Game footage from the best, AU96!
(Tommy Tuberville's Greatest Games!)
War Eagle, everybody! It's time now to take a break from spring drills, to celebrate another one of Tommy Tuberville's greatest games! Today, we take a look at the night that Auburn beat a national champion. On October 14th, the second-ranked Florida Gators came for a visit to Jordan Hare Stadium, in a nationally televised ESPN Primetime showdown.
Auburn came into this game reeling from a 27-10 home loss to the Arkansas Razorbacks. Not much had gone right in that game, and many of the so-called experts figured that this would be a great time for the Gators to really break out.
Florida was 6-0 and second-ranked in the nation. Florida's SEC wins to date were: 21-20 over Tennessee, 26-7 over Kentucky, 28-13 over Alabama, and 23-10 over LSU. The big home win over LSU had really gotten a lot of folks' attention. While people were intrigued with coach Urban Meyer's hybrid offense featuring two quarterbacks, it was rapidly becoming apparent that the Gators had a good defense, too.
It was a great night for football, in Auburn; a comfortable 68 degrees, without a cloud in the sky. ESPN commentator Lee Corso took the opportunity to wish that his bosses had sent the crew to a different SEC venue, this week. Earlier in the day, Vanderbilt had pulled off a monumental upset, downing Georgia 24-22 in Athens. No one knew it at the time, but they were about to see a game that would top the Commodore heroics!
Game recap after the jump!
Florida won the toss, and deferred to the second half. Joey Ijjas booted the kickoff to the goal line, where Tristan Davis fielded it, and ran into a thicket of Gator defenders at the ten yard line. Auburn would start, backed up. Auburn opened with a swing pass from Brandon Cox to Kenny Irons, and Irons picked up 9. On 2nd down, Irons cut behind a powerful block by Ben Grubbs, and plowed for a first down out to the 22. Next was a toss from Cox to Rod Smith, which picked up another dozen yards. The gators were playing off in the secondary. A zone-stretch run right, by Irons picked up 6, then the Tigers tried it again back the other way. Irons was buried for no gain. On third and 4, it was Irons back to the right, and he turned the corner and took it up to midfield for another first down! A quick dump from Cox to Courtney Taylor picked up 7, then Brad Lester crashed off the right side for 5 and another Tiger first down. A facemask flag on the play moved the ball to the Gator 33. Then, Jarvis Moss jumped offsides for the Gators, moving it to the 28. Off play-action, Cox appeared to be looking to throw the post down the middle, but then lofted it left, to fullback Carl Stewart, who was streaking down the sideline on the wheel route. The Gators got him down at the 4 yard line, which set the Tigers up first and goal! It was the fifth first down of the drive. Brandon Cox lost the handle on the ball on the next play, and tackle Jonathan Palmer covered the loose ball back at the nine. A belly-play handoff to Carl Stewart got 4 yards back, then a third down pass towards Rod Smith went incomplete. On 4th down, John Vaughn came in, and nailed a 22 yard field goal. The drive had consumed 6 minutes, 13 plays, and 85 yards, and Auburn had the lead, 3-0, with 9 minutes left in the first quarter!
Matt Clark boomed a touch back on the kickoff, and the Gators started from the 20. Deshaun Wynn took the handoff right up the gut, and picked up 7. The Gators gave it to Wynn again, but this time, Marquies Gunn slid over, and nailed Wynn for a loss of 1. Unfortunately, Auburn was flagged for having 12 men on the field, and that gave the Gators a first down at the 42. From there, Chris Leak tossed it out in the flat to tight end Tate Casey, good for 11 and another first down at the Auburn 47. Then it was back up the gut with Wynn. The Gators blew out a massive hole, and Aaron Savage had to hold on to save a touchdown. The play picked up 16, and the Gators were moving. Next was the option outside, and Percy Harvin took the pitch for 20 more yards, and it was first down at the Tiger 11. Kestahn Moore took the next give off the right side, and plowed down to the 3 yard line. The Gators went back to Wynn, but he was stood up by Josh Thompson at the 2. On third and one, freshman tackle Pat Simms perfectly anticipated the snap count, and was in the backfield at the same time Wynn was getting the handoff. The play resulted in a loss of 3, and Wynn was lucky to hold onto the ball! Chris Hetland nailed the 22 yard field goal, and the game was tied at 3-all, with 4:21 left in the first quarter.
Joey Ijjas booted the kickoff to the three, and Tristan Davis ran it back out to the 23. Cox fired on the out to Prechae Rodriguez, for one first down, out to the 36. But the Tiger drive derailed from there. Kenny Irons got 4, then the Gators turned up the heat. Cox was harassed into throwing the ball away early on 2nd down, then the middle collapsed and Cox was sacked by Marcus Thomas. Kody Bliss came in, and punted a 43-yard wobbler to Brandon James, who brought it back 8 yards, to the Florida 31.
