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Aw, burned again

Wes Byrum's kick gives the Tigers another win over the Gators.

By ANTONYA ENGLISH, Times Staff Writer
Published September 30, 2007


GAINESVILLE - There will not be a showdown between Top 5 teams this week when Florida travels No. 2 LSU.

Auburn and a kid who grew up in Florida made sure of that Saturday.

The Tigers added their name to the list of teams pulling upsets on a day full of them.

After blowing a 14-point second-half lead, Auburn engineered a 10-play, 35-yard drive that ended with Fort Lauderdale native Wes Byrum's 43-yard field goal for a 20-17 victory over No. 4 Florida in front of 90,685 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

The loss marked:

- The second straight to the Tigers, including 27-17 last season.

- Only the seventh in the past 118 games against unranked teams.

- First at home for third-year coach Urban Meyer.

- The end of an 11-game win streak.

- Only the fifth since 1990 in which it allowed 20 points or fewer.

"It's heartbreaking," quarterback Tim Tebow said. "It's hard to even put into words. We had the opportunity to win.

"Give Auburn credit. They came out and played hard. But we still had our chances."

Chances on which they failed to capitalize.

Trailing 17-3 early in the third, the Gators rallied to tie it on a 2-yard run by Tebow with 7:36 remaining in the game. The touchdown was set up by a 32-yard pass from Tebow to Percy Harvin, who caught seven passes for 119 yards.

The Gators 4-1, 2-1 SEC had an opportunity to take the lead when they took over at their 42 - after the Tigers were penalized 30 yards for interfering with the punt returner and coach Tommy Tuberville's unsportsmanlike conduct - with 4:49 left. But after three plays netted minus-6 yards, Florida punted. And Auburn (3-2, 1-1) took over at its 39 with 3:38 remaining.

It was all the time the Tigers needed.

They drove 35 yards in 10 plays with Ben Tate running eight times for 19 yards. Byrum lined up for the field goal with three seconds left and nailed it. However, Florida had called timeout just before the snap.

After the timeout, the freshman won it.

"I thought we were going to come back and win the game," Meyer said. "But we lost 6 yards on that screen, and it put us in a hole."

Florida trailed 14-0 at halftime. A 34-yard field goal by Joey Ijjas with 9:57 remaining in the third quarter gave the Gators their first points of the night. Then a 6-yard pass from Tebow to Cornelius Ingram four seconds into the fourth quarter pulled Florida to within 17-10.

Once again, Florida was plagued by problems it struggled with against Ole Miss one week ago: costly penalties, a young, struggling secondary, an inability to find open receivers other than on short routes and trouble consistently getting pressure on the quarterback. Florida's offensive line also struggled Saturday.

"At no point during that game did I feel like we were blocking well enough to hand off the ball," Meyer said.

But this game, there was something worse for the Gators: Auburn found a way to slow Tebow.

The sophomore phenom, who rushed for 127 yards against Ole Miss, was held to 22 on six carries in the first half and was 11-of-14 for 82 yards. He finished the game 20-of-27 for 201 yards and 75 yards on 19 carries.

The Gators held Auburn to 99 rushing yards, but quarterback Brandon Cox, who two weeks ago was benched because of ineffective play, was 17-of-26 for 227 yards.

"Give them credit," Meyer said. "They played their best football game of the year. Their coach is a very good coach, and their quarterback did a nice job."

Antonya English can be reached at english@sptimes.com.

Auburn 20

No.4 Florida 17