VETTEL: Gators Can't Survive Upset Saturday

Normally it's good news when your team is mentioned in the same sentence as Oklahoma, Texas, Clemson and West Virginia, but not on this Saturday night. The Florida Gators saw their 18-game home winning streak come to a close in a 20-17 loss to the Auburn Tigers. Florida became the seventh top-15 team to lose on the weekend, and it's a loss that will really sting.

The Gators lost to a team they were better than because Auburn had better execution, a better game plan, at least in the first half, and a better understanding of the rules. The Gators again hurt themselves with penalties, but not as much as they hurt themselves with a first half defense that let Auburn do exactly what it wanted to.

When you are facing a team in a season saving situation you want to discourage them right away. Florida did absolutely nothing in the first 30 minutes to discourage Auburn. In fact, everything the Gators did in the first half had to reinforce what Auburn coaches had told their team all week long. Auburn, which somehow lost to Mississippi State. and led New Mexico State by just one at the half, coasted to a stress-free 14-0 lead at intermission.

Second Half Encouraging

The one positive thing that comes out of this game is the Gators' performance after intermission. Florida outscored Auburn 17-6 in the second half and outplayed them throughout. You like to see a young team show that kind of fight and grit.

The offense stopped getting in its own way and dominated the Auburn defense. That is until their final possession. Florida had momentum, confidence and great field position at its own 42-yard line with the score tied. Tim Tebow hit Percy Harvin on a wide receiver screen, but Auburn defended it well and it was only going to pick up. But Harvin wanted more, and tried reversing field. A short gain became a six-yard loss and the Gators couldn't recover. Florida never had the ball again.

The Gator defense did a nice job in the second half after spending most of the first half as innocent bystanders. The Gators got much more aggressive and Auburn never reached the end zone. This team should win any game when they allow 20 points or less. One thing that concerns me is the ability of Auburn to hit the same short slant over and over and over again. They ran it against Florida's two deep coverage all night long and yet no Gator corner ever took away the inside and no linebacker ever jumped out to take away the throwing lane. That should change in time, the less time the better.

It wasn't a special night for the Gators at all. Florida missed a field goal, negated an excellent kickoff by being offsides, negated a successful fake punt by not being set, roughed a punter and shanked a terrible 26-yarder with the game on the line.

Tough Stretch Ahead

I felt all along that for the Gators to have a 10-2 or better season that Florida would need to sweep September. They did not do that, and now must win two of three away from home next month. LSU is obviously the best team on the schedule, but Kentucky and Georgia are certainly not gimmes. The Gators have much to do getting ready for that stretch and we'll examine the priority issues this week. It can still be a helluva year, but it's not going to be easy.

Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Larry Vettel


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