"We really got on fire in the second half and never looked back," said Wuerffel. It was largely he who was hot. Wuerffel is in much the same position as anybody who plays quarterback at Brigham Young or I-back at Nebraska. An outstanding day is written off as the product of the system's efficiency rather than of individual brilliance.
True enough, Wuerffel was looking at vast expanses of uncovered grass on Saturday. Tennessee's defensive weaknesses were exposed in the Vols' three-point win over Georgia and laid naked by Florida. But Wuerffel was nearly flawless, completing 29 of 39 passes for 381 yards. His motion is like a shot-putter's, an odd flick from off his shoulder, but his release is instantaneous, and his decisions, well, there is no more discerning critic of a quarterback's judgment than Spurrier, who says, "Danny certainly has the ability to pick out the right receiver."
It is tempting to anticipate Florida's game against Florida State on Nov. 25 in Gainesville. Gator defenders assert that their unit is neither as porous nor as vulnerable as Tennessee made it seem. "When you've got an offense that can score 100 points, your job is just to get it the ball," said Gator outside linebacker Ben Hanks. The Gators did force fumbles, and they did limit the Volunteer offense to one garbage-time touchdown in the second half, but Tennessee finished with 460 yards of total offense. Put the Florida-Florida State over-under line at about 100 points.
Well before that game, however, Florida must play three consecutive SEC opponents, beginning on Oct. 7 at much-improved LSU (page 79), then at Auburn and finally at Georgia. Wondrous offense aside, there is much work left for the Gators, the team that everyone in the conference longs to beat, before a fourth consecutive berth in the SEC title game is assured.
The role of the hunted for Florida has been equal parts earned and inherited. Alabama's three-year probation and home loss to Arkansas last Saturday have rendered the Tide temporarily harmless. Auburn won at Florida last October but lost to LSU last weekend and remains a quirky giant. The SEC is deep and powerful, but Florida has become the target.
And Tennessee wasn't helped by being more single-minded than any other team in the conference, in training its vision on the Gators. "I've been thinking about Florida since last spring," said Manning. Last Friday afternoon, after a brief walkthrough practice at Florida, Manning stood on a sidewalk next to the stadium and said, "I feel I'm ready to play. I'm imagining what it's going to be like to run out through that tunnel and hear people booing me." Before the game he meticulously instructed his receivers on the hand signals that the Volunteers would use when crowd noise made oral communication impossible.
For the older Vols, the game against the Gators meant even more. In the middle of the summer Jason Layman had said, "If we lose that game, our season is over." But none of them, not the precocious and gifted Manning, who went 23 for 36 for 326 yards, nor his elders on the offensive line, could have envisioned Saturday's onslaught. Florida not only took Tennessee's best shot but raced past the Volunteers, turning a scare into a victory into a laugher. "No lead is safe against us," said Hanks.
The rain fell outside in wide, heavy sheets as Fulmer entered Tennessee's locker room and faced his team after the game. "The theme for this game was 60 minutes," he barked. A Tennessee state trooper pulled closed a wooden door, muffling the noise. 2 QTRS played. Not enough. Not close.