Lamical Perine

Florida running back Lamical Perine (2) celebrates with wide receiver Josh Hammond (10) during Saturday's win over Auburn in Gainesville. Perine rushed 14 times for 130 yards and a touchdown. [JOHN RAOUX/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS]

Remember SEC Media Days?

Lamical Perine does.

Back in Hoover for the annual preseason kickoff, the Florida running back admitted he’d circled Oct. 5 — the day Auburn came to The Swamp. All because of what an Auburn recruiter allegedly told him in high school.

He was too slow.

"I remember those words," he said back in July. “I’ll never forget that.”

He didn’t. Saturday, the Mobile native delivered the knockout punch in 10th-ranked Florida’s 24-13 victory against No. 7 Auburn, putting a one-score game out of reach with an 88-yard run in the fourth quarter. Too slow afoot? He outran everyone, separating from Auburn’s chasing defenders over the final 50 yards.

It was a costly breakdown for a Tigers defense that otherwise did everything to keep Auburn in the game. The Tigers forced three fumbles in one quarter, yet Derrick Brown’s encounter with a turf monster on one scoop and rumble proved to be less a bad break than an omen.

For this game was supposed to be a mismatch. It just proved to be the one we didn’t expect.

Instead of Brown and company dominating a suspect Florida offensive line and harassing an inexperienced quarterback, the Gators defense ruled the day. Three-and-outs were the norm, and big interceptions saved the day.

Florida safety Shawn Davis came out of nowhere, stepping in front of what looked to be a wide-open receiver, to one-hand an interception and nullify a first-half Auburn threat.

The other safety, Donovan Stiner, squelched Auburn’s best drive of the day, stepping in front of a Bo Nix throw in the end zone to protect a 17-13 lead.

Nix is the mature-beyond-his years true freshman. But Todd Grantham’s defense harassed him, forcing him to throw under pressure. And Grantham, the old nemesis, also managed to disrupt Gus Malzahn’s rhythm and take away the running game.

The only time the Tigers showed life led up to Nix’ second of three picks, when three straight Boobee Whitlow running plays got the Tigers, momentarily, going.

Meanwhile, Florida’s own inexperienced quarterback, Kyle Trask, was certainly up to the task. While Trask is years older than Nix, he hadn’t started a game since middle school – backing up Feleipe Franks until Franks’ season ended with an injury three weeks ago at Florida, and Houston’s D’Eriq King in high school.

Yet despite losing a couple of fumbles on big, blindside hits, Trask kept the chains moving and the Gators ahead. Arguably, the Gators are better with his leadership.

As for Lamical Perine, his recollection might not jive with the Auburn coaching staff. Saturday, it didn’t matter. Only his response did.

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