Sunday September 30, 2007Football Falls to Auburn, 20-17
Auburn freshman Wes Byrum connected on a 43-yard field goal on the final play of the game as the Tigers defeated the Gator football team, 20-17, on Saturday night in front of a crowd of 90,685 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. With the loss, Florida (4-1/2-1 SEC) saw its 11-game winning streak ended and its 18-game winning streak in The Swamp snapped. Auburn improved to 3-2 overall and evened its league mark at 1-1. UF trailed 17-3 entering the fourth quarter and had rallied to tie the game.
The Tigers opened the scoring with 6:16 remaining in the first quarter. Following a six-yard run by freshman quarterback Kodi Burns to cap a 14-play, 86-yard drive, Byrum’s successful point-after gave the visitors a 7-0 advantage.
After converting on fourth and one from the four-yard line, the Tigers increased their lead to 14-0 with a three-yard run by sophomore Ben Tate. The touchdown carry came with 6:21 remaining in the first half. The Tigers gained possession when Sen’Derrick Marks blocked a 34-yard field-goal attempt by senior Joey Ijjas (Clearwater, Fla.), the first blocked kick allowed by the Gators since Dec. 31, 2004.
The Orange and Blue had great field position on their first possession of the second half after a quick three-and-out series by the Tigers. The aggressive Gator defense was led by sophomore linebacker Brandon Spikes (Shelby, N.C.), who batted down a pass by senior Brandon Cox. The Gators struck quickly from the Tigers’ 45-yard line with a 52-yard pass by sophomore Tim Tebow (St. Augustine, Fla.) to sophomore wide receiver Percy Harvin (Virginia Beach, Va.) to begin the drive. Ijjas completed the 48-yard, five-play drive with a successful 24-yard field goal, narrowing the Tigers’ lead to 14-3 with 11:58 remaining in the third quarter.
Freshman cornerback Joe Haden (Ft. Washington, Md.) proved himself a force to be reckoned with in the Gators’ secondary with back-to-back pass breakups on the Tigers’ following possession. Sophomore linebacker Ryan Stamper (Jacksonville, Fla.) sacked Cox to force Auburn to a quick three-and-out. However, UF’s defense was back on the field shortly after senior cornerback Patrick Lee intercepted a Tebow pass. The Gator defense held the Tigers to a three-pointer following a 30-yard field goal by Byrum that made the score 17-3.
The true freshman tandem of safety Major Wright (Miramar, Fla.) and Haden ignited an Orange and Blue scoring drive by causing and recovering a fumble by Tate late in the third period. Tebow took the reins and led the Gators through a 38-yard scoring drive, ending with a six-yard reception by junior tight end Cornelius Ingram (Hawthorne, Fla.) to narrow the deficit to 17-10 with 14:56 remaining in the game.
After holding the Tigers scoreless on their next possession, the Gators tied the score at 17-17 with 7:36 showing on the clock. The two-yard touchdown carry by Tebow was his eighth rushing touchdown of the year, matching his own school record for rushing scores by a quarterback in a season. The drive, spanning 89 yards in nine plays, was highlighted by a 32-yard reception by Harvin over the back of a Tiger defensive back.
The Tigers took possession with 3:38 left in the game and marched 35 yards in 10 plays to set up Byrum’s game-winning kick.
Cox was 17-for-26 for 227 yards for Auburn, while Tebow finished the game 20-for-27 for 201 yards and one touchdown. Tebow also led the Gators with 75 yards rushing on 19 carries with one score, while Tate led the Tigers with 65 yards on 20 carries and one touchdown. Harvin had his fourth-straight 100-yard receiving effort with seven receptions for 119 yards.
The Gators will return to action next Saturday, Oct. 6, when they travel to Baton Rouge to face SEC rival No. 2 LSU. The game from Tiger Stadium will be carried nationally on CBS beginning at 8 p.m.