AUBURN, Ala. (AP) -- Auburn's defense was getting run over again,
this time by No. 2 Florida and it's two-headed quarterback attack.
Coach Tommy Tuberville had seen enough and challenged his
defenders at halftime.
Auburn's 27-17 victory over Florida knocked the Gators from the ranks of the nation's unbeaten and returned to the Tigers to the fringe of national title discussions. And yet, Auburn struggled again offensively in a conference game, getting one touchdown from its defense (on the last play of the game) and one from its special teams unit. To be fair, the Tigers' offense did perform better on Saturday than it has so far in '06, but that's still a far cry from what we saw a year ago. Here are Auburn's offensive stats in SEC games, comparing 2005, 2006 and Saturday's game. (Note: 2006 stats do not include Saturday's game)
The Tigers responded, scoring on a blocked punt and a last-play
fumble return and making a pivotal late interception to beat the
Gators 27-17 on Saturday night and leave the Southeastern
Conference without an unbeaten team.
"We couldn't slow them down in the first half, and they
couldn't move it in the second half," Tuberville crowed.
"Offensively, we didn't score a touchdown. How do you do that and
beat a team like that?"
In the end, that merciless SEC claimed another victim as Florida
became the fourth team ranked No. 2 in the AP Top 25 to lose this
season, joining Texas, Notre Dame and Auburn.
The 11th-ranked Tigers (6-1, 4-1) turned the tables on Chris
Leak, Tim Tebow & Co. in the second half, benefiting from the
quarterback's fumble deep in Auburn territory that killed a chance
for at least a go-ahead field goal.
Florida coach Urban Meyer challenged the call arguing that it
was an incomplete pass but replay officials let the play stand --
and it turned the game around. It also cost the Gators their final
timeout, but he didn't grouse about the call after the game.
Neither did Leak, though he said he thought his arm was going
"We will go back and watch it on TV, but obviously there wasn't
enough evidence to overturn the call on the field," Meyer said.
"We have to live with the call and we have to get better."
Eric Brock's interception of Leak's pass set up the last of John
Vaughn's four field goals, a 39-yarder with 31 seconds left after
missing a 45-yard attempt on the previous possession.
"We needed a big play at that moment," Brock said. "We played
lights-out the entire second half."
It was just another chapter in the topsy-turvy saga of SEC
front-runners this season, with Auburn beating LSU, Arkansas
beating then-No. 2 Auburn last week and Florida (6-1, 4-1) toppling
Tennessee and LSU. The internal battering has threatened to leave
the league without a strong national championship contender.
Auburn hardly looked like the same team that was physically
whipped in that 27-10 loss to the Razorbacks -- at least in the
Tuberville's halftime scolding of the defense worked.
"He just said it looked like they were playing scared," said
quarterback Brandon Cox, who passed for an efficient 182 yards.
"He told us we had just as much talent on defense as they had on
The Tigers have now won six consecutive home games against
top-10 opponents and eight of nine overall. The Gators had won five
in a row against ranked opponents, one shy of the school record.
Trailing 21-17, Florida got a final attempt from its own 20 with
31 seconds left. Three incompletions later, Leak hit Dallas Baker
across the middle and Baker lateralled to Jarred Fayson, whose own
lateral attempt turned into a fumble recovered by Patrick Lee. The
defensive back raced 20 yards into the end zone to place an
exclamation point on the Tigers' win.
Many Auburn fans lingered in their seats well after the finale,
and a number of players headed to the student section to celebrate
with fans before heading to their locker room.
An elated Tuberville wanted to join Auburn fans in the
traditional toilet papering of Toomer's Corner downtown.
"Where's my toilet paper?" he said. "I'm going to Toomer's
Corner. What a game! Good gosh!"
Auburn's other touchdown came when Tre Smith returned a blocked
punt 15 yards early in the third quarter to give Auburn an 18-17
The Gators appeared poised to retake the lead early in the
fourth. Leak hit Baker on a 32-yard pass down the right sideline
and receiver Andre Caldwell gained 27 yards on an option pitch.
On third-and-3 from the 6, Leak started to throw then decided to
hold on as Auburn's Quentin Groves applied pressure. The ball
squirted from Leak's hand and linebacker Tray Blackmon scooped it
up. Blackmon was playing in his first game of the season after a
Meyer said there was plenty of blame to go around despite Leak's
"When you face a pass rush like that in this type of
environment, bad things can happen," Meyer said.
Florida managed only 85 yards and five first downs after
halftime. Leak completed just 9-of-17 passes for 108 yards and a
Leak and his back-up Tebow both accounted for TDs en route to a
17-11 halftime lead. Leak hit Baker for a 15-yard scoring pass and
Tebow ran 16 yards into the end zone on his only play of the half.
Even Auburn's mistakes turned into points.
Florida's Derrick Harvey, who had 2½ sacks in the first half,
recovered a fumble by tight end Tommy Trott on the Florida 3. Left
guard Jim Tartt was called for holding in the end zone on the next
play, giving the Tigers a safety.
The Gators were left nursing wounded national title hopes, and
hoping for a rematch in the SEC title game.
"That is real bitter, but we are going to move forward and stay
focused on the SEC championship," Caldwell said.
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