"We just weren't awake yet up until the second half," says cornerback and starting nickelback Patrick Lee. "Then we were awake and ready. In the first half nobody was awake and we felt dead out there. Everybody felt dead so we had to step it up. They ran everything the same we had prepared for and we knew what we were coming into."
True freshman receiver Percy Harvin, who had battled an ankle sprain in previous weeks, had four carries for 72 yards in the first 30 minutes. In the second half he had just one rush for minus six yards. With a change of pace from bruiser DeShawn Wynn, Harvin and hit cat-like quickness and sprinter speed was a big part of the Gators' first half success.
"We knew they would do it, but we didn't have a whole lot of footage on him," linebacker Karibi Dede says of Harvin. "I don't think the guy stayed between the tackles one time. So he was bouncing on us, making big plays and typically downhill running. We just kept working and eventually stopped the plays they were running."
Against a talented Florida receiving corps, Lee played a great football game in holding Chris Leak to just 108 yards passing.
Auburn trailed 17-11 at the half but came out of the locker room with a different level of intensity and focus. The Tigers' defense went to more of the regular base 4-3 that they had run successfully in previous years.
"Coach Muschamp really got us ready," Dede notes. "He talked about eye control before the game and at halftime, and we talked about playing fast, downhill and physical. And coming up and making hits--hit, hit and keep on hitting. By the end the end of the game we had worn out their offensive line because they definitely weren't coming off as hard as they were in the first half. I think it made a big difference."
Shutting down the Gators in the second half as well as getting all 27 points from either the defense or special teams were the keys to the game. Getting Tray Blackmon on the field was also a big part in victory. Florida had a chance to take the lead in the fourth quarter in Auburn territory, but Blackmon stripped Chris Leak and returned the fumble 22 yards.
"Oh it's big," Dede says of Blackmon's return. "We had a game plan to have him as kind of roaming guy and that's what he did. He roamed the field, made plays and picked up a big-time fumble recovery that put us in position to put the offense back out there and change field position."
Blackmon also knocked Leak around a couple of times and forced him to make quick pitches on the option.
Down to the last play, Florida had a chance to win the football game but it would have taken a miraculous 80-yard score. Instead, Lee scored on another Florida football to seal the win.
"It feels real good," Lee says. "I was real excited when I did that. I didn't even know what to do. I was just running so fast and I couldn't stop. It felt good to seal it."