Gators Win 30-23 OT Thriller

Florida nips Auburn in an overtime thriller in the Swamp last night. Quarterback Rex Grossman had perhaps his finest game of the 2002 season.

Rex Grossman fired two touchdown passes, including a 25-yarder to Taylor Jacobs in overtime, as the 24th-ranked Florida football team won a 30-23 thriller over Auburn at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium Saturday night.

The win snapped a rare two-game losing streak for the Gators and moved them to 5-3 on the season and 3-2 in SEC play.

Auburn rallied from a 23-7 fourth quarter deficit with a pair of touchdowns coupled with a pair of two-point conversions to tie the game with just over five minutes remaining. With the Gators reeling, Auburn kicker Damon Duval lined up for a 23-yard field goal with :30 remaining in regulation, but Bobby McCray blocked Duval's bid to send the Gators to defeat for the second consecutive year and Florida responded.

The Tigers won the toss in overtime and opted to give the Gators the first crack on offense. On third-and-10 from the 25-yard line, Grossman hit Jacobs over the middle in the end zone for a 30-23 lead. The game was sealed when Auburn quarterback Jason Cambell fumbled on fourth down, well short of the first down marker, and Ian Scott fell on the ball to end the game.

The touchdown pass to Jacobs capped an incredibly efficient outing for Grossman, as the junior finished 27-of-35 passing for 242 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

For three quarters, the Gators were in complete control of the game, demonstrating balance between the run and pass and controlling the clock en route to building their 23-7 lead.

Aaron Walker was on the receiving end of a 13-yard touchdown pass from Grossman that capped off a 14-play, 80-yard drive on the opening possession of the game to give the Gators a 7-0 lead in a drive that took up nearly half of the first quarter.

Early in the second quarter Earnest Graham capped off an eight-play, 68 yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run to the Gators a 14-0 lead as they were seemingly in command of the game.

All week the Gator defense had been posed with the question of how to stop the SEC's leading rusher, Carnell "Cadillac" Williams. Disaster struck on the Tigers' third drive of the game, however, as Williams fractured his left fibula, suffering an injury that ended his 2002 season.

The Tigers quickly regrouped and turned to Ronnie Brown who ignited their offense and cut the Gator lead in half with a 26-yard touchdown on the same drive. Brown ended up rushing for 163 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the evening, while also catching a touchdown pass.

Matt Leach made a field goal with under a minute remaining in the first half and the Gators took a 17-7 lead into the locker room.

Leach added a pair of field goals in the third quarter to seemingly put the Gators in command heading into the final quarter.

As the game moved into the fourth quarter, Auburn switched from an ineffective Daniel Cobb, who had completed just 4-of-12 passes, replacing him with Jason Campbell, in a move that paid dividends with his ability to run and pass the ball. Brown got the Tigers back in the game early in the fourth quarter with a 1-yard plunge. Campbell scrambled for the two-point conversion, cutting the Gator lead to 23-15.

With just over five minutes remaining in regulation, Campbell hit Brown for a 54-yard touchdown strike to pull the Tigers within 23-21. Campbell once again scrambled for the two-point conversion to tie the game.

The Gators took the ensuing drive to their own 42-yard line. In a bold decision, Florida head coach Ron Zook opted to go for it on fourth and inches, but running back Ran Carthon was stopped short of the marker and Auburn had the ball in Gator territory with just over three minutes remaining.

After driving to the Gator 6-yard line, Duval lined up for the game-winning kick and McCray soared the air to get a hand on it, giving the Gators new life.

The Gators will have a open date next weekend, giving them two weeks to prepare for their annual showdown with Georgia in Jacksonville.

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