've just got to capitalize on a few of those. We need to firm up a few things and we'll be okay."
The Gators led 13-0 at halftime with two field goals by Caleb Sturgis and a 25-yard touchdown run by sophomore Jeff Demps. Tebow also rushed for a 1-yard touchdown and connected on an 8-yard touchdown pass to David Nelson (tipped by fellow receiver Riley Cooper) with 9:22 left in the game.
Vanderbilt's only score came on a 32-yard field goal by Ryan Fowler midway through the third quarter.
Florida's defense — even without starting linebacker Brandon Spikes (suspended) — was stellar, holding Vanderbilt to 199 total yards, 87 in the second half. The Gators' opponents have scored just 91 points (eight touchdowns) all season. Yet senior linebacker Ryan Stamper said the defense was disappointed it wasn't a shutout.
"Real disappointed. Our goal was to try to get a goose egg, especially when we went in at halftime and they hadn't scored," said Stamper, who had his second interception in two weeks. "We haven't had one this season."
For the Commodores, who have been decimated by injuries this season, including the loss of their starting quarterback last week, one of their few bright spots was Warren Norman, the freshman running back. Norman, who broke the SEC record for punt return yards in a season during the game, rushed 12 times for 65 yards.
Antonya English can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3389. Follow her blog at blogs.tampabay.com/gators.