GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Auburn’s offense gave away four turnovers and the Tigers’ defense allowed three quick touchdown strikes.
In Gus Malzahn’s own words, any time a team makes mistakes like that, it’s going to have a tough time winning — let alone on the road, let alone in The Swamp, and let alone against a top-10 Florida team.
Auburn threw three interceptions, one of which led indirectly to a Gators’ touchdown score, and the defense gave up big touchdowns of 64 yards and 88 yards in the 24-13 loss.
Auburn’s four giveaways marked a season-worst. Florida scored three touchdowns, the scoring drives of which totaled just five plays. The Gators struck for two two-play touchdown drives and one one-play touchdown drive.
That last one, an 88-yard run broken loose by Florida running back Lamical Perine, put the game on ice in the fourth quarter as the Gator fans packing The Swamp threw their hands in the sky.
“Any time you turn the ball over four times on the road, you’re going to have a tough time winning — so very disappointed,” Malzahn said after the loss.
Florida scored on its second play of the game with that 64-yard touchdown pass, which sent the Gators’ Freddie Swain free in the open field behind an aggressive Auburn blitz called by defensive coordinator Kevin Steele.
Florida’s other touchdown came early in the second quarter, on a quick two-play strike after the Gators intercepted Auburn quarterback Bo Nix and returned the ball to the Auburn 23-yard line.
“They played a good game,” Auburn senior safety Jeremiah Dinson said, agreeing that those big plays are what stood out as far as Florida’s success. “Hats off to them. There are things we could have done better.
“But that’s what film is for. We’ll get it corrected tomorrow,” he said, as Auburn loaded up on buses to travel back to the Plains with the team’s first loss.
Florida capitalized on enough Auburn mistakes to win. The Tigers, meanwhile, did not cash in enough of Gator mistakes.
Florida gave away three first-half fumbles, and gave Auburn the ball in its own territory on a failed fake punt for a turnover on downs early in the second quarter.
Auburn cashed in for a touchdown on just one of those opportunities, when that turnover on downs led to the Tigers’ only touchdown of the game.
Auburn’s defense forced a fourth turnover in the second half, which only led to a punt. The Tigers finished with just six points off of four turnovers — kicking field goals on two of those first-half fumbles.
“We just couldn’t finish drives, man,” disappointed offensive lineman Marquel Harrell said after the loss. “The defense gave us great turnovers, great field position. We just couldn’t finish the drives.”
The game seemed to swing back and forth in the first half — but Florida made the biggest swings and capitalized on the most opportunities.
Auburn’s defense came up with a big takeaway when it seemed to need one late in the first quarter — just after a punt return team muffed the ball away to Florida. But the Tigers couldn’t make it count on the scoreboard.
Standout defensive lineman Marlon Davidson got to Florida quarterback Kyle Trask for a sack-fumble, and fellow big-man on the defensive line Derrick Brown scooped it up to run 42 yards to the Florida 35 before seemingly running out of gas and stumbling.
But moments later, Florida was streaking back down the field the other way. Bo Nix threw an interception on the second play of the series, which the Gators returned to the Auburn 18-yard line.
Unlike Auburn on those three first-half fumble recoveries, Florida cashed in its forced turnover with a touchdown. Trask hit Josh Hammond for a 13-yard touchdown to make it 14-6 early in the second quarter.
“We left a lot of field position out there. We left a lot of points out there,” Auburn sophomore receiver Seth Williams said. “So it’s definitely going to be a hard one to soak in.”