IN THE CROSSHAIRS

Rocking Gator Crowd Helps Florida Over Auburn

Ken Cross

October 07, 2019 at 12:42 pm.

GAINESVILLE — The Swamp was rocking. The Swamp was rolling. Tom Petty’s vintage “I won’t back down” blasted on the speakers and this time there was meaning.

No. 10 Florida hadn’t hosted a Top 10 matchup since 2012 and Saturday afternoon’s 24-13 win over No. 7 Auburn brought back memories of the Steve Spurrier Era, the Urban Meyer Era and the way Florida football used to be before Meyer left town and the Gators went into a mind-boggling slumber.

It has taken another coach with a presence in Dan Mullen to wake up those echoes.

Mullen has fashioned a 15-3 record through the first year and a half of his tenure. Florida is 6-0 this season and while Mullen gets the most out of an offense, it was the Gators defense on Saturday afternoon that pushed them past streaking Auburn.

“I get into it; I love the energy; I love the crowd,” said an emotional Mullen who was visibly stoked before the game. “That excites me. When you open those doors and walk out of the tunnel and hear that deafening noise in The Swamp, that gets you juiced.”

The environment and that defensive effort stymied Tigers true-freshman quarterback Bo Nix, who had issues aplenty with the loudness of the Swamp and then a Gators defense that limited him to 11 of 27 through the air for only 145 yards as he was picked off three times.

“That’s the type of defense we expect to play around here,” said Mullen. “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.”

Mullen was alluding to a called fake punt in the second quarter with the Gators leading 14-6 and the Tigers on the ropes. Punter Tommy Townsend took off to run, but Auburn’s Tanner Dean and Chandler Wooten snuffed out the play. Nix almost immediately hit wide receiver Seth Williams on a 32-yard touchdown pass to cut the Gators lead to 14-13.

The biggest Nix interception came in the fourth quarter when he saw Williams break to the post in the back of the end zone and Florida safety Donovan Stiner stayed home and intercepted.

Auburn was down 17-13 and was getting ready to take the lead for the first time. It was a lesson for Nix in watching the entire play transpire and also trying to not force the football. He had been harassed by the Florida front-7 all afternoon, so his comfort level had to be low.

“I just feel like we’ve been working so hard that we’re just earning our respect and coming for everything we deserve and that’s it,” said safety Shawn Davis who had one of the three interceptions.

Tiger Trama: Florida had a major fight on its hands with an Auburn defensive front-7 that harassed quarterback Kyle Trask all afternoon. They forced four fumbles in the offensive backfield and three from Trask.

Christian Tutt, K.J. Britt and Derrick Brown forced those three fumbles with hits on Trask, but the tough part for the Tigers is that they could only muster six points off of those.

The stoutness of the Auburn defense was seen in the fact that only two of Florida’s 17 drives went for more than six plays as the Gators had to rely on the big play to score.

Trask hit Freddie Swain over the middle for a 64-yard touchdown pass on the first drive as Florida took a quick 7-0 lead. It was a classic catch-and-run as nine yards were on the throw with Swain proliferating the other 55 yards in what looked like a track meet.

“That touchdown right there was good,” Swain commented. “It gave us a confidence booster. First drive to come out versus a big team and set the tempo.”

Lamical Perine managed the show-stopper for the Gators which finally buried a more-than-game effort for the Tigers defense. He hit the middle of the Auburn line, bounced off blockers and roared down the right sideline for an 88-yard touchdown jaunt which provided the 24-13 margin.

Perine’s run was the longest from scrimmage since Emmitt Smith went 96 yards from scrimmage against Mississippi State in 1988.

“It’s about just being patient,” said Perine. “My offensive live had a lot of ups and downs, but at the end of the day, they blocked it up perfect for me and made two guys miss and it was a great thing to go out and feel like that.”