It was perhaps the most frustrating performance of the season for Florida football. In the end, however, it was the result we all wanted.
Florida football had it all against Auburn Saturday in Gainesville.
Big defensive stands. Striking pass plays. A big running attack.
After experiencing running game futility, No. 10 Florida football got its run game when it counted, which led to a 24-13 win over No. 7 Auburn — pushing the Gators to 6-0, a record they haven’t had in more than a decade.
It was the 10th straight win for the Gators, dating back to last season.
Florida football out-rushed the best rushing team in the Southeastern Conference, 132-124.
It was a breakout run by Lamical Perine in an otherwise stagnant second half to that point.
An 88-yard run up the middle proved to be the difference as it extended Florida football’s lead to 24-13 midway through the fourth quarter.
Perhaps the biggest story of the day was how the Florida defense responded to week-long criticism from the national media that it may be overmatched against Auburn quarterback Bo Nix and the Tigers’ offense.
But, from the first play of the game — where Jon Greenard barreled through and hurried Nix to force an incomplete pass.
It was the start of what would be a long afternoon for the freshman quarterback and the Auburn offense. Nix would throw just one touchdown, but the Florida football defense intercepted him three times and sacked him twice.
It was exactly the showing the Gator defense needed to make on the national stage in Florida’s first of three top-10 match-ups this month.
While Nix’s first play from scrimmage found him on the ground, Florida quarterback Kyle Trask had a much better showing.
On his second play from scrimmage, Trask hit Freddie Swain over the middle for a 64-yard touchdown pass.
That led to the Gators getting 110 yards in the air in the first quarter alone.
But, again, it was the defense that proved to be the bigger story.
In Auburn’s first seven possessions, they managed just two field goals but had three punts, two fumbles and an interception.
All of this defense was without Florida football’s other defensive leader, Jabari Zuniga. Zuniga was cleared to play but sat out for unknown reasons.
That defensive effort helped Trask and the offense build momentum in the first half. Momentum they would need going into what would wind up being a lackluster second half.
Florida football didn’t really march down the field on their second score of the game. Trask hit Josh Hammond on a 13-yard strike, capping another two-play scoring drive and giving the Gators a 14-6 lead.
Of course, none of it would have happened if not for the defense. Two plays before the score, Shawn Davis picked off Nix and picked up good yardage after the catch to put Florida football in position to take a 14-6 lead.
The second half would wind up more of a turnover affair as neither team able to mount any offensive momentum.
Although, the Tigers did find their running legs as they picked up 51 yards rushing in the third quarter, after just 35 yards in the entire first half.
But, the Florida football defense forced Auburn to punt on their first two possessions and ended the third drive with an interception — all in the third quarter.
The fourth quarter wasn’t much better for the Tigers as the punted the ball on their first possession of the half.
Two plays later, Perine would score his 88-yard touchdown.
Auburn turned the ball over on downs after Nix failed to gain 20 yards he needed for the first down.
In the end, Florida football had 19 first downs, compared to just 12 for Auburn. The Gators had 398 yards of total offense to the Tigers’ 269. Trask closed out the game with 234 yards and two touchdowns on 19-for-31 passing.
Freddie Swain pulled down 146 yards on six receptions and a touchdown while Perine had his first 100+ yard game (130 yards) and a touchdown in the win.
No. 10 Florida will now head on the road for the next three weeks. They travel to Baton Rouge next week to take on No. 5 LSU before heading to Columbia, South Carolina to take on the Gamecocks the following week.