The result was a heart-pounding 27-17 Auburn victory over previously unbeaten Florida that wasn't decided until the final play of the game.
Florida native Pat Lee, starting as a nickel back, recovered a fumble on Chris Leak's final desperation pass on fourth down with Auburn leading by four points. He raced into the end zone to put the finishing touch on the Gators and improve Auburn to 6-1 overall and 4-1 in the SEC.
"I have been here for five years and I have never seen Coach Tubs so mad," said senior offensive guard Tim Duckworth. "I know it made me want to go back out there and win that game. Some of the players were joking after the game maybe he ought to do it every week."
An Auburn defense that gave up 17 first half points and 194 first half yards held the No. 2 ranked Gators to no points and 70 total yards in the second half.
On a night in which the offense had to settle for four John Vaughn field goals in five tries, the defense scored a touchdown and a safety and came up with a big play when the Gators threatened to retake the lead in the third quarter.
The other touchdown came in the kicking game, one of the few areas that Auburn looked to be superior to the Gators prior to the game.
Jerraud Powers blocks a Gator punt.
At halftime the Tigers had outgained Florida 221-194, but trailed 17-11 because the Tigers were unable to cash in four red zone opportunities for TDs and had to settle for three field goals and a lost fumble that led to a defensive score on the next play.
"You talk about Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde," Tuberville said. "Defense in the first half, 18 plays and we hadn't slowed them down yet--a 10-yard average. The second half that was the first time one of my halftime talks ever worked.
"I am proud of our guys," the coach added. "Offense, I am really proud of them the whole game. We didn't score an offensive touchdown, but we moved the ball between 20s. We controlled the ball. They are very talented on offense and you just have to keep them off the field and our offense did that most of the game."
Auburn enjoyed a huge 36:43 to 23:17 edge in time of possession, a statistic that caught the eye of offensive coordinator Al Borages.
"I have heard people say that time of possession is an overrated stat, but that wasn't the case in this game," Borges said. "It was a big factor in us winning the game."
Florida head coach Urban Meyer said his team will recover. "This team will bounce back. We are still a good team and you can't try to blame anybody for the loss. We faced a tough team and a tough crowd tonight and we have to move on."
The Gators fell to 6-1 overall and 4-1 in the SEC. It is possible the two teams could meet again in the SEC Championship Game.
Auburn held Gator QB Chris Leak to 108 yards passing on 9-17 passes. Tim Tebow did not pass, but rushed for18 yards on three carries.
Quentin Groves sacks Leak, something he did three times. Auburn managed to win despite giving up five sacks.
"It was a big win for us after last week," said Tuberville. "Our team chaplain said yesterday that we broke the jar and there are a million pieces everywhere. The challenge of this game was to pick them back up and put them together. I am so proud of them. I am proud of the fans. That was a team victory from beginning to end."
Auburn took the opening kickoff and moved 85 yards on 13 plays before settling for a 22-yard Vaughn field goal with 9:00 to play in the first quarter.
The Tigers moved the ball downfield using the running of Kenny Irons and Brad Lester and the passing of Brandon Cox, who completed four of six passes on the drive.
Florida responded immediately, driving 75 yards on seven running plays and one completion to tie the game with 4:21 left in the opening quarter on a 22-yard field goal by Chris Hetland. A third and one stop of DeShawn Wynn for a three-yard loss by Pat Sims forced the field goal.
Auburn's second possession ended with a Kody Bliss punt with the Tigers giving the ball to the Gators at their own 39. The UF offense continued to work like a well-oiled machine taking just eight plays and 3:12 to take the lead. Leak threw a perfect pass to Dallas Baker, whose juggling catch beat coverage by Jonathan Wilhite and Aairon Savage.
Auburn responded with a 58-yard kickoff return by Tristan Davis putting the Tigers in great field position at the gator 38. "Man, I should have cut outside and scored on that play," Davis lamented after the game.
On first and 10 at the 17, Cox hit tight end Tommy Trott over the middle for a big gainer, but he lost the ball on a big hit by safety Tony Joiner and defensive end Derrick Harvey recovered at the three-yard line.
On the next play, with Leak trying to pass from his end zone, Quentin Groves was held in the end zone by offensive lineman Jim Tartt while Leak was passing. The penalty resulted in a safety cutting the Gator lead to 10-5.
Auburn took the free kick and moved 50 yards on 11 plays before stalling on fourth and goal at the 14 after Cox was sacked for an eight-yard loss on second down. Vaughn's 31-yard field goal cut the Florida lead to 10-8 with 4:58 left in the half.
However, the Gators quickly stretched the lead to 17-8 on just three plays. A 14-yard run by Percy Harvin with a 15-yard personal foul on Wilhite was followed by a 35-yard run by Harvin. He started right, cut back across the field and raced down the left sideline to the Tiger 16.
On the next play, backup QB Tim Tebow lined up in the shotgun. He faked a run left, then ran at right tackle and had no trouble scoring. The PAT kick gave the Gators a 17-8 lead with 4:10 left in the half.
Once again, Auburn moved the ball well, racing into Gator territory. The big play was a 33-yard run by Brad Lester to the Florida 20. However, another sack, this one on third and three from the 13, forced the Tigers to settle for a 34-yard Vaughn field goal which was good, narrowing the halftime margin to 17-11.
The second half started in spectacular fashion for the Tigers as AU forced the first punt of the night from Florida's Eric Wilbur. He mishandled a low snap. Trying to get his punt off, Wilbur was hit by Davis and he never had a chance to get the punt off. It was blocked by Jerraud Powers and Tre Smith picked up the ball and ran it into the end zone. That put the Tigers up 18-17 with the Vaughn PAT kick.
Chris Fowler, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit are shown on the set of ESPN's Gameday Show outside of Plainsman Park on Saturday.
In the second half most of the big plays for the Tigers were on defense. Playing in his first game, linebacker Tray Blackmon forced on a fumble on third and three from the Auburn six. Officials ruled the ball slipped out of the QB's hands as Blackmon blitzed Leak. He picked up the fumble and returned it 22 yards.
Auburn took over at its own 38 with 9:19 to play badly needing another score. AU moved 34 yards on 11 plays and 6:21, but came away empty when Vaughn's 45-yard field goal try was side.
Florida, with no timeouts out and the stadium thunderingly loud, threw a pass to safety Eric Brock, who returned it 26 yards to the Florida 28 with 2:58 left. This time AU would cash it in with a 39-yard Vaughn field goal.
The Gators got the ball back at their 20 with just 31 seconds left. Three incomplete passes followed by a completion and a fumble ended the game as Auburn defensive back Pat Lee scooped and scored as time ran out.
Auburn fans turned out early to be on ESPN's Gameday show on Saturday.
A key statistic was holding the Gators to 1-7 on third downs while AU converted 6-16. Defensive coordinator Will Muschamp noted that the Tigers were able to force more third and long situations than a week ago vs. Arkansas and that had a lot to do with the Tigers' defensive success.
Auburn returns to action next Saturday with a 1:30 p.m. Homecoming game vs. Tulane.