Florida vs. Auburn score: Takeaways as Gators defense overwhelms Tigers in The Swamp

By Adam Silverstein
October 6, 2019
Florida vs. Auburn score: Takeaways as Gators defense overwhelms Tigers in The Swamp

Image Credit: Twitter / GatorsFB

A surge in the AP Top 25 poll is ahead for the No. 10 Florida Gators (6-0, 3-0 SEC), which used a ferocious defense and effective-enough offensive attack to overcome a variety of miscues in a massive home win on Saturday afternoon. Florida pulled off a 27-13 upset over the No. 7 Auburn Tigers (5-1, 2-1 SEC) in the teams’ first meeting since 2011, a victory that will likely result in the programs switching places in the college football rankings.

The Gators improved to 4-1 under head coach Dan Mullen against ranked opponents and are off to their best start in a season since 2012. Florida has won 10 straight games dating back to last year and has the third-longest winning streak nationally. Though UF does have six wins through as many weeks, it is not yet bowl-eligible as it has placed FCS competition. Wondering whether Florida will advance to a bowl is not on the top of anyone’s mind as that is now replaced by attempting to determine whether the Gators have enough to make it to the College Football Playoff.

So what went down on Saturday in The Swamp? Keep on reading as OnlyGators.com revisits the game with takeaways, analysis, quotes, highlights and more.

1. The Swamp is back: After nearly a decade of being considered the most disruptive environment in college football, Ben Hill Griffin Stadium lost a bit of its luster as Florida struggled to find national relevance. When they did show up, fans were not in the stands until after kickoff, the noise level was muted (relatively) and the atmosphere was simply not nearly as dangerous for opponents as it could be. That changed in a major way Saturday as the Gators welcomed nearly 91,000 fans to Steve Spurrier-Florida Field and those in attendance could barely contain their excitement for the first top-10 showdown in Gainesville since 2012.

“I’ll tell you what was awesome. The fans — this is what The Swamp is and what it’s expected to be. It’s that homefield advantage — the most electric environment in college football, the loudest stadium in college football,” Mullen said. “We need the Gator Nation to give that effort like the team gives all the time. It’s hard for any team to get in here and come away with a win if that’s how the crowd is going to be. They did an unbelievable job today. They caused some penalties, created energy for our sidelines and the energy in the stadium, the excitement. That’s all due to the Gator Nation — the student body, the band, everybody just did an amazing job.”

Though the coaching staff and players had everything to do with the on-field result, the contributions of the fan base cannot be ignored. Auburn committed nine penalties for 70 yards, many of them false starts. It was just 2 of 14 on third down. The true freshman quarterback struggled massively, particularly when he got closer to the fans near the end zones. The Swamp was alive once again on Saturday, and as long as Florida is playing like this, there’s no excuse for it to look or sound any different going forward.

“It was really loud, and we had trouble hearing the clap for the cadence,” said Auburn freshman quarterback Bo Nix. “Sometimes we had slow communication. Stuff like that happens. Every team that walks into The Swamp has communication issues, but we just didn’t do anything to make up for those.”

2. The defense was dominant: The Tigers never really had an opportunity to breathe on Saturday. Auburn only had one drive over 32 yards, and that nine-play, 80-yard trek late in the third quarter ended with an interception in the end zone. All three of the Tigers’ scoring drives came on short fields due to Gators turnovers. Florida held Auburn to 2 of 14 on third down and only allowed the visitors two first downs in the first half. It forced four turnovers (three interceptions by Nix) and held the running game in relative check until a couple series in the second half. The Gators also had two sacks, three tackles for loss, three pass breakups and three QB hurries.

Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn got a lot of credit entering the game for his return to playcalling boosting his team through it 5-0 start. He was completely dominated schematically by Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. Considering all of their issues, the Gators need this kind of performance from its defense if they have any hope of running through the next three teams — two of them top-five opponents — on their schedule.

3. Calm down the Kyle Trask hype: It is understandable that Florida fans are excited about the redshirt junior quarterback. He is an upgrade from Feleipe Franks from a throwing perspective, hitting wide receivers in stride, spreading the ball around and finding gaps in coverage. He makes smart decisions with the football and clearly has the confidence of his teammates. But here’s the thing — and we have said this before to criticism — Trask is far too careless with the football.

Yes, much of this is on the offensive line. While it did provide some good pass protection at times, it is an average to below-average unit that has been getting Trask killed by opposing defensive fronts. Still, Trask struggles massively to feel pressure from an impending rush and fumbles far too often. One of his three fumbles on Saturday was a tremendous play by a Tigers defensive lineman, but the other two were unacceptable as he should have known to tuck the ball and move on to the next play. Those two came in the first 13 plays of the game, one of which after special teams made a great play by recovering a muffed punt in the red zone. That’s a lost scoring opportunity. Trask now has five — yes, five — fumbles in three games.

