AUBURN, Ala. — In the past two weeks, Florida suffered double-digit losses to Alabama and LSU in games where the Gators were essentially out of it by halftime.
So when the first half of Saturday night's game against No. 24 Auburn ended and the Gators were trailing 7-6, things seemed to be looking up.
But as Florida coach Will Muschamp said leading into the game, if you keep playing the same way and making the same mistakes, you're going to have the same outcome.
For a team that has been hampered by penalties and turnovers, there was more of the same.
Florida had three turnovers that led to Auburn scores, giving the Tigers (5-2, 3-1 SEC) a 17-6 victory in front of 87,451 at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
"The turnovers killed us," Muschamp said. "Three turnovers led to 10 points, and it cost us the football game."
It was the Gators' third consecutive loss — all to ranked teams from the SEC West — and sends Florida (4-3, 2-3) into the bye week searching for solutions to myriad problems. This is the second consecutive season Florida has had three straight losses, and it no longer controls its destiny in the SEC East.
Playing with two freshmen at quarterback — Jacoby Brissett in the first half and Jeff Driskel in the second — the Gators could not put together any kind of sustained offensive effort.
Florida's final three offensive possessions ended with an errant throw on fourth down in Auburn territory, a stalled drive at midfield because of a false start and a muffed punt by receiver Robert Clark that led to a 42-yard field goal by Cody Parkey with 35 seconds remaining.
Muschamp said the Gators decided to go for the fourth-down play because kicker Caleb Sturgis injured his leg on a previous play.
Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis said last week that the offense had to start scoring more to give Florida any chance of winning after the team was outscored 79-21 in the previous two games.
But Florida managed just two field goals — 47 and 25 yards by Sturgis in the first half — against an Auburn team that entered last in the SEC in total defense. Senior running back Chris Rainey's fumbled punt also led to an Auburn score.
The Gators generated 104 yards of first-half offense then gained just 90 more in the second half.
Driskel was put into the game because Muschamp said he didn't feel the Gators were moving the ball effectively enough.
"We've got to create some positive momentum for our offense," Muschamp said. "You can't score six points in this league and win football games."
Brissett got his second start of the season, and after going 1-of-5 for 14 yards in the first quarter, he went 4-of-5 for 31 yards in the second quarter.
Florida was without starting running back Jeff Demps because of an injury, which left Rainey to carry much of the rushing load. Florida had 66 total rushing yards.
But Auburn had its struggles. The Tigers missed two field goals, and quarterback Barrett Trotter went 2-of-8 for 33 yards with a touchdown and backup Clint Moseley was 4-of-7 for 90 yards.
The Florida defense, which had been much maligned in previous weeks, held Auburn to 1-of-13 on third down and had eight tackles for loss and one sack. But as the Gators offense sputtered, the defense wore down. Auburn eventually gained 155 rushing yards and 123 passing. The Gators held Michael Dyer, the SEC's third-leading rusher, to 73 yards on 23 carries.
"It was better, but it wasn't good enough," defensive tackle Jaye Howard said.
Antonya English can be reached at [email protected]