Dooley: Many standouts help resilient Gators go to 6-0

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Florida quarterback Kyle Trask winces in pain as he is attended to by UF's medical team after going down with a left knee injury in the second quarter Saturday against Auburn at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

The game was over and the celebrating had started on the field and in the stands when the loudspeakers cranked up for an encore.

For the second time Saturday, with sweat dripping from every crevice, Gator fans belted out “I Won’t Back Down” as if they wanted to be heard in Waldo.

It was fitting. Because the song that has become a part of Gator tradition told the story of a defense that lived Tom Petty’s anthem to the fullest.

You can back them up to whatever gates you want. Fumble the ball all over the field. Knock out another quarterback (for awhile). Lose players to injury.

This defense isn’t going anywhere.

“People don’t want to respect us,” said safety Shawn Davis. “We’re going to make them respect us.”

The Gator defense certainly got Auburn’s attention Saturday. Whether it was holding the Tigers to two first downs (which seems almost unimaginable) in the first half or snagging three interceptions, Florida showed that other gear we were talking about last week.

It’s there. They shifted into fourth when they needed it.

“A lot of people doubted us and said we were overrated,” said safety Donovan Stiner. “I think we just proved that our record speaks for itself.”

Stiner and Davis were two of the heroes in a game full of them.

Stiner had a pick in the end zone, and end zone interceptions are always weighted. Davis made an incredible, a one-handed pick and then returned it like he was Lito Sheppard reincarnated to set up Florida’s second touchdown. 

Oh, there were so many heroes. 

Lamical Perine with the 88-yard dagger. Kyle Trask shaking off what looked like a serious knee injury and not only returning to the game but catching a huge third-down pass from Lucas Krull that iced the game.

Anyone — ANYONE — who played.

Anyone who cheered.

“It was really loud,” said Auburn quarterback Bo Nix. “We had trouble hearing the clap for the cadence.”

You remember those days of The Swamp when teams left with an “L” and a headache. 

The fans supplied the fuel. And the team kept filling its tanks.

“Nothing was given to us,” said Trask, still limping after the game. “This is the most resilient team I’ve been around.”

It had to be. Because Trask still showed signs of being a third-time starter with his pocket awareness that led to three fumbles, one that might have been a touchdown if Auburn’s NFL-ready Derrick Brown hadn’t been tripped up by the 35-yard line.

No biggie, said the defense.

“The one touchdown was on me. My fault,” said Florida coach Dan Mullen, the architect of an amazing 10-game winning streak and a 6-0 start to this season.

He was referring to a fake punt that blew up in Florida’s face and led to Auburn’s only touchdown. Accent on the “only.”

Because no matter what the defense faced, it responded. It responded with Stiner’s interception in the same end zone where Nix’s father Patrick threw the game-winner 25 years ago.

Not this time.

Not this team.

No soup for you, Auburn.

It responded with a 22-yard sack of Nix when the Tigers were threatening to take the lead. It responded with the closing interception by Marco Wilson and 12 stops on 14 Auburn third-down attempts.

Think about this — at the half were you thinking, “I bet Auburn doesn’t score in the second half?”

Be honest.

“Coach always said, we have to put the fire out,” said cornerback CJ Henderson.

They carried extra extinguishers into this game. 

“The outsiders can say what they want,” Trask said. “I think this shows a lot of people that this is a real football team.”

It’s a team that now heads on the road for an even bigger game and Mullen acknowledged that, even putting a bit of a governor on the win because he knows what is up next.

But for a night for the players and a week for the sore-throated fans, this was a night to be celebrated with great gusto.

 It doesn’t matter whether or not Florida is back.

All that matters is that Florida was back on Saturday.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

10 COMMENTS

    • In a word, yes. One national sports source today made it sound like the Gators had nothing to do with Auburn’s “disappointing performance”, more or less that they just had a bad practice and we might not have even been there. “Don’t count Auburn out just yet”, they warned readers. Florida was, however, mentioned in the score, so it wasn’t quite as bad as “Other 24 – Auburn 13”.

  1. Certainly there were many standouts. The defense erasing the many offensive miscues. The crowd was loud doing their part. Trask proved tougher than many gave him credit for. L. Perine was my favorite breaking 2 tackles enroute to 88 yards and the game sealing touchdown.

  2. The 12th man really showed up and played their part in this game. I think thats one of the most exciting things in life, is to be in the swamp when it gets loud; its an experience that has to be experienced to understand. Your being literally vibrates! You get a rush of adrenaline as the crescendo occurs, as the opposing QB approaches his o-line and you literally cannot hear your own voice. It is DEAFENING!
    Stewart’s interception should be on an all time highlight reel. Ive seen alot of plays but I dont EVER remember a stretched out, one handed, in the air Int. like that, which was then carried far down the field. It was the type of play that is needed to be watched in slow-mo. What a thing of beauty, what a tremendous snag!
    Great write up Pat!

  3. Gators looked strong on defense yesterday. Lights out. Really Auburn only score on the short fields from turnovers that led to field goals (or failed fake punt that led to AU’s only TD). AU never drove the ball the distance of the field for a score. Auburn couldn’t cover Swain or Pitts. They did a good job on Jefferson and Grimes but we’ve got too many weapons. Happy for Perine; revenge is sweetest served cold and Perine got his in his senior year. With CJ back and the D line depth starting to develop, I like where this team is heading. Undefeated at the halfway point; I’ll take it. On to Baton Rouge.

    • Auburn feasted on an MSU team that repeatedly game them short fields in the first half of that game. I didn’t think the Gators could afford to do that, but I didn’t know the Gator D would show up and show out and prove themselves to be elite, either. That bodes well for the Gators. Now, if Trask can eliminate the sack/fumbles, this team will be extremely difficult to beat.

  4. As for Emitt Smith – any Gator Sun writer that thinks he does not deserve to be seriously recognized by UF is a dumbass. We want Emmitt’s son to play for the Gators – think about this long and hard – Emmitt has taught his son EVERTHING that Emmitt knows – the best running back in NFL history. Do you get it now????