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Ainge comes through when it counts for UT

Chris Leak got the stats. Erik Ainge got the win.

The part-time duty Ainge and fellow freshman Brent Schaeffer share at Tennessee would likely be no time at all had Leak not been insulted by the poor treatment he felt the program showed his older brother, C.J., and committed to the Vols. But as he was led off the field by a police escort on Saturday night, an orange throng chanting his name after he orchestrated the winning drive in a 30-28 thriller over Florida, being Erik Ainge was a pretty good thing.

"It was my turn and we were able to do it as a team," Ainge said of leading the drive. "I was calm. I knew we could do it. We'd been doing it the last couple of drives. We just kept our heads and kept coming."

Ainge marched Tennessee five plays from his 39 to set up a winning 50-yard field goal with six seconds left, a series after he took the Volunteers 80 yards in 12 plays, hitting Jayson Swain with a 13-yard touchdown that drew Tennessee within 28-27.

Ainge did not look much like a freshman on fourth and 6 from the Gator 46 when he hit Tony Brown for 32 yards to prolong the drive. But when James Wilhoit's point-after missed, Ainge was summoned for more heroics. It was Schaeffer's turn in what had been a strict two-series rotation, but coach Phil Fulmer stayed with Ainge. Though the 109,000 at Neyland Stadium would have voted otherwise, Fulmer said he is likely to continue his rotation.

"There is a time when we will need Brent Schaeffer," he said. "Erik was doing the better job. There is not a lot of difference between Erik and Brent, but Erik is a little better able to throw the ball right now and that's what we needed."

Leak went 22-for-31 for 286 yards and three touchdowns, twice dragging the Gators back into the game when it appeared Tennessee was about to seize momentum. His 81-yard touchdown pass over strong safety Brandon Johnson and into the arms of Chad Jackson was the most obvious in a night full of seized moments.

The Tennessee QB tandem combined to go 19-of-30 with an in interception and three touchdowns. Schaeffer accounted for 192 of the yards, all three touchdowns and the interception.

Leak's first opportunity came early, and he used it to keep the Gators in a game that appeared to be slipping away quickly as Tennessee's four-pronged running game churned out yards and helped the Volunteers to a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter.

Seconds into the second quarter, the situation got worse when the Gators set up at their 3 after Andre Caldwell (Jefferson) fell out of bounds on a kickoff return. Instead of trying to establish a then non-existent run game, Florida put the game in Leak's hands, and the sophomore went 7-of-8 for 72 yards and a 9-yard score to Jemalle Cornelius that tied the score at 14.

"He did really well, too," Ainge said. "He's a good player. It was the breaks of the game. he had a couple big penalties go against him but he realled played well."

But not quite well enough.

Up next:GAME BALLS

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