The University of Florida football team will head into its bye week in search of answers, rest and healthy bodies after dropping its third consecutive game, 17-6, vs. No. 24 Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday night.
In a tightly contested game, Auburn (5-2, 3-1), used a 25-yard touchdown pass from Barrett Trotter to DeAngelo Bennett, a 14-yard run by Onterio McCalebb and a late field goal by Cody Parkey, while Florida (4-3, 2-3) got a pair of field goals from Caleb Sturgis.
In a game dominated by stout defenses, Florida used three quarterbacks on the night in an effort to provide different looks, while Auburn used two. In the end, a pair of muffed punts by Florida would prove to be the difference.
The injury bug hit Florida in all three phases Saturday night as running back Jeff Demps and defensive end Ronald Powell both missed the game with injuries suffered during last weekend’s LSU game, while kicker Sturgis suffered an (undisclosed) injury and missed the second half.
On the second play of the game true freshman Jacoby Brissett, making his second career start, tried to take a shot at the end zone but was intercepted on his deep pass giving Auburn the ball. Auburn opened the game with seven straight rushing attempts trying to build on what Alabama and LSU found success with in victories over the Gators each of the past two weeks.
The game turned on a muffed punt by Chris Rainey late in the first quarter, although it appeared he may have been interfered with. Muschamp argued to no avail and three plays later Trotter rolled out and Barrett won a jump ball in the end zone, hauling in a 25-yard pass for a 7-0 lead.
Brissett finished the first quarter just 1-of-5 pass for 14 yards, facing a ton of pressure from Auburn’s defensive line as Florida posted just 30 total yards of offense in the opening quarter.
In the second quarter the Gators switched up their look, going with Trey Burton at quarterback and the adjustment sparked the offense. On back-to-back plays Rainey took an 8-yard reception from Burton into Auburn territory and a 9-yard run with a personal foul tacked on the end of it that pushed the Gators to the Auburn 25. The drive stalled and Sturgis split the uprights from 47 yards out to cut the lead to 7-3.
When the Gators got the ball back they continued to chip away at the Auburn lead, coming up with their best drive of the game. The Gators marched 64 yards on 11 plays, including a nice 25-yard hook-up from Brissett to Frankie Hammond on third-and-four to move inside Auburn territory. Hammond caught three passes for 29 yards on the drive as Florida moved all the way to the Auburn 8-yard line. The drive was capped by a 25-yard field goal by Sturgis after Brissett’s fade to Jordan Reed on third fell incomplete.
Auburn marched to the Florida 28-yard line on the final drive of the half, but Parkey pushed a 45-yard field goal attempt wide right to end the half.
Florida finished with 104 yards in the first half, 53 passing and 51 on the ground. Auburn finished with 102 yards, 69 on the ground and 33 passing. After a slow start, Brissett hit 4-of-5 passes in the second quarter and finished 5-of-10 passing for 45 yards.
Jeff Driskel entered in the third quarter and Brissett never returned. Driskel struggled to move the Gators early, but looked more comfortable as the game wore on, finishing 9-of-18 for 75 yards.
Auburn started its second drive of the third quarter at the Florida 30 after a short punt, but the Gator defense continued to hold its ground. Parkey missed to the left on a 42-yard attempt and the Gators breathed new life.
Florida nearly took the lead in the third quarter, calling a flea-flicker on a second-and-inches, but Driskel overthrew a wide-open Reed.
Auburn increased its lead to 14-6 on the first play of the fourth quarter when Onterio McCalebb danced around the left side for a 14-yard touchdown, capping a seven-play, 66-yard drive.
Driskel and Burton combined to lead the Gators on an 11-play, 64-yard drive down to the Auburn 16 yard line in the fourth quarter. Trailing by eight and with an injured kicker, Florida opted to go for it on fourth-and-four but Driskel’s pass to Deonte Thompson fell incomplete and the Gators turned the ball over on downs.
Florida’s defense came out stout again, forcing a three-and-out and a punt. The Gator offense faced a fourth-and-three near midfield on its ensuing drive and appeared ready to go for it, but a false start backed UF into a fourth-and-eight and the Gators punted, in what appeared to be to their advantage, pinning Auburn at its own 3-yard line. .
The Gator defense once again forced a quick three-and-out setting up a punt from the Auburn end zone. The Gators sent Robert Clark back to receive the punt after Rainey had numerous difficulties all night fielding punts, however, in an ironic twist, Clark muffed the punt and Auburn recovered at the Florida 47.
Parkey put the game out of reach with :35, hitting a 42-yard field goal after missing his two previous attempts.
The Gators finished with just 194 yards of total offense on the night, 128 passing and just 66 on the ground. Rainey led Florida in rushing with 33 yards on 16 carries, while Hammond had a team-high four catches for 40 yards.
Auburn amassed 278 yards of offense, 155 rushing and 123 through the air. Michael Dyer had 73 yards on 23 carries.
For the second consecutive years the Gators find themselves at 4-3 heading into their bye after starting the season 4-0. The Gators have two weeks to regroup before facing Georgia in Jacksonville on Oct. 29 (3:30 pm. on CBS).