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No. 11 Auburn Ousts No. 2 Florida 27-17

Saturday, October 14, 2006

AUBURN, Ala. —  That merciless Southeastern Conference claimed another victim: No. 2 Florida. Auburn scored on a blocked punt, a last-play fumble and a safety to beat the Gators 27-17 on Saturday night and leave the powerhouse conference without an unbeaten team.

The Tigers (6-1, 4-1) failed to score an offensive touchdown. Instead, they turned in a dominant defensive performance in the second half and benefited from Chris Leak's fumble deep in Auburn territory that killed a chance for at least a go-ahead field goal.

Florida coach Urban Meyer challenged the call arguing that it was an incomplete pass but replay officials let the play stand _ and it turned the game around.

Eric Brock's late interception of Leak's pass set up the last of John Vaughn's four field goals, a 39-yarder with 31 seconds left after missing a 45-yard attempt on the previous possession.

It was just another chapter in the topsy-turvy saga of SEC front-runners this season, with Auburn beating LSU, Arkansas beating then-No. 2 Auburn last week and Florida (6-1, 4-1) toppling Tennessee. The internal battering has threatened to leave the league without a strong national championship contender.

Auburn hardly looked like the same team that was physically whipped in that 27-10 loss to the Razorbacks _ at least in the second half.

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The Tigers have now won six consecutive home games against top-10 opponents and eight of nine overall. The Gators had won five in a row against ranked opponents, one shy of the school record.

Trailing 21-17, Florida got a final attempt from its own 20 with 31 seconds left. Three incompletions later, Leak hit Baker across the middle and Baker lateralled to Jarred Fayson, whose own lateral attempt turned into a fumble recovered by Patrick Lee. The defensive back raced 20 yards into the end zone to place an exclamation point on the Tigers'win.

Many Auburn fans lingered in their seats well after the finale, and a number of players headed to the student section to celebrate with fans before heading to their locker room.

"Pride came to the top,"Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said.

Auburn's other touchdown came when Tre Smith returned a blocked punt 15 yards early in the third quarter to give Auburn an 18-17 lead.

Leak&Co. appeared poised to retake the lead early in the fourth. Leak hit Baker on a 32-yard pass down the right sideline and receiver Andre Caldwell gained 27 yards on an option pitch.

On third-and-3 from the 6, Leak started to throw then decided to hold on as Auburn's Quentin Groves applied pressure. The ball squirted from Leak's hand and linebacker Tray Blackmon scooped it up. Blackmon was playing in his first game of the season after a six-game suspension for an underage drinking arrest.

Meyer's challenge left the Gators without a timeout.

Florida got two more chances. But under pressure, Leak underthrew Caldwell and the pass went straight to Brock.

Florida managed only 85 yards and five first downs after halftime. Leak completed just 9-of-17 passes for 108 yards and a touchdown.

Leak and his backup Tim Tebow both accounted for TDs en route to a 17-11 halftime lead. Leak hit Baker for a 15-yard scoring pass and Tebow ran 16 yards into the end zone on his only play of the half.

Auburn's Brandon Cox put up more Leak-like numbers, going 18-of-27 for 182 yards despite getting sacked five times in the first half.

Brad Lester ran for a career-high 94 yards and Kenny Irons gained another 67. Groves had three sacks.

Even Auburn's mistakes turned into points.

Florida's Derrick Harvey, who had 2 1/2 sacks in the first half, recovered a fumble by tight end Tommy Trott on the Florida 3. Left guard Jim Tartt was called for holding in the end zone on the next play, giving the Tigers a safety.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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