Andy McCullough 24-yard pass from Peyton Manning (Jeff Hall kick)
Eric Lane 3-yard pass from Peyton Manning (two-point conversion failed)
Andy McCullough 14-yard pass from Peyton Manning (Jeff Hall kick)
The game was a showdown between No. 4 Florida and No. 2 Tennessee. Volunteers quarterback Peyton Manning had not beaten the Gators in two previous attempts, and after a second-half meltdown a year earlier in Gainesville, the Volunteers were looking to exact revenge on their SEC East rival in Knoxville. The game featured two of the top quarterbacks in college football, Manning and Florida's Danny Wuerffel. Both teams featured strong aerial attacks, but Florida's Fred Taylor and Tennessee's Jay Graham were among the SEC's best tailbacks. ESPN's College Gameday was on hand to broadcast their pregame show live from Knoxville.
The tone for the game was set on Florida's first drive, as Spurrier spurned the punt team on a 4th and 10 from the UT 35, and Wuerffel connected with Reidel Anthony for a touchdown to put the Gators up 7-0. Teako Brown intercepted Manning on the Volunteers' first drive, and it took Wuerffel only one play to find the end zone again, hitting Terry Jackson from 10 yards out to extend the lead to 14-0. Florida doubled their lead in a 52-second stretch early in the 2nd quarter, as Ike Hilliard and Jacquez Green became the third and fourth different receivers with touchdown receptions on the afternoon, sandwiched around a James Bates interception of Manning. Antone Lott's 27-yard fumble return stretched the lead to 35-0, before Manning finally got the Vols on the scoreboard before halftime on a 72-yard strike to Peerless Price.
With Florida switching to a more conservative offensive game plan in the second half, Manning cut the lead to 35-22 with 8 minutes left with 2 more touchdown tosses, including a second to Price. Andy McCellough's 14-yard reception brought the Vols within 35-29 with 10 seconds to play, but Florida recovered the ensuing onsides kick to hang on for a six-point win on a rainy Knoxville afternoon.
Florida would ride the early-season win over their bitter rival to a 10-0 start and the #1 ranking, before being upset by #2 Florida State in Tallahassee in their regular-season finale. With #2 Arizona State locked into the Rose Bowl, #4 Florida would need a win the following week in the SEC Championship against Alabama and an upset of #3 Nebraska by 21-point underdog Texas to get another shot at the Seminoles in the Sugar Bowl. Fate was with the Gators, as Texas stunned Nebraska 37-27, and Florida won a shootout with the Crimson Tide to earn a rematch with FSU. WIth #4 Ohio State defeating #2 Arizona State in the Rose Bowl a day prior, the Sugar Bowl would decide the national championship, and Florida dominated the rematch to win the school's first national title. Tennessee bounced back to stay in the national title picture at 6-1 before being stunned on the road at Memphis, and finished 10-2, defeating Northwestern in the Citrus Bowl.
Coming off a big win in Knoxville the week before and being ranked #1 for the first time since 1994, the Gators were looking for somewhat of an easy home game against the Kentucky Wildcats. This would prove true as the Gators scored just 63 seconds into the game with a touchdown pass from Danny Wuerffell to Ike Hilliard. Wuerffell would have 3 touchdown passes in all, but the day belonged to Jaquez Green. In the 3rd quarter, Green took a punt back 66 yards for a touchdown. On Kentucky's next possession, they would punt again and Green, who was still breathing heavy from his first return, weaved his way for another return for a touchdown, this one from 79 yards. In all, the Gators amassed over 300 return yards from punts and kickoffs. In the end the Gators posted their first shutout since a 31-0 drubbing of Tennessee in Knoxville in 1994, with Florida defeating Kentucky 65-0.
With Florida winning so convincingly all season, the next two weeks might have proved a challenge for the Gators, with #12 LSU and #16 Auburn coming to town. It was business as usual for the Gators. LSU came in undefeated on the campaign and featured an offense that scored 38 points per game. Florida, however, was not thinking upset, as Danny Wuerffell threw three touchdowns, two of them to Ike Hilliard, and ran for another score as the Gators proved to have the better offense. Their defense came to play as well as they forced two turnovers and recorded 7 sacks and held the LSU offense to just 28 rushing yards. In the end, the Gators proved themselves worthy of the #1 ranking as they thumped the Tigers 56-13.
It was another ranked team and another set of Tigers for Florida. This time, it was 16th ranked Auburn coming to Gainesville. Like the LSU game, the Gators scored quick and often, amassing over 600 yards of offense and holding Auburn to just 173 yards. Danny Wuerffell again threw for 3 touchdowns and ran for another for the red-hot Florida offense. The first half may have been closer than most would have expected, as Auburn kicked a field goal late to trail just 21-10. But that would be it for the Tigers as the Gators reeled off 30 unanswered points en route to a 51-10 win.
1 Florida was coming in looking to win its 7th consecutive game against Georgia in the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. Wuerrfell again would have an outstanding game, bolstering his heisman candidacy, with 279 yards passing and 4 touchdowns. The Gators also amassed over 200 yards rushing. The Gator defense held the Dawgs to just 272 yards and one touchdown on the day. By the end of the day, Alltel Stadium was half teal (teal seats in the stadium) and half orange and blue as the Gators won 47-7. By this point in the season, Florida was bruising their opponents by an average score of 52-12.