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Florida Gators beat Auburn Tigers 24-13 to stay undefeated

We finally have an idea how good No. 10 UF is after toppling previously unbeaten Auburn, ranked seventh in the nation.
Auburn quarterback Bo Nix, left, is hit by Florida linebacker Jonathan Greenard (58) as he releases the ball during the first half of Saturday's game in Gainesville. [JOHN RAOUX  |  AP]
Auburn quarterback Bo Nix, left, is hit by Florida linebacker Jonathan Greenard (58) as he releases the ball during the first half of Saturday's game in Gainesville. [JOHN RAOUX | AP]
Published Oct. 5, 2019
Updated Oct. 6, 2019

GAINESVILLE — Florida coach Dan Mullen celebrated his 24-13 win over No. 7 Auburn on Saturday like a rock star.

He jumped around in a makeshift mosh pit. He waved his arms up and down to pump up the deafening Ben Hill Griffin Stadium crowd one final time. And as he left the field after the third win over a top-10 team in his 11/2 seasons at UF, he thrust his arms into the twilight sky in a triumphant victory V.

A minute later, the buzz at the stadium was wearing off as defensive coordinator Todd Grantham pumped his fist on his way to the locker room. But make no mistake, Grantham was the star of No. 10 Florida’s biggest win of the Mullen era.

“That’s the type of defense we expect to play around here,” Mullen said.

And if UF keeps playing that way, that defense will be good enough to lead the Gators (6-0, 3-0 SEC) to much bigger victories with much higher stakes than the Swamp’s first top-10 matchup of unbeatens since 2012.

The numbers are impressive enough on their own.

RELATED: Matt Baker’s takeaways from Florida vs. Auburn

Auburn quarterback Bo Nix had thrown 18 consecutive passes without an interception, dating to the Tigers’ season-opening win over Oregon. The Gators picked him off twice in a span of 13 throws.

UF held Auburn to 269 total yards. That’s the ninth fewest the Tigers have amassed since Gus Malzahn took over Auburn (5-1, 2-1) in 2013.

Only eight defenses have held Malzahn to fewer points than UF did Saturday; four of those teams made the College Football Playoff.

Midway through the season, the Gators at least belong in this season’s playoff conversation.

Auburn quarterback Bo Nix, left, fumbles the ball as he is hit by Florida linebacker James Houston IV (41) during the second half. [JOHN RAOUX | AP]

They also proved that the defense is good enough to bail out the Gators when the rest of the team sputters.

Saturday’s much-hyped matchup began bizarrely. UF lost three fumbles. The Tigers muffed a punt. The Gators botched a fake one, then watched starting quarterback Kyle Trask exit with a knee injury.

RELATED: Florida Gators quarterback Kyle Trask hurt, returns against Auburn

And that was just in the first 21 minutes.

Two of UF’s early fumbles — one on a Trask strip-sack and another on a Dameon Pierce rush — handed Auburn the ball in UF territory. Both turnovers led to field goals.

Then five minutes into the second quarter, UF called for Tommy Townsend to fake a punt. It didn’t work, and the Tigers scored on the next play when Nix, a true freshman, hit Seth Williams for a 33-yard touchdown.

“They gave up one score, and that was on me,” Mullen said. “If I don’t fake the punt, they probably don’t give up the touchdown.”

Aside from the short fields UF gifted Auburn, each of the Tigers’ other first 11 drives ended in either a turnover or a three-and-out. The Gators allowed only two first downs and 92 yards in the first half.

Even when Auburn started to crack UF’s defense, the Gators kept finding ways to respond.

“It was like a bend-but-don’t break mentality,” safety Donovan Stiner said.

UF caught a break when Stiner intercepted Nix in the end zone late in the third quarter to kill a drive that could have given Auburn the lead. The Gators caught other breaks, too.

Safety Shawn Davis snared a one-handed interception two plays after Trask — who had exited the game with a sprained left knee, missed two series in the second quarter and then returned to finish the game — lost one of his three fumbles. That interception not only killed an Auburn drive, it led to Trask’s touchdown pass to Josh Hammond.

When the Tigers drove inside the UF 40-yard line in the fourth quarter, Hillsborough High alumnus Zachary Carter was among the Gators who chased Nix into a 22-yard drive-killing sack.

And when Auburn tried to rally in the closing minutes, cornerback Marco Wilson came up with a diving interception to seal the statement win and silence any doubts about whether these Gators are for real.

“I think we proved,” Stiner said, “our record speaks for itself.”

Contact Matt Baker at Follow @MBakerTBTimes.


  1. Auburn center Austin Wiley guards Florida forward Omar Payne during the first half of their game on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, in Gainesville. Payne, a freshman out of Montverde Academy, finishes with a career-high 19 points and 11 rebounds for his first double double in college. [MATT STAMEY  |  AP]
    Freshman Omar Payne has a career-high 19 points and 11 rebounds as UF earns its most impressive victory of the season.
  2. Florida's Keyontae Johnson, shown here scoring against Arkansas in last season's SEC tournament, is averaging 13 points and 6.8 rebounds this season. [MARK HUMPHREY  |  AP]
    UF looks for an elite win Saturday at home, where it has won five in row, to help strengthen its NCAA Tournament resume.
  3. Florida guard Andrew Nembhard shoots over Mississippi guard Devontae Shuler during their game Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020, in Gainesville. [BRAD MCCLENNY  |  AP]
    Coach Mike White says his point guard missed practice Thursday and Friday. If he’s out, freshmen Tre Mann or Ques Glover likely will start Saturday.
  4. Todd Monken spent two seasons in Tampa Bay, the last as offensive coordinator, before being dismissed along with the rest of head coach Dirk Koetter's staff after the 2018 season.
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  5. Florida Gators wide receiver Antonio Callaway (81) runs the ball during the Outback Bowl in January at Raymond James Stadium. (Times file)
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  6. Florida receiver Josh Hammond (18) on the field during practice for the East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field on Monday. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Plus Plant High product Jake Fruhmorgen’s journey from Clemson to UF to Baylor to the East-West Shrine Game.
  7. From left, Florida's Andrew Nembhard, Kerry Blackshear and Noah Locke are key parts of a team that has had its ups and downs this season. Tuesday's rout of Mississippi gets the Gators back on track. [WILFREDO LEE  |  AP]
    UF rebounds from a bad loss in Missouri with a big home victory.
  8. Florida Gators quarterback Feleipe Franks (13) gets emotional after scoring a touchdown during the fourth quarter against Miami in the season opener. [ALLIE GOULDING  |  Times]
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  9. LSU quarterback Joe Burrow holds the trophy after their win against Clemson in a NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, in New Orleans. LSU won 42-25. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) [DAVID J. PHILLIP  |  AP]
    The Heisman Trophy winner becomes the first Division I-A quarterback to throw 60 touchdowns in a season.
  10. LSU tight end Thaddeus Moss celebrates after scoring during the first half of Monday night's national championship game against Clemson in New Orleans. [DAVID J. PHILLIP  |  AP]
    LSU, of course, finished No. 1. But where did Matt Baker put the Florida Gators and UCF Knights?