Perine, Gators out-hustle Tigers

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Lamical Perine was too slow to play for Auburn three years ago, a hurtful evaluation that’s stuck with him.

He showed plenty of speed while running away from the Tigers — and a few guys he played against in high school — in the Swamp on Saturday.

Perine broke loose for an 88-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, Florida’s defense delivered another gem and the No. 10 Gators beat seventh-ranked Auburn 24-13 in a matchup of unbeaten teams.

Perine broke linebacker K.J. Britt’s tackle at the line of scrimmage and scampered down the sideline for the program’s longest TD run in more than 30 years. It gave the Gators (6-0, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) extra breathing room in a game they never trailed.

Doing it against Auburn was extra special.

“Almost brought tears to my eyes,” said Perine, whose run was the longest for Florida since Emmitt Smith’s 96-yarder against Mississippi State in 1988.

Perine finished with a career-high 130 yards on 14 carries and had Smith waiting to congratulate him afterward.

The junior from Theodore, Alabama, closed out the upset. But Florida’s defense really carried the team.

Jon Greenard and David Reese were the stars of the show for Florida, which has given up a measly 16 points in four home games this season.

The Gators kept JaTarvious Whitlow in check and harassed freshman quarterback Bo Nix, whose father, Patrick, upset top-ranked Florida in Gainesville in 1994.

“That’s the kind of defense we expect to play around here,” Florida coach Dan Mullen said.

Auburn (5-1, 2-1) finished with 269 yards — the ninth-fewest in coach Gus Malzahn’s seven seasons –and converted just 2 of 14 third-down tries. The Tigers also had four turnovers and six three-and-outs.

“We just didn’t get it done offensively,” Malzahn said. “That starts with me. I’ve got to do a better job of having our guys ready. … Any time you turn the ball over four times on the road, you’re going to have a tough time winning.”

Nix completed 11 of 27 passes for 145 yards, with a touchdown and three interceptions — his first turnovers since the season opener. He was sacked twice, once for a 22-yard loss in which he looked completely lost.

Auburn’s biggest problem was staying on its feet.

Nix found Seth Williams for a 46-yard gain in the third quarter, but he overthrew him just enough that Williams had to make a leaping catch. Nix threw an interception in the end zone three plays later.

Equally disappointing for the Tigers: star defensive tackle Derrick Brown sacked Kyle Trask on the final play of the first quarter. The 318-pound Brown, widely considered a top-10 NFL draft pick in April, picked up the loose ball and rumbled 42 yards before stumbling without anyone touching him.

“The environment, the crowd did get to us,” Malzahn conceded, pointing to his team’s nine penalties.

More than 90,500 were on hand for Florida’s homecoming and the debut of its throwback uniforms from the 1960s.

Mullen celebrated by jumping around with his high school buddies in the south end zone — just a few feet from where Perine crossed the goal line. He then kissed his wife, hugged the school president and handed his sweat-soaked visor to a young fan.

He really let loose in the locker room, dancing and chanting with players.

As for Perine’s performance against the team that didn’t want him?

“Isn’t that crazy?” Mullen said.


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