Florida came at Auburn with the spread option again, and it was Andre Caldwell picking up 11 and an easy first down. Percy Harvin took the give, and was turned inside by Antonio Coleman, and held to a 3 yard gain. Chris Leak took the snap, and fired quickly over the middle, finding Caldwell for 16 more, and another first down at the Tiger 39. Tray Blackmon made his first Auburn appearance, erupting into the Gator backfield unblocked, but Leak calmly tossed a screen over his head, to Kestahn Moore, for 12. From the Auburn 27, Moore bulled up the middle for 7. The first quarter ended, with the score knotted at 3-3. The Gators were galloping downfield, though. Deshaun Wynn plowed up the middle for 5, and the Gators had another first down at the Tiger 15. Leak missed Andre Caldwell on the fade, but on second down, a strike to Dallas Baker on the left side was good for the score. Chris Hetland booted in the PAT, and with 14:17 left in the half, Florida had taken a 10-3 lead.
Auburn's Tristan Davis tried to even the score in one play. He took the kickoff, jumped through a tackle and set sail, weaving up through the middle behind phenomenal blocking. Had Davis not stumbled near midfield, he would have scored. From the Gator 38, Brandon Cox was again sacked, as Derrick Harvey turned the corner easily. Brad Lester got 7 yards back on a draw play, then on 3rd and 9, Cox found Lester over the middle right at the stake for a first down. The Gators came hard again on first down, forcing up a bad throw, but this time they were offside. The entire Auburn line collapsed on 1st and 5, and Cox went down in a heap for an 8 yard loss. Cox got the next pass out quickly, and Rod Smith darted between two defenders to take it 14 yards, to the Gator 17, for a first down! Another quick Cox toss, a dump over the middle, found tight end Tommy Trott. Trott headed for the end zone, but didn't secure the ball. The Gators' Derrick Harvey recovered the ball at the 2 yard line.
On the Gators' first play, again Pat Simms had the snap count down. Simms burst into the backfield right at Chris Leak, and was tackled from behind by lineman Jim Tartt. It was holding in the end zone, for the Gators, and an Auburn safety! With 10:14 left in the half, Auburn had cut the Gator lead to 10-5!
Joey Ijjas booted the ball to Tristan Davis on the free kick, and Davis wound it back out to the Auburn 36, only a 13 yard return. Auburn had seen early success running off the right side, and they went right back to it with Kenny Irons. Irons ripped off 15 yards, and Reggie Nelson saved a touchdown on the tackle. Irons got six more off the left side, then took a screen from Cox for 8 more and another first down. From the Gator 35, Brad Lester was in at tailback, and bolted right up the gut for 17 more! The wheel route to Carl Stewart was back, but this time the Gators were ready for it, and the ball sailed out of bounds. Lester hammered up the middle for 4. On 3rd and 6, Cox beat the blitz, and fired a quick hitch to Courtney Taylor, who held on at the 8 yard line, for the first and goal! Lester got two to the six, but then Cox was sacked again, back out at the 14. A 3rd and goal dump to Brad Lester was incomplete, and John Vaughn took the field. Vaughn hit the 31 yard FG attempt, and with 4:58 left in the half, the Gator lead was trimmed to 10-8.
After a Matt Clark touch back kickoff, the Gators roared 80 yards in just 3 plays. Percy Harvin got 14, with a personal foul by Auburn tacked on. Jonathan Wilhite was flagged for the hit out of bounds. Then it was Harvin again, to the short side, for 35 yards. Freshman QB Tim Tebow entered the game, and went untouched up the middle for the last 16 yards. Chris Hetland's PAT was good, and Florida led 17-8, with 4:10 left in the half.
Tristan Davis took the kickoff from the 3 to the 27, where Auburn started. Kenny Irons took the initial handoff up the gut for only a yard, and it looked for all the world that we were once again just going to try to run the clock out on the half. Cox was flushed out after a short drop, and fell forward for 3 yards. On 3rd and 6, Cox found Courtney Taylor, who spun out to the Auburn 47 and a first down. Cox missed Taylor on first down, but then a on a draw to Lester, the Tigers were running down hill. Lester smoked into Gator territory, hammering for 33 yards! As the clock was winding down towards one minute, Cox threw incomplete, then short to Prechae Rodriguez for 7. On third down, Cox was sacked again, ending the drive. On came John Vaughn again, and he nailed the 34 yard attempt. Auburn was trying to hang in there, trailing the Gators 17-11, with 30 seconds left in the half.
