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Published Jul. 6, 2006

If the Florida Gators proved anything Saturday against Southeastern Conference rival Tennessee, it's that no team goes from 0 to 60 faster.

Okay. Okay. It was actually 14 to 62, but who's counting?

You get the point.

So did the Volunteers.

The Gators, down 30-14 late in the first half of arguably their most crucial conference game, scored 48 unanswered points behind a near-flawless offense and an opportunistic defense to rout the Volunteers 62-37 at Florida Field.

"That's one of the best offensive games I've ever coached or ever watched," coach Steve Spurrier said, praising his offensive line as one of the best in the nation.

"It's really unbelievable," added receiver Ike Hilliard, who caught four touchdown passes. "But when our offense is clicking really well, the only ones who can stop us is us."

With the win, the No. 4-ranked Gators sit comfortably in the driver's seat in the Eastern Division, poised for a fourth consecutive trip to the SEC Championship Game.

"It's a good victory for us, no question about it," Spurrier said. "It goes in the book as one victory, but it is over the team in the East that we need to beat if we're going to win the division championship. I'm just really proud of the guys."

But the Gators (3-0, 2-0) looked too emotional and mistake-prone at the outset. And No. 8 Tennessee capitalized.

UT sophomore quarterback Peyton Manning, wooed heavily by Spurrier, lofted a perfect pass down the left sideline to Joey Kent for a 72-yard gain to the 9. It was the 11th-longest pass play against the Gators in UF history and the second 70-plus this season. Houston had a 77-yarder in the opener.

On the next play, Manning found an open Marcus Nash. . The drive looked Gator-esque _ two plays, 81 yards, 15 seconds. "It affected me a lot," Weary said. "I knew I had to do something to get us back in the game."

After the Gators answered on a 14-yard pass from Danny Wuerffel to Hilliard, Manning continued his precision passing against a soft zone defense, setting up a 1-yard run by fullback Chester Ford to cap a 13-play, 84-yard drive.

Weary then blocked Jeff Hall's extra-point attempt, snapping Tennessee's streak of consecutive PATs at 168. Manning led his team to a field goal, then hit Nash with another score for a 23-7 lead.

Tailback Fred Taylor, who injured a shoulder in the first quarter against Kentucky, came into the game and sparked the offense. He caught two passes for 24 yards and ran four times for 24 yards, including a score that cut the Tennessee lead to 23-14.

Then, finally, the Gator defense came up with a big play.

On a third and 13 from the 21, Manning dropped a pass over the linebackers to Kent. But safety Lawrence Wright knocked the ball free and Florida's Shea Showers recovered it at the Tennessee 47.

The Gator fans in the throng of 85,105, yelling loud enough to be heard on Ol' Rocky Top, sensed a touchdown coming. They were right.

Defensive lineman Billy Beron hit Wuerffel as he scrambled on first down, jarring the ball loose. Strong safety Raymond Austin returned it 46 yards for a 30-14 lead with 3:13 left in the half, stunning the Gators.

"I should have known better than to do that kind of stuff," said Wuerffel, who would throw six touchdowns _ a record in an SEC game _ but at the time got an earful from Spurrier. "Coach Spurrier always says it's a 60-minute game and keep playing whether good or bad things happen."

After that, it was only the former for the Gators.

First, Wuerffel capped an 11-play, 69-yard drive with an 11-yard touchdown to Hilliard to cut the Tennessee lead to 30-21 at the half.

The Volunteers (2-1, 1-1) took the second-half kickoff and drove to the Gator 5-yard line, but Hall missed a 22-yard field-goal attempt.

Wuerffel's 6-yard touchdown pass to Hilliard cut the lead to 30-28 midway through the quarter, then Weary came up with his second big play.

Tennessee star tailback Jay Graham hurdled over the line for a first down on a third and 1 from the Florida 34, but he fumbled, and Weary returned the ball 42 yards.

Three plays later, Wuerffel hit Hilliard in the end zone from 15 yards out to give Florida its first lead, 34-30 with 2:13 left in the quarter.

Florida senior tackle Mark Campbell then stripped the ball from Graham and recovered it at the Vols 30. Wuerffel needed just two plays, completions of 22 and 8 yards to Reidel Anthony, for a 41-30 lead with 24 seconds left in the third quarter. Anthony scored on a 19-yard reverse on the Gators' next possession.

"I didn't really notice it at the time; we go on a play-by-play basis," Wuerffel said of the four-straight-TD streak _ which grew to 5-for-5 in the half and six straight when he hit Chris Doering on a 7-yard pass after another Tennessee fumble.

"We got our ears pinned back in the second half," Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said. "I thought in the first half we were becoming a complete football team. The second half was very disappointing."