GAME DAY, Auburn at Florida
We landed a posh hotel room at the Spring Hill Suites, which appears to be brand new. I made these reservations in DECEMBER to avoid spending two nights at the Motel 6 or lying beside Lake Alice. That can be a dangerous proposition with gators lying around and all.
I'm planning to hit Florida Field around 5-ish, though traffic may change those plans. Check back this afternoon for updates. Since this is a deadline game, I won't be able to blog as often as I'd like tonight. Still, you can count on my usual genre of brilliant and elegantly described insights as the game progresses.
We can only hope you're here because this is the HOTTEST Auburn blog on the 'net and you crave this kind of heat.
AUB -- 20
FLA -- 17
Recap: Wow. Never saw this coming. Wes Byrum hits two game-winning field goals. What a bizarre ending. It could be bittersweet in a way because DE Quentin Groves, preliminary tests show, could be out a while. He apparently suffered two dislocated toes, which apparently will keep him out of action for a while. I can't get any reliable information on Tristan Davis' injury.
The offense was outstanding overall. The line provided a lot of push. Brandon Cox was his old self, hitting 17 of 26 passes for 227 yards. No picks. He made a lot of good decisions tonight. The wideouts were open, which was a coaching thing. The wideouts caught the ball, which was a wideout thing. Ben Tate ran harder than I've ever seen from him. Mario Fannin didn't lose a fumble.
The defense was even better. Lots of twists and stunts and slants up front. Auburn was "guessing" correctly for most of the night. I think DC Will Muschamp discovered some tendencies while researching the Gators. Auburn seemed to fit UF's fronts all night. I thought Jerraud Powers and Aairon Savage had outstanding games. I also liked the stuff Antoine Carter did during his limited time on the field. He'll be playing a lot more in Groves' absence.
Tuberville said afterward that Auburn is "back in the race." I can't disagree. Let's see if this is the real Auburn ... or if the real Auburn is what we saw before.
Middle third quarter: Auburn scored a field goal mid-way through the third quarter. This drive was just as impressive as that first one. The surge along the offensive front is outstanding. Mario Fannin was working efficiently behind that line. I'm tellin' ya -- Florida's offense is going to start feeling the need to press.
Middle second quarter: It's difficult to believe this is the same team I watched earlier this month. This team is ready to ball. I had a feeling Auburn was going to be pretty good today. I had no idea it would be like this. Brandon Cox looks better than I've ever seen. No turnovers. Everything is working in concert. I cannot overstate what effect Ryan Pugh and Chaz Ramsey have on this team. It sent a clear message from the coaches to players that experience takes a back seat to enthusiasm.
First quarter ends: Really nice effort by Auburn all around. The offense is doing what I expected -- working to control the ball with running and short passes. That scoring drive lasted 7:32. Pretty incredible. Auburn's defense is playing well and remains quite rested. Tackling is going to be the Tigers' key going forward. They've been outstanding in that way so far. Keeping Florida's offense off the field is critical. Those players are not used to watching the game so much.
Auburn's first possession: How about that? What a nutty drive. That's the best I've seen Auburn's offense look in a long time. All made possible by a "running into the kicker" penalty early in the drive, which punter Ryan Shoemaker really sold.
Tristan Davis update: Tristan is out there returning the opening kickoff. I'm impressed. Talk about a quick improvement.
Radio frequency: If you're in the stadium and reading this for some weird reason, the AU Network broadcast is at 96.3 FM. Great atmosphere here, as expected. Lots of fans. Lots of energy. The press box shakes when these fans clap loudly. Scary in a way.