Matt Clark kicked off for another touch back, and thanks to some goofy clock-rule changes for 2006, Florida was able to let the clock run out without running a play. At the half, the Gators led 17-11.
While the score indicated that Auburn was still in the game, in reality, the Florida offense had dominated. Auburn had forced neither a turnover, nor a punt. The Gators had almost 200 rushing yards, and were averaging over ten yards per carry. Auburn ran a nickel defense for much of the first half, and were getting run over. The only saving grace for Auburn was a methodical offense that was chewing up clock, and first downs. At the half, Tommy Tuberville challenged the manhood of the defense. Not normally one for halftime histrionics, Tuberville evidently had some choice words, this time.
Auburn kicked off to the Gators, to start the second half. As usual, Matt Clark hit it for the touch back. Chris Leak threw incomplete on 1st down, and Deshaun Wynn carried off the left side for six. On 3rd and 4, Leak hit Dallas Baker for 7, in front of Patrick Lee. Wynn hammered for another 4 yards, then that Florida wide receiver option was back. This time, Percy Harvin was tripped up in the backfield for a big loss, by Patrick Lee! On 3rd and 12, Quentin Groves powered around a double-team block, and sacked Leak for a loss of six! The Tigers had forced the Gators to punt, for the first time. Auburn showed a big, overloaded rush, and punter Eric Wilbur bobbled the snap! Tristan Davis roared in, and swatted the belated punt down! Tre Smith scooped up the loose ball, and somersaulted into the end zone for the Auburn touchdown off the blocked punt! Somehow, Auburn escaped the sure personal foul flag for diving into the end zone, and John Vaughn came in for the PAT. It was good, and Auburn had taken the lead, 18-17, with 10:51 left in the third quarter!
After another Matt Clark touch back, his 5th of the game, it was more of the same for the Gators. Two Wynn runs netted 6, then it was Groves again on the sack, this time nailing Leak for a 9 yard loss! Eric Wilbur did get this punt off, and it rolled dead at the Auburn 40.
Cox fired on the sideline for 7, to Rod Smith. Irons got 2, to bring up 3rd and 1. The back side handoff to fullback Carl Stewart got 2 more, and the first down. Brad Lester carried twice, for a total of 5 yards. On 3rd and 5, Cox threw short to Taylor, who was dragged down a couple of yards short. From the Gator 41, on 4th and 2, Tuberville elected to punt. Kody Bliss' pooch attempt rolled into the end zone for a touch back.
Chris Leak opened with a throw in the flat to Andre Caldwell, that picked up 9. Wynn bulled for 3 and the first down. Wynn was stuffed on the next carry, for only a yard, by Chris Browder. In came Tim Tebow, and he took the shotgun snap right back up the middle. This time, he went nowhere, knocked back by Josh Thompson and Marquies Gunn! Tebow looked a little wobbly as he was helped off the field. On 3rd and long, Leak was again harassed by Groves, throwing a duck incomplete, in the general direction of Cornelius Ingram. Eric Wilbur was called on again, and this time he nailed a pretty good one, 49 yards and out of bounds at the Auburn 17.
Cox tossed a quick hitch to Prechae Rodriguez, who dropped it. Then, Kenny Irons started right, then cut back left, galloping for for 19, and a first down to get Auburn out of the hole. Marcus Thomas stuffed Irons for a yard loss, on the next play. Cox found Prechae Rodriquez for 6, which closed out the third quarter. Auburn was still leading, 18-17! On 3rd and 5, Auburn swept Lester to the left. Florida's Ryan Smith was there to take Lester down short, but Smith was called for the facemask, and it was a big one, which gave Auburn a first down at the Gator 41. From there, Cox couldn't connect with Taylor, and Lester was stuffed for no gain. A huge pass to Rod Smith was wiped out, when Gabe McKenzie was called for an illegal shift. On 3rd and 15, a screen to Tre Smith picked up 8. This time, there would be no help from the officials. Kody Bliss knuckled a short one down to the ten, fair caught by Reggie Nelson.
