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SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2007
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Auburn Report

Cox on target early

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Auburn senior quarterback Brandon Cox, who won his starting job back with an impressive performance last week, completed five straight passes to begin Saturdayís game against Florida.

He didnít miss a receiver until late in the first quarter.

Cox moved Auburn down the field for two early scoring drives. He had 131 yards on the Tigersí touchdown drives in the first half of 86 and 80 yards. He was 10-of-12 passing at halftime.

Gambling coaches

Auburnís Tommy Tuberville and Floridaís Urban Meyer each elected to attempt a fourth down during the first half.

Auburn attempted a fourth-and-one from the Florida 4. Running back Ben Tateís carry picked up the first down.

With less than a minute left in the second half, Florida tried a fourth-and-nine from the Auburn 45-yard line. Tebow found Percy Harvin a yard shy of the first-down marker. In his fight to get more yards after the initial hit, Harvin fumbled. Auburn recovered and ended the first half by taking a knee.

Block party

Auburn defensive tackle SeníDerrick Marks got his second blocked field goal of the season midway through the second quarter of Saturday nightís game.

Marks leaped into the air and batted down Florida place-kicker Joey Ijjasí 34-yard attempt.

The 6-foot-1, 290-pounder also blocked a field goal during Auburnís second game of the season against South Florida. Marks also tipped a field goal attempt in that game, forcing it to miss.

Early scuffle

True freshman quarterback Kodi Burns aligned at receiver on Auburnís second series of the game. He dropped a pass from Cox on first down.

Seconds after the ball fell incomplete, a Florida player tackled Burns and more players piled on, planting Burns into the grass. Flags flew, and Auburn center Jason Bosley rushed over to the pile and got into the faces of the Florida defenders. A short scuffle ensued.

More flags flew. The final result was offsetting personal foul penalties.

Eye in the sky

Because the game was televised by ESPN, the network brought its sky cam. The sky cam is a small camera that is attached to light poles on either side of the stadium.

It swings on cables, getting as close to the field as possible for an intimate view of the action. It is a common element of football broadcasts by ESPN and ABC, which are owned by The Walt Disney Company.

Davis returns

Running back Tristan Davis was on the kickoff team and kickoff return team, his first action of the season. The 5-foot-10, 210-pound junior suffered a hairline fracture to his toe during preseason practice.

Davis was cleared by team doctors Monday to begin practicing, but Tuberville had said late last week that Davis would be a game-time decision.

Saying good-bye

The Gators and Tigers wonít meet again in the regular season until 2011 when Auburn hosts Florida.

The next year, in 2012, the Tigers will travel to Gainesville, Fla.

Blackmon returns

Linebacker Tray Blackmon started the game for the Tigers.

It was his first playing time since the season opener when he twisted an ankle.

Defense starts strong

Auburnís defense forced back-to-back three-and-outs to start the game. The Gators didnít pick up a first down until Harvin ran for 8 yards early in the second quarter.

Auburnís first-quarter shutout of Florida was its first of the season. The Tigers allowed a combined 27 points to opponents in the opening quarters of the last four games.

The Tigers didnít allow a score in the second quarter, either. It was the first time since 1992 that the Gators were shut out in the first half.

The defense also slowed Floridaís leading rusher: quarterback Tim Tebow. He gained just 22 yards in the first half and finished with 75. Tebow is averaging almost 90 rushing yards a game.

Smith, Billings start hot

Receiver Rod Smith caught four of Coxís first six passes of the game for 51 yards. Smith led the team with three catches for 86 yards and two touchdowns against New Mexico State last week.

Sophomore Montez Billings caught the other two passes from Cox. Billings made his first start of the season and shined early, proving to coaches they made the right decision in starting him.

Billings replaced Robert Dunn as the flanker. Billings had a good spring and was expected to be a starter before suffering a hamstring injury days before the season-opener.

Grading the Tigers

Decatur Daily Sports Writer Ross Dellenger grades Auburnís performance in Saturdayís 20-17 win over Florida, giving the Tigers a letter grade from A+ to F in four categories.

OFFENSE: B-

Not a sterling performance overall, but the offense looked as good as ever in the opening half of play. Brandon Cox looks like heís made a full recovery from his poor play in the first three games of this season.

DEFENSE: B+

Another shining performance for the Tigersí defense. After pitching a first-half shutout, Auburn allowed 17 points in the final two quarters, but it slowed quarterback Tim Tebow and a powerful Florida offense just enough.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A-

Auburn still is allowing too many return yards on kickoffs. The Gators had three returns for 96 yards, a whopping 32-yard average. But, of course, place-kicker Wes Byrum made up for all that by connecting on a 43-yard game-winning kick.

THE BIG PICTURE:A-

To beat the fourth-ranked team in the nation in its backyard is worthy of a near perfect grade. But Auburn has a lot of football left to be played.

Best and worst

Best way to catch a break and take advantage: Florida forced an Auburn punt on the Tigers first offensive series, but the Gators were called for running into punter Ryan Shoemaker. The penalty gave Auburn a first down, and a few plays later the Tigers drew first blood, taking a 7-0 lead.

Best way to get benched without a confident backup: Running back Ben Tate fumbled late in the third quarter. Florida recovered and scored a touchdown a few plays later. It was Tateís first turnover of the season. His backup, Mario Fannin, has three fumbles on the year.

Worst way to exit the opponentís field: Auburnís full band entertained at halftime, playing several songs on Florida Field. When they finished, the band formed the AU and marked off the field playing the Auburn fight song. A rain of boos from the Florida crowd poured down upon them.

Worst time to lose you cool: Auburn was called for interfering with a Florida punt returnerís ability to catch the ball late in the fourth quarter. Tigers coach Tommy Tuberville stormed 20 yards onto the field, screaming at the officials. With his face beet red, he tossed his head set to the ground and bowed out his chest. Defensive coordinator Will Muschamp restrained Tuberville. Auburn was given a sideline warning but no penalty was marked off.

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Ross Dellenger
Auburn Beat

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