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Saturday, December 09, 2023

No, it wasn't a recurring nightmare or a deja vu flashback to last season that made fans wake up in a cold sweat gasping for air.

It really happened.

Auburn. Again.

And for anyone who doubted it when they woke up from a sleepless Saturday night, it was right there on the front page of until dawn.

Auburn's Antoine Carter doing the Gator chomp with the headline "No. 1 is safe" summarized the unruly day in college football that culminated in Gainesville.

For the second straight year, the Tigers blemished UF's otherwise squeaky-clean record.

With time expiring, Wes Byrum's 43-yard field goal sealed a 20-17 upset as Auburn staved off a gritty Gators comeback in The Swamp on Saturday night.

"It doesn't get any better than that," said Byrum, who added that taunts from UF fans during the game gave him extra motivation. "That's a dream situation to be in with three seconds left."

The loss snapped an 18-game home winning streak for UF and was Coach Urban Meyer's first loss in Gainesville.

"I'm sick to my stomach," Meyer said. "Not sick to my stomach for the effort but sick to my stomach because when you lose, it sucks."

Byrum, a true freshman, actually made the kick twice.

After splitting the uprights on his first attempt, Auburn's players ran onto the field to celebrate the apparent victory.

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Too bad UF had called a timeout before the play.

So he calmly kicked it again - this time making it by a slimmer margin - and ran around the field doing a Gator chomp.

Where was Jarvis Moss when you needed him?

"It's hard to even put into words," UF quarterback Tim Tebow said.

Auburn (3-2, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) dragged UF into an upset-filled Saturday, as the Gators may have fallen into a look-ahead trap.

A possible No. 2 vs. No. 3 showdown loomed with LSU this week - if UF had held up its end of the bargain.

Instead, the then-No. 4, now-No. 9 Gators (4-1, 2-1 SEC) joined No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 5 West Virginia, No. 7 Texas and No. 10 Rutgers in littering the top ten with losses over the weekend.

"Our family took a frontal blow, and we'll see how they come through it," Meyer said.

The game-winning kick came after the two teams exchanged fruitless drives with the game tied at 17-17 late in the fourth quarter.

Auburn got the ball back with less than four minutes remaining and drove 35 yards to set up Byrum's kick.

Running back Ben Tate took five carries in a row, gaining 16 yards and two key first downs to run out the final 2 minutes.

UF's comeback from a 17-3 deficit gained steam slowly throughout the second half.

The Gators embarked on an 89-yard march early in the fourth quarter to tie it up.

Quarterback Tim Tebow capped it with his signature sneak from two yards out.

With 7:36 left, UF had erased the deficit it faced for most of the game.

But it wasn't enough.

"We've got to get better starting (Sunday) and get back to the drawing board," Tebow said.

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