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Gator McClendon's reach might exceed grasp

Florida tailback Willie McClendon obviously had high expectations this season. McClendon said he wasn't satisfied with the Gators' 6-1 start, even after Florida drubbed Akron 59-0 Saturday.

"We should be 8-0," said the junior from Jacksonville.

McClendon's warped sense of mathematics perhaps has been influenced by the Gators' history of good starts in recent seasons. With their track record, an extra victory couldn't hurt.

Eight previous Gators teams have opened 6-1. Three of them _ in 1974, '76 and '80 _ lost three of their last five games.

Last season UF was 6-1 at this time, but lost five of its last six and finished 7-5 with a Freedom Bowl loss to Washington.

As in '89, the bulk of the Gators' work is yet to come. A week before beating Akron, UF flunked its toughest test so far, 45-3 to Tennessee. Now, after a week off, the Gators face Auburn, Georgia, Kentucky and Florida State.

"We know it's not going to be this easy in two weeks against Auburn," coach Steve Spurrier said after the Gators manhandled Akron, "but hopefully we can build some confidence and continue to improve."

Back to action: Sophomore linebacker Carlton Miles suffered a slightly twisted back, the only Gators injury of note against Akron.

Miles started in place of Jerry Odom, who suffered a twisted knee against Tennessee. Odom is expected to return for the Auburn game, as are two other Gators who did not play Saturday.

Spurrier said linebacker Michael Kerr will permitted to return if he attends scheduled appointments with a university counselor. Kerr was involved in a scuffle at a fraternity house this past summer and has not played this season.

Spurrier also said free safety Will White is expected to be back after sitting out Saturday as punishment for violating unspecified team rules.

White has recorded six interceptions in six games, one shy of Florida's single-season record. Monty Grow, a sophomore from Citrus High in Inverness, made his first career start in White's absence.

"If it was my first start against a caliber team like Tennessee or Auburn, I might have been a little bit more nervous," said Grow, who was presented a game ball after recording four solo tackles.

Stingy defense, productive offense: Florida also got a huge defensive lift from linebacker Tim Paulk, whose two interceptions set up scoring drives as the Gators jumped to a 31-0 halftime lead.

Akron suffered its worst defeat since a 65-0 loss to Denison in 1915. The Gator defense did not allow the Zips a first down in the second half and just seven in the first half. UF held Akron to 84 yards total offense, the fifth-lowest total ever yielded by the Gators.

Meanwhile, the offense had a school-record 33 first downs. The Gators compiled 595 yards total offense (247 rushing, 348 passing), third-best in school history.

Starting over: McClendon was Florida's starting tailback when the season began. Errict Rhett then took over for three weeks, but McClendon was back among the starters Saturday.

McClendon made his case for belonging there by rushing 18 times for 105 yards, the first time he has surpassed the 100-yard mark. He also caught four passes for 51 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown from quarterback Shane Matthews (20-of-32 for 283 yards and three touchdowns). Rhett had 49 yards and two 2-yard touchdowns on nine carries.

A time to shine: Theblowout allowed several Gators to come off the bench for a moment of glory.

Reserve cornerback Kurt Young, a redshirt senior walk-on from Hillsborough High, recorded his first career interception.

Brady Ackerman, a walk-on running back from Jacksonville, scored the Gators' final touchdown by catching a 12-yard pass from backup quarterback Brian Fox.

Fox was replaced for most of UF's final series by Michael Cohen, whose name is not even listed on the Gator media-guide roster.