Miscues doom Florida in second half against AuburnOct 15, 2006 - 3:06 AM AUBURN, Alabama (Ticker) -- Auburn made life miserable for Chris Leak and Florida after the break.
The 11th-ranked Tigers forced two late turnovers by Leak en route to a 27-17 Southeastern Conference triumph over the second-ranked Gators, who had been the only unbeaten team remaining in the rugged league.
Auburn (6-1, 4-1 SEC West) had lost eight of the previous nine encounters with Florida, but the teams had not met since 2002, when the Gators posted a 30-23 home triumph in overtime. However in 2001, Damon Duval's 44-yard field goal with 10 seconds left lifted Auburn to a 23-20 victory over No. 1 Florida here.
"What a difference a half will make for a defense," Tigers coach Tommy Tuberville said. "We couldn't slow them down in the first half, and they couldn't move it in the second half. I am so proud of our defense for growing up and start making plays."
The Tigers - who were coming off a 27-10 home loss to Arkansas - trailed in this one, 17-11, before Jerraud Powers blocked a punt and Tre Smith ran it back nine yards for a score with 10:51 to play in the third quarter.
The score remained unchanged when, with 9:29 to go in the contest, Leak was sacked deep in Auburn territory by Quentin Groves, who knocked the ball free as the quarterback was getting rid of it, and Tray Blackmon recovered.
"It felt good to do that," said Blackmon, a redshirt freshman who had been suspended for the first six games of the season for an alcohol-related arrest. "I knew we needed someone to step up and make a big play in that situation. We had our back against the wall. I was just happy that it was me."
The Gators challenged the call, feeling Leak had gotten a pass off, but the ruling was upheld.
"We challenged it because we thought it was an incomplete pass," Gators coach Urban Meyer said. "We will go back and watch it on TV but obviously there wasn't enough evidence to overturn the call on the field. We have to live with the call and we have to get better."
"I felt like my arm was coming forward, but that's how those calls go sometimes," Leak said. "The main thing is that we didn't take advantage of the opportunities that we had. You have to give Auburn credit, they played a great game."
Auburn's John Vaughn narrowly missed a 45-yard field goal with 3:16 to play, but Eric Brock intercepted Leak on the next play, setting up Vaughn's 39-yard kick with 31 seconds left that made it 21-17.
"John was huge tonight," Tigers quarterback Brandon Cox said. "That last kick was major redemption for him. He came off the field and told me to get the ball back down there and he would make up for it. That is exactly what he did."
"I have to make that," Vaughn said. "I told Brandon to get me back down there so I could have another chance. It was a good snap and a good hold. It just drifted on me a little bit."
The Gators (6-1, 4-1 East) fumbled a hook-and-ladder play with no time left, and defensive back Patrick Lee picked up the loose ball and ran 20 yards for the final margin.
"It's hard to play in this sport unless you get turnovers," Tuberville said. "We are not a great offensive team. Everything comes hard for us. If we have to drive the length of the field, it is just almost impossible. We challenged our defense to get some turnovers and help our guys out."
Leak completed just 9-of-17 passes for 108 yards, a touchdown and the interception. He was sacked three times.
Cox went 18-of-27 for 182 yards and was sacked on five occasions.
Florida had taken a 10-3 lead on a 15-yard pass from Leak to Dallas Baker 53 seconds into the second quarter.
Auburn was credited with a safety four minutes later when left guard Jim Tartt was called for a holding penalty in the end zone. The Tigers pulled within 10-8 on a 31-yard field goal by Vaughn with 4:58 to go in the half.
Freshman phenom Tim Tebow gave Florida a 17-8 cushion with a 16-yard TD run before Vaughn reduced the deficit to six points with a 34-yard field goal with 30 seconds left before the break.
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