In a few words, Auburn lost its first game of the year today in Gainesville 24-13, but there’s much more than that to what actually happened this afternoon.
Florida struck on its second play from scrimmage, and the Auburn offense had its worst outing of the season as the Tigers blew chance after chance to score. Bo Nix threw three interceptions and went just 11-27 for 145 yards and a touchdown on the day. Playing from behind wasn’t ideal, but the defense gave Nix and the offense more than enough help by forcing four turnovers, which gave the offense three drives in Gator territory. On the other side, Kyle Trask was efficient and did enough to give the Gators a boost offensively.
What really hurt Auburn on defense were the big plays. The Gators opened the game with a 64-yard touchdown pass from Trask to Freddie Swain on their second play from scrimmage. That score was helped by a broken tackle, as was the capper, an 88-yard scoring run from LaMichael Perine in the fourth quarter. Of the three touchdown drives, they spanned a total of five plays. Auburn’s defense was boom or bust on this day, and the busts were way more costly than the booms were beneficial.
Auburn did settle down in the first quarter after the gut punch early. The Tigers forced fumbles on two straight Florida drives, but the offense sputtered. Still, they were close enough for Anders Carlson to kick a pair of field goals and pull Auburn within a 7-6 deficit. Early in the second quarter, Trask found Josh Hammond on a 13-yard touchdown that followed a muffed punt by Christian Tutt, and Florida led 14-6. However, Auburn struck right back with a 32-yard strike from Nix to Seth Williams, and the Tigers trailed by just a point until a field goal gave the Gators a 17-13 intermission lead.
The lone score in the second half came late on Perine’s burst down the sideline to clinch the game, but Auburn missed chances left and right. Right before Perine’s run, Auburn began a drive at its own 4-yard line, and moved all the way down into the red zone, helped by a huge catch from Seth Williams. Nix overthrew the pass a bit, but Williams sped forward to get it and stumbled in the open field. A couple plays later, Nix badly missed an open Williams on a slant for what would have been the go-ahead touchdown. Immediately after that, Nix threw his second interception of the day, ending the best drive of the afternoon.
On the drive immediately before Perine’s touchdown, Nix scrambled backward on a third down and was sacked in Auburn territory, taking the Tigers out of field goal range. One play after the punt, Florida clinched the game with the long run.
Auburn’s offense clearly wasn’t ready for a Florida team whose strategy kept the boundaries well-guarded, and the pressure on in the passing game. Across the line, the Tiger defense played one of its best games aside from the two long touchdowns. Derrick Brown had perhaps the finest day of his career, with 4 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, and a pair of fumble recoveries. Both of those recoveries set Auburn up in great field position, but the cohesion between what the defense offered and what the offense produced wasn’t there today.
Here are the final stats:
A few thoughts:
- 9 penalties for 70 yards, 2-14 on third down, and 4 turnovers. All are bad, and you can point to any one of those and say “without that one negative stat line, we might win this game.” The whole day was like that with things going wrong, but Auburn stayed in the ballgame.
- Maybe this was where having a true freshman quarterback loses you a game. Bo Nix would be the first to tell you that he had his worst game today. He missed some easy throws, and telegraphed passes that were intercepted. Auburn should have taken the lead on the drive that ended with a pick in the end zone, and the reason we didn’t score was because of inaccurate throws from Nix. It sucks, but maybe that’s his freshman moment.
- Auburn’s normally great adjustments weren’t there at all today. The offense didn’t seem to ever really grasp how to attack Florida’s defense, and the early headshot on the long touchdown was a dagger when the Tigers had to play from behind. Defensively, the guys were just gassed by the end. It’s tough to see the long touchdown happen in the fourth quarter, but when the offense goes three-and-out as much as they did, it may have been inevitable.
- We heard this week more talk about how Perine felt some contempt because Auburn didn’t recruit him based on his speed. It’s great that we gave a guy who wanted to run his mouth an opportunity to show us up.
- On the flipside, Anthony Schwartz faced the ire of Gator fans on social media this week because he didn’t choose Florida. For him to be a non-factor in this game was frustrating.
- We did see some semblance of offensive production late in the ballgame, when our plan to keep Boobee Whitlow fresh worked. He found some room and gashed the Gators late, but we just couldn’t capitalize on those drives.
- Give Derrick Brown every award there is. Now. He’s out of this world good. He would’ve had a touchdown today too if not for the turf monster coming to trip him up. He had green grass and a convoy, and was pulling away from the pursuit. That’s just another one of those weird things. Auburn failed to score on the next drive, and Brown tripping cost us a touchdown.
- Dan Mullen is about the worst person around. In his halftime interview he blatantly called Marlon Davidson dirty. For context, in case you somehow didn’t pay attention today, Davidson hit Kyle Trask low in the second quarter and it resulted in a “mildly sprained MCL”. The reason that he got hit low? The left tackle held Davidson all through the play, then pushed him into Trask, and Davidson fell on his left knee. Mullen took special time to call that out as dirty heading into the locker room. After the loss it sounds like a bitter take, but it needed to be addressed.
- Auburn now gets a week off before a much-needed game against Arkansas. Gus Malzahn has only lost once to the Hogs in his six previous seasons at Auburn, and that game was in four overtimes. None of the wins have been particularly close. The Tigers have won by 18, 24, 53, 32, and 31 points since 2013, and I don’t think this season will be any different. It’s a perfect game to get back into rhythm before Death Valley.
We’ll have more on this game tomorrow, but for now, enjoy the sweet release of dreamless sleep. War Eagle!