Florida was able to overcome his three turnovers — and another from sophomore running back Dameon Pierce, who took a helmet-to-helmet hit and understandably dropped the ball — at home against Auburn. It is not a good enough team to expect the same result on the road at LSU or against Georgia in a neutral site. And that improvement in ball security must start behind center.

Trask completed 19-of-31 passes for 234 yards and two touchdowns otherwise, and he led senior wide receiver Freddie Swain to a career day with six receptions for 146 yards and a touchdown. Swain was a first-down machine on Saturday, and his 64-yard score on the Gators’ second play from scrimmage set the tone for the day.

This is all not to mention that Trask was injured in the second quarter with what was later said to be a sprained MCL. He should not miss any time, but it was notable that redshirt freshman QB Emory Jones looked great in his place, hitting 5-of-7 passes for 28 yards and rushing for 13 on three carries. Jones was not as effective when entering in a red zone scenario earlier, but the offense is clearly better rushing the football with him in the game. Trask is expected to be fine for next week’s game.

4. Sweet, sweet revenge: Senior running back Lamical Perine is not a look-at-me player. As a three-star prospect out of Mobile, Alabama, he had to work hard for a Florida scholarship, especially after Auburn turned him down. The Tigers famously told Perine that he was too slow to play for them. The Gators wanted a bruiser, recruited him hard and eventually signed him. Perine has already delivered on his scholarship, but not like he did Saturday when his 88-yard rushing touchdown late in the fourth quarter sealed the game for Florida. It was the longest rushing score for the program since Emmitt Smith (in attendance Saturday) brought one down the field for 96 yards against Mississippi State in 1988. Perine shed a tear after the game. Auburn’s recruiting staff probably did, too.

5. For better or worse — mostly better — Dan is the man: As has always been the case with Mullen, he is going to do things that will delight and frustrate you as a supporter of his teams. A failed fake punt on the Gators’ side of the field was astounding. Running his injured quarterback twice after he came back from a knee injury was a head-scratcher. Settling for a field goal with a run on third-and-long in Auburn territory was curious.

Mullen also executed exceedingly well with a third-down pass back from tight end Lucas Krull to Trask for a key first down late in the game. He mostly called a great offensive game for Trask and Jones — particularly Jones — and created plays to take advantage of Auburn’s weaknesses in the middle of the field. And overall, he clearly got Florida — and its crowd — up for a massive game in The Swamp. Mullen knows when to push the right buttons and generally when to call the right plays. He will do things that frustrate you, but it always seems to work out in the end, doesn’t it?

“You look at all the turnovers in the course of the game, you don’t usually lose four fumbles and win the game,” Mullen said. “… Defensively, amazing job. Todd, his staff, the defensive guys grinding, training, getting to the football as hard as they can every play. That’s the type of defense we expect to play around here. I’m really proud of those guys. They gave up one score, and that was on me. We don’t fake a punt and they probably don’t score a touchdown. So I end up causing the only fault with our defense.”

6. Odds and ends: Florida broke a three-game losing streak to Auburn and is now 24-9 against the Tigers in The Swamp but 39-43-2 all-time … the Gators are 68-26-2 all-time in homecoming games, 26-5 since 1989 and now 5-5 this decade … Florida is now 13-5 in top-10 matchups in The Swamp with wins in eight of its last 10 games against top 10 teams at Florida Field … UF is 6-0 for the first time since 2015 … Florida has won 10 straight games for the first time since 2011-12 and done so by a combined 339-96 … the Gators are outscoring opponents 112-17 in the second half this season, 64-7 in the fourth quarter … Florida leads the FBS in interceptions (12) and is second in sacks (26) … the Gators are 5-1 against ranked opponents under Mullen … Florida is 11-0 when scoring first, 13-0 when leading after the third quarter, 12-0 when allowing 20 points or fewer and 13-0 when outrushing its opponent under Mullen … improving to 4-1 as an underdog at Florida, Mullen is also 5-0 against the spread as an underdog dating back to his time at Mississippi State … the Gators have scored 24+ points in 10 straight games for the first time since doing so in 24 consecutive games from 2007-09 … UF has scored in 391 consecutive games, an NCAA record

7. Up next: No rest for the weary. Florida will hit the road for the second of three top-10 showdowns in a four-game span when it faces LSU next Saturday night in Death Valley. The game will air on ESPN, which announced that “College GameDay’ will be in town for the Gators-Tigers game. That will mark the third time this season that Florida will be featured on the program.

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