Defense Falls Short

After having the secondary exposed for most of the first half, the Gators couldn't come up with the big play during the final minutes against Auburn. Last year, the defense was able to prevent South Carolina from winning a game on the final possession, but this year was different.

Tiger quarterback Brandon Cox was able to carve up the Gators in the first two quarters, completing 10-of-12 passes for 152 yards. The Tigers used inside slants to take advantage of the Gators' deep zone, moving the chains down the field to build a 14-0 halftime lead.

"They didn't really confuse us, but it seemed like they knew what the coverage was," freshman cornerback Joe Haden said. "They knew what we had to cover and what we didn't have to cover. They were doing a good job of hitting their spots, especially in the first half."

"We just didn't come out and play Gator football," senior safety Tony Joiner said. "On defense, we were giving up too much in the first half, and on offense we weren't really doing much."

The Gators didn't make a ton of adjustments at halftime. They knew they just had to anticipate the passing lanes better, and maybe more importantly, adjust their intensity level.

"The only adjustments we made were to come out and play with more enthusiasm," Joiner said. "We were playing dead and playing dead is not going to work because we are a young defense."

"At halftime, the locker room was hyped," Haden said. "We knew what we had to do. It wasn't down. Everyone just wanted to get back out there and do better in the second half."

Cox completed just 7-of-14 passes for only 75 yards in the second half.

"We came out in the second half and started adjusting to what they were doing," Haden said. "We picked it up a lot."

But with the score tied at 17, Auburn had one final chance to upset the Gators, and that's exactly what they did. The Tigers put together a game-ending 10-play drive that covered 35 yards and ended with a Wes Byrum 43-yard field goal with no time remaining.

"We were trying to strip the ball and do everything possible to cause a fumble and fall on it and go into overtime," Haden said. "They were holding onto the ball with two hands and made sure they had ball security."

"It was extremely frustrating especially when we knew time was against us," Joiner said. "The clock was against us, and we needed a big play and just didn't get one."

The Gator defense managed to shut down Auburn for most of the second half. And with the talent Florida has on offense, they knew if they could just put the game into their hands, they would have a chance.

"We were so confident," Joiner said. "We know what our offense can do. We were so confident in them, so all we wanted to do was get the ball back to them and give them the opportunity to make plays."

But the offense that had scored touchdowns on both of its earlier fourth quarter possessions, couldn't get the job done with less than five minutes to play.

"It was very frustrating," sophomore quarterback Tim Tebow said. "It's tough. You want to do anything you can to help, but it's out of your hands. I was doing a lot of praying, but that's about it."

All the Gator defense can do now is to build on the momentum it was able to achieve through most of the second half.

"You look at last year and you try to learn from it," Joiner said. "We can learn from this loss and this season isn't over yet. We still have a chance at the SEC Championship."

Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Chris Chmielenski


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