No you weren’t dreaming. Yes that really happened.
The No. 7 Florida Gators defeated the No. 12 Auburn Tigers (No. 10 and 7 respectively at game time) 24-13 in front of a packed, absolutely insane Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. It’s not going to get any easier for the Gators as they now head to Baton Rouge for a date with No. 5 LSU on Saturday night. But still, the Top 10 win against Auburn was special and deserves our attention for at least another day. So taking a note from Dan Mullen’s speech to the team shown in the HBO special, we’re going to let ourselves enjoy this win. As you head back to work on Monday, here’s everything you need to know for your watercooler topics from Florida-Auburn.
Go watch the HBO special
If you haven’t watched the HBO special on the Florida Gators yet, go, right now. Well finish this article first, but then go watch it because it’s so, so, so good. For someone who gets paid to write words, those aren’t eloquent enough to do justice for the documentary but I don’t want to try to match the hour long program. The Gators are the first of four teams that the specialty channel followed to document a week of preparation. It was an incredible inside look into a week of practice, how this staff runs the program and the easy going yet intense personality of this team. It’s worth signing up for the free 7-day trial just to see the documentary.
The Gator's defense Is legit
Credit where credit is due, that was a heck of a game plan by Todd Grantham. The defensive coordinator game in with the perfect call sheet to stifle Auburn’s offense and he never lost faith in its success. Granted, he never had a reason to lose faith as the defense was smothering all day. In all, Grantham’s crew held Auburn to 269 total yards. The Tigers had been averaging 454.4 per game. All game, the defensive line dominated Auburn’s offensive line and kept pressure on freshman quarterback Bo Nix.
There were three quarterback hurries and two sacks along with four takeaways. Grantham actually scaled back his aggressive pressure nature and asked his defense to play deeper, allowing them to stop the run more and take away passing options from the Tigers threatening receivers. It’s a sign of a good coach to come up with a successful game plan and stick with it; it’s a sign of a great coach to change his mindset and nature, knowing what’s needed in a particular game, while not loosing their personality.
So is Auburn's
Don’t let anyone tell you Auburn was overrated and their defense isn’t legit after this loss and giving up 398 offensive yards to the Gators. The Kevin Steele squad was scary and stayed tough up front all day. Where they were soft was the secondary and that’s what the Gators were able to take advantage of with slants—like the touchdown to Freddie Swain—or getting a runner to the outside and only having to deal with one deep safety—like the touchdown run by Lamical Perine.
But in the front seven, Auburn was stout and as advertised. They held the Gators to 132 yards rushing, with 88 of those coming on the aforementioned Perine play. Derrick Brown was an absolute freak off the line as well. He had a sack on Kyle Trask, leading to a fumble and it was all Brown. As he came off the right edge of the offensive line, Brown chopped down on Trask’s arm as he threw. It caused the fumble and Brown returned for 11 yards before tackled by Trask. Earlier in the day, a sack by K.J. Britt caused a fumble that Brown returned for 42 yards and would’ve been a score had the big man not run out of energy. The front seven as a whole forced two QB hurries and had seven tackles for loss (four sacks).
Both teams had very few miscues
It would be easy to look at this game and say both offenses floundered. That’d also be a little lazy. So much of the offenses miscues were forced by the elite defenses, of which we’ve already discussed. Each team had one really bad miscue.
For the Gators, it was a defensive breakdown when CJ Henderson and Donovan Stiner played two different coverages, a rare occurrence for the two cerebral players.
And for Auburn, Nix dancing his way backwards into a self inflicted 22-yard sack and out of field goal range was a freshman mistake. We could say that each offense had four turnovers, but it’s more like each defense had four takeaways.
Yes the Gators offensive line needs to continue to grow and doing so will eliminate some of that pressure that has led to fumbles. The Tigers have to work with their young passer on when to take sacks, when to throw it away, etc. Overall though, this was more of a defensive win than the offenses losing.
Emory Jones is going to be fine
There was a scary moment when Kyle Trask had to jog to the locker room with an unknown injury. For a team and fan base that’d already seen their starting quarterback—Feleipe Franks—knocked out for the season three weeks earlier, everyone collectively held their breath. Trask ended up returning to the game to ample cheers and was able to play again. Mullen described the injury as a mild MCL sprain and both he and Trask said the QB is fine to go moving forward. During his absence, redshirt freshman Emory Jones stepped in and did just fine.
Quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson told Gator Bait two weeks ago that he trust Jones to run the entire offensive playbook just as if Franks or Trask would. During his snaps against Auburn, Jones threw the ball seven times (completing five for 28 yards) and ran three times for 13 yards. Most of the throws were quick screens or slants. He did however hit Freddie Swain back-to-back with 14-yard and 20-yard completions. The variety of plays confirmed what Johnson was saying. That if Jones has to go back in—and when it’s his time to take over—nothing much will change offensive wise.
Let’s talk takeaways
The Gators lead the country in interceptions (15) and total takeaways (17). They had 26 all of last season. Seven different guys have nabbed an interception and three have forced fumbles. Three came down with interceptions on Saturday—Shawn Davis, Donovan Stiner and Marco Wilson. Stiner's explanation of the play echo's others who've explained this is not luck. It's preparation. "It was a zone coverage so I was just reading the quarterbacks eye’s," explained Stiner.
"He definitely didn’t see me...I think he was trying to throw it to the guy our corner was on, who was kinda behind me. I think he just missed me so he didn’t see me right there.”
It’s a ball hawk defense surpassing even that of 2015. Florida doesn’t have chains or medals or trash cans or backpacks. But they do have Shawn Davis, the safety tied for 4th in the country with three interceptions and who leads the country in interception returns with 11 yards.
Physicality wins out
In a game that featured two modern offensively minded coaches, this was an old school, physical, trenches, defensive game. Thanks to the rigid regiment Nick Savage requires of the Florida players, they were ready for such a game. Said Mullen, “I thought we did a really good job being physical at the line of scrimmage. I mean everyone coming in the game said Auburn’s going to dominate both lines of scrimmage and their great players made some dominating plays but it’s hard to look at the stat line and say that Auburn dominated the line of scrimmage tonight.: Home field advantage wins out
The home field advantage also won out
The Swamp packed in 90,584 screaming fans and it was beyond loud the entire 60 minutes. It forced the Tigers into three false start penalties and admittedly rattled Bo Nix who said, “It was really loud & we had trouble hearing the clap for the cadence. Sometimes we had slow communication. Stuff like that happens. Every team that walks into The Swamp has communication issues, but we just didn't do anything to make up for those.”
The Gators will now travel to Baton Rouge for another Top 10 matchup against No. 5 LSU. Florida opened as a 13 point underdog and the line was sitting at 14.5 at the time of publication, according to Circa Sports and Bet Online. The game will kickoff at 8pm ET on ESPN.