I sat in my seat at Jordan-Hare Stadium last night with what I would think was a puzzled look while watching the Auburn celebrate (like they had just won the NC IMO) a 10 point victory over the #2 Gators. What was going through my mind at that point were questions regarding whether or not this game just actually happened, and if so, how did it end up that way.
Let me get this straight. A team does not surrender a touchdown, sacks the opposing quarterback 5 times, only commits 5 penalties and rushes for 171 yards...and loses? That can't be right.
Last night was what I would consider a mental rollercoaster. There were extreme highs and extreme lows, raising long-term questions about my past 4 or 5 years of Gator fan-dom. When Tim Tebow strolled into the endzone relatively un-touched following a ridiculous Percy Harvin run, in my mind I had decided that this was a team worthy of National Title hopes and I suppose you could say I had made plans to go watch this team play in Tempe.
On the other hand I watched Chris Leak become flustered time after time late in the game and watched him throw an ubelievable interception that pretty much sealed the Gators fate. While I am a fan of Chris Leak, I could only imagine in my mind what the Florida fan-base was saying about him following this play...describing him as a non-big game QB would be first and foremost.
I do not want to say that Florida "gave this game" to Auburn, because that didn't happen in full. Both the Auburn offense and defense did what they needed to do to win. At the same time, though, Florida did nearly everything they needed to do to lose.
First of all, the Gators could not keep a hold of any momentum in the first half. While the play that propelled the Gators to a 17-8 lead over Auburn seemed to make the Tigers and their fans get the feeling of desperation and helplessness, I never really had the feeling that the Gators had grabbed this game. The defining moment on this issue would obviously be the safety. We score, prevent Auburn from scoring in the redzone after forcing a fumble, only to give them 2 points on a holding call behind the play. Very frustrating.
Second, Chris Leak never really got comfortable in the second half. Either Auburn made some drastic changes to their defensive gameplan or our offense just came out un-inspired and not ready. They got to Leak on what seemed to be every third down, and forced our offense into some very poor 3 and out performances. Overall the Gators were 1-7 on 3rd down, and I think nearly everyone of those 7 3rd downs came in the 2nd half.
Third, Eric Wilbur. What the hell? First of all, keep your hands on the snap. Second of all, fall on the ball there! Our defense had held Auburn in the redzone all game, why do you try to kick? Obviously it's heat of the moment but if he falls on it there the game could be totally different.
As far as the Chris Leak fumble goes, I haven't watched any replays. I don't care. This game will be an L in the standings no matter what, so it's no use in crying over spilled milk. I learned my lesson after watching the Dallas Baker replay two years ago at Neyland (infuriating). My only question regarding that play is why we do a play action pass when Auburn clearly knows we weren't running the ball. Either hand the ball off and get in the middle of the field for a FG, or just line up 5 wide and throw a quick slant there. Don't do play action and risk your quarterback fumbling under pressure there.
I guess we wasted all our breaks in the LSU game. This could be one of the most bizarre losses I've witnessed in my life as a Gators fan, truly showing us the power of homefield advantage in SEC games. It's time to wait and maybe even hope for Arkansas to lose twice and Auburn to win out so we can meet up with them again in Atlanta.
I'll probably discuss the career of Chris Leak and his "championship ability" at a later time. I think it's very relevant right now.