What did you expect? It's Auburn-Florida. It's college football


Published: Saturday, September 29, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, September 30, 2007 at 12:22 a.m.

Gone.

The home winning streak. The unbeaten record. The incredible run Florida had been on since last it lost to Auburn.

Gone, Gators.

On a weekend filled with upsets, next week changed drastically for Florida. Instead of the game at LSU being for supremacy, it's for survival as far as Florida is concerned.

For everyone who figured Saturday night would be a celebration of Wilber Marshall and a tuneup for LSU, it turned out to be a lesson that should have been ingrained in our brain cells by now.

It's college football, stupid.

It's not about the statistics and point spreads. It's about young men who have good days and bad days and the younger they are the more likely that one of those bad days is around the corner.

By the time the Gators took the field Saturday night, the college football world had been turned upside down. Seven unbeaten teams from BCS conferences had already lost in the previous 24 hours.

Make it eight.

Because it's college football. It's a sport of momentum and adrenaline and passion. And a lot of times, it's about a team hearing how bad it is and deciding to show how good it can be.

That was Auburn Saturday night.

Two weeks ago, quarterback Brandon Cox was benched because he was playing terribly. On Saturday night, he looked like a left-handed Dan Marino at times, especially in the first half.

Florida, on the other hand, looked disorganized on offense and porous on defense. To be honest, in the first half it looked like the game I thought we might see next week. Now, who knows what to expect?

Lessons were handed out in The Swamp and one of them is something the young players know now — The Swamp can't do it alone.

And you have to show up in the first half.

Give Florida credit for fighting back. That's where the Gator fans in full throat finally made an impact.

It just wasn't enough.

“I thought we were going to come back and win the game,” Urban Meyer said.

The flaws we have seen in this Florida team during the first four games were in full bloom in the first half against Auburn.

Penalties hurt. The secondary struggled. The offense relied too much on Tim Tebow runs that were going nowhere.

You knew the Gators couldn't play that poorly for an entire game. It was much better in the second half. Two freshmen made huge plays to give the Gators a spark — Major Wright forcing a fumble and Joe Haden jumping on it. Florida turned that play into a touchdown, then had a huge drive to tie the score.

Momentum was on Florida's side. But when the Gators got the ball back, the drive they needed went backwards. And Auburn, a team counted out two weeks ago, was able to make just enough plays to set up the game-winning field goal.

Because that's college football.

Every game is its own game.

It didn't matter that Auburn had lost at home to Mississippi State. The Tigers have been a better team on the road the last two years anyway.

It didn't matter that Florida dismantled Tennessee two weeks ago on this same field. Different day, different game.

The bottom line is that Florida scored only 17 points and you don't win many games scoring 17 points. Speed only helps when the other team doesn't have it. Auburn is fast. Auburn has sure tacklers. Auburn's defense came in to this game ranked third in the conference.

And, as I tried to tell everyone during the week, it was Auburn. Florida-Auburn delivered another game that made one side ecstatic and one side heartbroken. That's what it does.

A year ago, Florida used the Auburn loss to re-focus and come together as a team. It will be a tougher task this year with LSU on the horizon. But some day, somewhere, the lessons learned from this game will help.

“We'll find out,” Meyer said.

That's college football, a game played by young men who make mistakes. It's a game that offers hope when it seems the darkest. That's why thousands of Auburn fans poured into Ben Hill Griffin Stadium just 14 days removed from back-to-back home losses.

They know it's college football.

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