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Florida Is the SEC's Latest Victim

Auburn uses a strong second half to hand the No. 2 Gators a 27-17 defeat, which leaves the conference with no unbeaten teams.

October 15, 2006|From the Associated Press

AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn's defense was getting run over again, this time by No. 2 Florida and its two-headed quarterback attack.

Coach Tommy Tuberville had seen enough and challenged his defenders at halftime.

The Tigers responded, scoring on a blocked punt and a last-play fumble return and making a pivotal late interception to beat the Gators, 27-17, on Saturday night and leave the Southeastern Conference without an unbeaten team.

"We couldn't slow them down in the first half, and they couldn't move it in the second half," Tuberville said. "Offensively, we didn't score a touchdown. How do you do that and beat a team like that?"

In the end, that merciless SEC claimed another victim as Florida became the fourth team ranked No. 2 in the Associated Press top 25 to lose this season, joining Texas, Notre Dame and Auburn.

The 11th-ranked Tigers, who improved to 6-1 overall and 4-1 in the conference, turned the tables on Chris Leak, Tim Tebow and Co. in the second half, benefiting from Leak's fumble deep in Auburn territory that killed a chance for at least a go-ahead field goal.

Florida Coach Urban Meyer challenged the call, arguing that it was an incomplete pass, but replay officials let the play stand -- and it turned the game around. It also cost the Gators their final timeout, but Meyer didn't grouse about the call after the game. Neither did Leak, though he said he thought his arm was going forward.

"We will go back and watch it on TV, but obviously there wasn't enough evidence to overturn the call on the field," Meyer said. "We have to live with the call, and we have to get better."

Eric Brock's interception of Leak's pass set up the last of John Vaughn's four field goals, a 39-yarder with 31 seconds left after missing a 45-yard attempt on the previous possession.

"We needed a big play at that moment," Brock said. "We played lights-out the entire second half."

It was just another chapter in the topsy-turvy saga of SEC front-runners this season, with Auburn beating Louisiana State, Arkansas beating then-No. 2 Auburn last week and Florida (6-1, 4-1) toppling Tennessee and LSU. The internal battering has threatened to leave the league without a strong national championship contender.

Auburn hardly looked like the same team that was physically whipped in that 27-10 loss to Arkansas -- at least in the second half.

Tuberville's halftime scolding of the defense worked.

"He just said it looked like they were playing scared," said quarterback Brandon Cox, who passed for an efficient 182 yards. "He told us we had just as much talent on defense as they had on offense."

The Tigers have now won six consecutive home games against top-10 opponents and eight of nine overall. The Gators had won five in a row against ranked opponents.

Florida managed only 85 yards and five first downs after halftime. Leak completed only nine of 17 passes for 108 yards and a touchdown.

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