Saturday was no different. The Gators got off to a brilliant start, sustaining the first long, efficient scoring drive in weeks. Florida took up more than half of the first quarter on their opening drive by using good balance and short passes to move the chains. This was a great adjustment by the coaching staff to use a more conservative and patient attack as opposed to Grossman forcing the ball deep to covered receivers.
The defense once again looked solid in the first half and stuffed Cadillac Williams until he was forced from the game with an injury. The offensive coaching staff made another great move by inserting Ingle Martin into the game in the second quarter to give the defense a different look. Martin immediately gave the offense a spark with his athleticism and mobility and drove the Gators down for their second score of the game. His second possession in the second half wasn't as successful, but Zook would be wise to continue to use Martin in a limited role throughout the season. He brings too much to the table to just sit idling on the bench.
Yet, this wouldn't be a Gator game without a lapse in execution from some, if not all aspects of the game, and this one was no different. The offense's problems with costly penalties and mental errors that have plagued the team all year resurfaced in the second half, as two potential Ran Carthon touchdowns were called back due to holding penalties. Florida shot itself in the foot in the red zone time after time when it could have put the game out of reach.
Instead, it kept Auburn in the game. The defense looked as if it had gotten tired and by the fourth quarter, Ronnie Brown was running through gaping holes and breaking arm tackles when holes weren't there. It was beginning to look like déjà vu when Jason Campbell, in a role reversal from last year, replaced an ineffective Daniel Cobb to spark Auburn to a comeback.
After Carthon was stopped on a fourth and one in Florida territory, which by the way was the right call by Zook, except for not giving the ball to Graham instead, Auburn moved the ball down the field to set up Damon Duval's game-winning kick. Or so we thought. In a major reversal of fortune for this team, Bobby McCray blocked the kick and preserved the overtime. In overtime, Grossman made his best play of the year with his touchdown pass to Jacobs in the face of major pressure and Florida walked away with the win.
But was there really much reason to celebrate, barely hanging on at home to beat a thoroughly average Auburn team without its best player in Williams? This was a team that was coming off of being blown out at home by Arkansas. This was a team whose most impressive win to date was a 37-34 come from behind win over a 1-6 Syracuse team.
This was a team Florida should have and actually could have blown out. But it didn't. It makes one wonder if this team really has the confidence to believe it can win a game big. Do they feel that they're 30 points better than any team right now? In the past, Florida teams believed they were supposed to win big against conference foes. They had a swagger that this team is still trying to find. With Georgia now looming, you have to wonder if this team will go into that game expecting to win as they have in the past against Georgia. Or will that doubt creep in that has seemingly zapped this team's killer instinct of a year ago?
There were several positives to build on from the Auburn game. Grossman had his best game of the year, Graham and Carthon ran well in combining for 144 yards on 32 carries, Matt Leach kicked three field goals (three successful extra points would've satisfied me) and they finally toughed a game out when the chips were down. And hey, they finally won an overtime game for crying out loud. But this team has to decide which direction they're going in right now. The Georgia game is an opportunity to make a statement about the condition of the program. Another wash out against a top contender and this team's confidence and trust in the coaching staff could be permanently shattered.