AUBURN, Ala. — For the third time in four years, the Florida Gators tormented Bo Jackson.
The No. 2-ranked Gators stretched the nation's longest unbeaten streak to 18 games with a 14-10 victory against No. 6 Auburn Saturday as Ray McDonald caught two touchdown passes from Kerwin Bell.
Florida (7-0-1) played inconsistently on offense but used a strong defensive effort--helped by an injury to Jackson--to drop Auburn to 6-2. Jackson, who came in leading the nation in rushing with an average of 200 yards per game, suffered a right thigh bruise midway through the second period and carried just once after halftime. He finished with 48 yards in 16 carries.
In 1982, Jackson was limited to 23 yards against Florida and last season, returning from a six-week layoff due to a separated shoulder, the No. 3 runner in Southeastern Conference history had 16 yards rushing. Jackson did burn the Gators, however, for 196 yards as a sophomore in 1983.
"It was very frustrating to lose this game," Jackson said. "I thought both teams played very well, and both teams have stingy defenses. I really wanted to get back out there and play the second half, but I started to have spasms. A helmet hit me in the thigh."
Florida, 4-0 in conference play, is ineligible to win the SEC title or appear in a bowl game because of NCAA violations. The loss dropped Auburn to 2-2 in the SEC.
It was a rare victory for the Gators at Auburn, where they had won only three times in 24 games.
"You saw two of the finest football teams in the nation today," said Galen Hall, whose coaching record at Florida is 15-0-1. "This is the biggest win we have had. It hurt Auburn when Jackson went out, but (Brent) Fullwood is a great back. I don't think Auburn's game plan changed that much when Jackson was out."
After being held to one first down in the third quarter, the Gators drove 61 yards for the winning touchdown with 7:18 remaining. Kerwin Bell hit Bret Wiechmann for 17 yards, and John L. Williams slashed for a 35-yard run off right tackle, giving Florida a first down at the six-yard line. After Neal Anderson lost two yards, Bell lofted a pass to McDonald in the left corner and the 5-11 senior made a fingertip grab for the go-ahead score.
McDonald also had a three-yard touchdown reception in the second period as the Gators took a 7-3 halftime lead after Auburn had taken a 3-0 lead on Chris Johnson's 46-yard field goal.
Auburn went ahead, 10-7, three plays into the final period when quarterback Pat Washington scored from two yards out.
"We knew Florida was a great team, and it was a close game, but we didn't do what we needed to do to win it," Auburn Coach Pat Dye said. "This game boiled down to the fact that Florida is a better football team. They are a first-class team."