Originally created 09/24/98

Former college foes meet again

NEW ORLEANS -- Danny Wuerffel and Peyton Manning met in some memorable showdowns when Florida played Tennessee. Now they play for the New Orlans Saints and Indianapolis Colts, and things aren't so exciting anymore.

On Sunday the Saints, off to a surprising 2-0 start, visit Indianapolis (0-3). New Orleans hasn't had a winning season since 1992. Indianapolis had the worst record in the NFL last year at 3-13 and is coming off a 44-6 shellacking by the previously winless New York Jets.

"There probably won't be as much excitement about this one, I guess," Wuerffel said. "There's not as much hype around this game and neither of us will probably do anything like we did then. So I guess it won't mean as much to a lot of people even though it means just as much to Peyton and me."

There's certainly not as much on the line, the teams Wuerffel and Manning play for now aren't as successful, and there won't be nearly as many people watching.

Manning, the top draft pick this year, has his painful transition to the NFL chronicled daily as the Colts' starting quarterback. Wuerffel is in his second year with the Saints, but making just his fourth start.

"The thing I remember about playing against Peyton is that those were always huge games," Wuerffel said. "Every time we played Tennessee it was the game of the century."

The pair squared off twice in college. At Gainesville, Fla., in 1995, over 85,000 watched Tennessee build a 30-14 lead before Wuerffel crafted a 48-point scoring spree and Florida won it 62-37.

In that one, Wuerffel hit 29 of 39 passes for 381 yards and six touchdowns. He also ran for one.

Manning wasn't bad, completing 13 of 16 for 216 yards and two touchdowns.

"We put a lot of points on the board," Wuerffel said. "I don't expect either of us to do those kinds of things this time."

The next year at Knoxville, Tenn., the Vols were No. 2, Florida No. 4. The game was on national television and played before 107,608 -- at that time the biggest crowd in NCAA history.

Florida built a 35-point lead as Wuerffel completed 11 of 22 for 155 yards and four touchdowns, including one to cap an 80-yard drive on the Gators' first possession.

Tennessee came back as Manning completed 37 of 65 for 492 yards and four touchdowns. The Vols scored 29 straight points but couldn't overcome the big deficit and lost 35-29.

"I don't really see much correlation between college and the NFL," Manning said. "They don't have a whole lot to do with each other."

Wuerffel agreed. Great games, like great college careers, make for good memories, but do little for either player now.

"Things are just too different from college in the pros," Wuerffel said. "Unlike college, big plays are hard to come by in the pros. The margin of error in the NFL is much smaller. A mistake you could make in college and get away with you'll get exposed in the NFL."

And there is another big difference. As of midweek, there were 14,000 tickets left for the game in the 60,567-seat RCA Dome.


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