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Saturday, June 15, 2024

For the Gators, even a national championship can?t erase the memories of last year?s loss to Auburn.

After taking a 17-11 lead into halftime, seemingly everything went wrong for then-No. 2 UF, resulting in a humbling 27-17 loss.

The No. 4 Gators (4-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) will get a chance to avenge that loss Saturday when Auburn (2-2, 0-1 SEC) comes to The Swamp for an 8 p.m. kickoff.

BIt was horrible,C UF defensive tackle Clint McMillan said. BEspecially being in their stadium and taking their lumps like that, it?s not something you want to feel.C

The players were so distraught by the result that they let their emotions get the best of them following the game.

Some called each other out and broke into fights, while others simply kept to themselves and wept.

But when an assistant coach attempted to settle everyone down, UF coach Urban Meyer stopped him.

BI said, 'No, let it go,?C Meyer said Monday. BWe let it go for about 15 minutes. I wanted to watch, and I wanted to clear the air.C

What happened the next day would turn out to have more of an impact on the Gators? season than any loss could have had.

BThe team just got more together than ever,C McMillan said. BWhen you have a loss like that, especially a conference loss to a great Auburn team, you just have to regroup and refocus and say there?s going to be stones in the road, but it?s time to refocus. You can?t let one loss ruin your whole season.C

The Gators regrouped in a team meeting, beginning with Meyer playing an audio clip of Danny Wuerffel speaking after UF?s loss to Florida State in 1996.

BMy mouth went dry,C Meyer said of his reaction to Wuerffel?s speech. BIt was a heck of a deal.C

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The players took it to heart as well.

BThat really made us know that there was still a lot to fight for in the season,C wide receiver David Nelson said. BThat was only our fifth or sixth game of the year, and we still had the SEC Championship to fight for and the national championship to fight for. Just knowing what the national championship team in ?96 went through, we knew that we had to just keep fighting.C

Auburn has been disappointing so far this season, with losses to South Florida and Mississippi State, but McMillan said the Gators will disregard the slow start.

BThey?ve been upset a few times this year, but that doesn?t take away from the ability and the athletes they have on their team,C McMillan said. BThey are still one of the top teams in the SEC. It is a huge game, and a game we look forward to before the season, and I don?t think anybody is overlooking Auburn.C

The Tigers have also been dealing with some issues at quarterback. Brandon Cox, who started against the Gators in 2006, was benched in favor of true freshman Kodi Burns at the start of last week?s game against New Mexico State.

But Cox came off the bench, outperformed Burns, and was re-named the starter against UF.

A win against Auburn would be UF?s 12th straight win, tying a school record for consecutive victories set in 1995.

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