Marshall: History Favors The Gators

Columnist Phillip Marshall looks at Auburn's visits to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium under the last three head coaches.

Long before they called it the Swamp, Florida Field was a place where Auburn football dreams went to die.

Some of Pat Dye's worst days came there. Same for Terry Bowden and for Tommy Tuberville. Since Dye made his first trip to Gainesville as Auburn's head coach in 1982, the Tigers have won just twice – 16-0 in 1988 and a 36-33 stunner in 1994.

More often than not, the games haven't been close. And it seems when they have been close, they have been particularly gut-wrenching for the visitors from the north. Let's take a look:

1982: Florida 19, Auburn 17. Everyone who was there representing Auburn will believe forever they were robbed. Auburn led 17-13 late. Florida kicked a field goal to make it 17-16 with time running short. There was no option other than an onsides kick. Auburn's Lionel James came up holding the ball, but officials gave it to Florida. A last-second field goal gave the Gators the victory.

1984: Florida 24, Auburn 3. Auburn had won five straight games after losing its first two, but the Gators were much too strong. They broke open a close game in the second half.

1986: Florida 18, Auburn 17. It was one of the more devastating losses of Dye's career. Undefeated Auburn led 17-0 in the fourth quarter. Florida had turned to gimpy-legged quarterback Kerwin Bell after Rodney Brewer had been woeful in the first half. After a scoring a touchdown, Florida called on Robert McGinty to try a long field goal. Two years earlier, McGinty had been Auburn's kicker and had missed a field goal that would have beaten Alabama. McGinty made what would be his only field goal of the season. The Gators scored again and Bell limped into the end zone for the two-point conversion and an astonishing victory.

1988: Auburn 16, Florida 0. The Tigers had the nation's best defense. Star Florida running back Emmitt Smith was injured and unable to play. It was a methodical, one-sided Auburn victory that was never in doubt.

1990: Florida 48, Auburn 7. A tie with Tennessee was the only blemish on Auburn's record, but the Tigers had already had some close calls against lesser teams. Steve Spurrier's first Florida team broke away from a 7-7 tie to hand Dye the worst beating of his career. The Gators were going for more deep into the fourth quarter.

1992: Florida 24, Auburn 9. Auburn botched an early drive that went inside the Florida 5 and never seemed to recover. The Gators didn't put it away until late, but they dominated the game.

1994: Auburn 36, Florida 33. Though Auburn had won 17 straight games, No. 1 Florida was favored by more than two touchdowns. In a memorable shootout, Pat Nix hit Frank Sanders with the winning touchdown pass to deliver the victory. When it was over, second-year coach Terry Bowden told reporters he'd called his dad at halftime to see what he thought.

1996: Florida 51, Auburn 10. Florida was ranked No. 1 again and was on its way to a national championship. Scoring in the 50s was a weekly thing, regardless of the opponent. Auburn hung around through most of the first half, but the second half was a mismatch.

1998: Florida 24, Auburn 3. In what turned out to be Bowden's final game as Auburn's head coach, the Gators pulled away from the punchless Tigers early and spent the second half running the ball and running the clock. When it was over, Bowden thanked Spurrier for not running up the score and resigned six days later.

2000: Florida 38, Auburn 7. Tommy Tuberville's second Auburn team went 9-2 and advanced to the SEC Championship Game, but it was overwhelmed at the Swamp. The Gators scored on their first five possessions and never looked back.

2002: Florida 30, Auburn 23. It was one of the more disappointing days of Tommy Tuberville's tenure. After Carnell Williams was injured, Ronnie Brown had his coming-out party. Jason Campbell came off the bench and led a rally from a 23-7 fourth-quarter deficit to tie the game at 23. Damon Duval had a 23-yard field goal try to win it, but his kick was low and blocked. Rex Grossman's touchdown pass in overtime gave Florida the victory.

Actually, we could go back further than 1982. Auburn also lost in 1980, 1978, 1976 and 1974. That adds up to 17 losses in the last 19 trips to Gainesville.

On the other hand, if you're looking for signs of hope, the current breed of Tigers have won eight of their last nine against top 10 teams and 11 of their last 12 SEC road games. But none of those were in the Swamp.

Auburn goes back to Florida on Saturday as a three-touchdown underdog. The Tigers are in dire need of a significant victory after stunning losses to South Florida and Mississippi State.

History says it won't be easy to get it in the Swamp.


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