Backed up, the Gators kept it on the ground, with Chis Leak keeping for 4. Then, Leak lit the Tigers up with a 32-yard strike to Dallas Baker. The Gators were on the move, and trying to hit Baker again. This time, he was on David Iron's side of the field, and it was nothing doing. The spread option was then back, and Andre Caldwell gashed the Auburn D for 27 more yards off the pitch. Caldwell carried again for 9, and a 5-yard face mask gave the Gators a first down at the Auburn 13. Leak hit Tate Casey for six, and Will Herring dumped him before he could score. On second and goal at the 7, Tim Tebow was back in. Auburn's narrow one point lead was in serious jeopardy, but the Tigers stood their ground. Tebow took it off left guard, and was stuffed by SenDerrick Marks, for only a yard gain! On 3rd and 3, Chris Leak was back in, and he dropped to throw. Auburn sent the house. Tray Blackmon came free as Leak was loading up a pass. Leak's arm went forward, then stopped. As Blackmon bore down, the ball hit the turf, and bounced backwards. Auburn's Kevin Sears covered the loose ball way back out at the 38. Florida challenged the fumble call on the field, and the officials deliberated for quite a while. Internet pundits argued the call for weeks. In the end, it was ruled that Leak's arm had gone forward, but that he had tried to pull the ball back in, thus it was a fumble. It was awfully close, and to this day, I couldn't tell you for sure what the correct call should have been. That day, of course, I was in the stands, and we figured it was just another of the hundreds of TV timeouts...
Auburn had the ball at the 38, after staving off the Gator threat, in any event. 9:19 remained in the game, and Auburn needed to move the ball. Florida's offense had been rolling, before the fumble. On first down, Kenny Irons didn't get much. On second down, Cox tossed it short on the hitch to Taylor. That brought up a quick 3rd and 4. Facing a huge rush, and while getting clobbered, Cox delivered a dart to Robert Dunn, who cut it up for 14 yards and a crucial first down! From the Gator 42, four straight handoffs went to Brad Lester, who picked up 2, 6, 1, then 2, on 4th and one. Auburn had notched another first down, and were patiently winding the play clock down to nothing on each snap. Irons, then Carl Stewart, each rushed for a yard. That brought up 3rd and 8 at the Florida 28. An incompletion in the direction of Taylor stopped the clock with about 3:17 left. John Vaughn came in, but just missed the 45 yard attempt. Auburn's lead remained at 18-17, with 3:14 left in the game.
The Florida Gators needed to move the ball, and they needed to do it right away. Quentin Groves applied the pressure, and Chris Leak lobbed one up off his back foot, over the receiver, and right into the waiting arms of safety Eric Brock, who picked it off! Brock took it back to the Gator 28, then wisely went to the ground before contact, keeping possession for Auburn!
For the Tigers, 3 Brad Lester runs netted 6 yards. On 4th and 4 from the 24, John Vaughn was back in. This time, he was true, from 39 yards. Auburn led 21-17, and had milked the game clock down to 32 seconds!
For the sixth time on the day, Matt Clark kicked off, and he delivered a sixth touch back! Have we EVER had a better kickoff man? Now needing a touchdown to win, Chris Leak continued to feel the heat. Passes towards Caldwell, Baker and Baker, fell incomplete. On 4th and 10, on th last play of the game, Florida set up the hook 'n' ladder play. Leak dumped it short to Dallas Baker at the 28. Baker lateraled it back to Jarred Fayson, who looked for running room. Finding none, Fayson lateraled it back to Chris Leak, behind him! Leak could not corral the loose ball, and it was scooped up by Auburn's Patrick Lee, who raced into the end zone for a Tiger touchdown! Jordan Hare Stadium was absolute bedlam, as the crowd roared! Auburn had put away the Florida Gators, 27-17!
After the Gator loss, a week off to lick their wounds could not have come at at better time for Florida. Despite intense pressure from the Florida faithful, Urban Meyer and coordinator Dan Mullen stuck with their offensive scheme. Chris Leak was still their quarterback. With the vote of confidence, Leak led the Gators to a 21-14 victory over Georgia, which virtually wrapped up the Eastern Division. Florida struggled down the stretch against Vanderbilt, South Carolina, and Florida State, but won them all to finish 11-1. In the SEC Championship Game, Florida won a 38-28 shootout over the Arkansas Razorbacks. In a stunning reversal, AP voters vaulted the Gators over number two Michigan, and into the BCS title game! In Glendale Arizona, Florida DESTROYED the Ohio State Buckeyes, 41-14, to claim the consensus Mythical National Championship.
Auburn had turned their season around with the big win over the Gators, but the fact remained that the Tigers were pretty one-dimensional, with no real downfield passing game. Auburn struggled through wins against Tulane, Ole Miss, and Arkansas State, before another limping team came to Jordan Hare Stadium, the Georgia Bulldogs. Auburn turned it over repeatedly, and were blown out by the Dawgs, 37-15. The Tigers rebounded again, to win in Tuscaloosa, their 5th straight over archrival Alabama. The Tigers earned a trip to the Cotton Bowl, and won a defensive battle with the Nebraska Cornhuskers, 17-14. Auburn finished 11-2, and ninth in the nation.