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Vanderbilt Gives Florida a Scare, 28-21

November 10, 1996|From Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Florida got a reminder Saturday that it's not easy being No. 1.

Florida held on for a 28-21 victory over Vanderbilt, the Southeastern Conference's worst team, but the Commodores scored 15 unanswered points in the middle of the second half to give the Gators a scare.

The Gators clinched a fifth consecutive SEC Eastern Division title with their 20th consecutive league victory.

"Obviously, I felt like we'd have a close game before the year's out," said Steve Spurrier, who tied Ray Graves as Florida's winningest coach with 70 victories. "They played well, but we made some good plays. We could've played worse."

The Gators, 9-0 overall and 7-0 in the SEC, were flagged 17 times for 147 yards, the most ever for a Spurrier-coached team.

Vanderbilt used a blitzing defense in holding the nation's top offense to its lowest scoring output of the season. The Commodores held the Gators well below their 531-yard average with 388 yards.

Danny Wuerffel threw for four touchdowns, but he also lost a fumble, which was returned for a touchdown. He finished 18 for 28 for 283 yards and an interception.

"They did a phenomenal job," Wuerffel said. "They were blitzing and fake blitzing. They had a really good plan. I could've done some things a little differently."

Florida led, 28-6, when Vanderbilt (2-7, 0-6) made its run. After linebacker Jamie Duncan scored on a 31-yard fumble return and Damian Allen passed to Todd Yoder for two points, Jason Dunnavant scored on a 42-yard run. The Commodores then failed on two chances to tie or win.

"We had our chances, and ended up short," said Vanderbilt Coach Rod Dowhower.

The Commodores, in the midst of their 14th consecutive losing season, also had close losses this season to ranked teams Notre Dame (14-7) and Alabama (36-26).

"People say we tend to play the best against better teams," said cornerback Corey Chavous. "We need to work on finishing those efforts with wins."

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