AUBURN, Ala. - Terry Bowden got all the attention, Steve Spurrier the championships. Now that Spurrier's Gators have beaten Auburn, the Florida coach wants respect.
In an explosive, resilient display by the Gators, Danny Wuerffel threw for 380 yards and four touchdowns as No. 3 Florida finally got some turnovers to beat No. 7 Auburn 49-38 yesterday.
After losing two straight games to Bowden, a victory meant Spurrier would no longer be tormented by memories of Auburn, the only Southeastern Conference team to beat him in two years.
"Hopefully, people will realize that this is a team that has won three (SEC) titles," said Spurrier, whose brilliance as an offensive coach vies for attention with his brash confidence.
"People need to recognize that this isn't the same Florida team as the one when I first got here."
In demanding credit for the team he has assembled in five years at Florida, Spurrier stands at the threshold of his fourth straight SEC championship game.
His 40-6 record in SEC play is better than any coach in the league's history with at least five years as coach.
Essentially, Auburn needs LSU to lose to meet Florida again in Atlanta.
"We just crossed the obstacle that we failed to the last two years," Gator defensive back Lawrence Wright said.
Spurrier improved his record against Bowden to 1-2, shaking the jinx that has left him 2-6-1 against the Auburn coach and his father, Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden.
Chris Doering caught three of Wuerffel's TD passes, the first two coming as part of a 21-point explosion by the Gators (5-0 SEC, 6-0 overall) that turned Florida's 21-20 lead into a 42-20 runaway in less than five minutes.
Auburn (3-2, 4-2) maintained hope nearly until the end, pulling to 49-38 on Stephen Davis' 46-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-2. The Tigers recovered the onside kick but Florida took over because the ball didn't go 10 yards.
With Florida leading 49-32 and the Gators driving late in the game, a noisy Florida contingent in the end zone began chanting, "Run up the score! Run up the score!"
Auburn had beaten Florida the past two years, aided by a 9-0 edge in turnovers. Yesterday, Florida had two interceptions and won despite three fumbles and an interception of its own.
"The last two times we have played Auburn, we had our chances and just blew it," said Doering, who caught five passes for 76 yards. "It feels good to finally be able to finish the game."
Florida led 35-20 at halftime despite two turnovers in the first two minutes that contributed to a 10-0 Auburn lead.