AUBURN, Ala. (AP) -It was just another South Florida upset special and one more September stumble for Auburn.
Taking advantage of numerous blunders by the Tigers and overcoming a few of their own, the Bulls made a grab for more national respect with Saturday night's 26-23 overtime win.
Coach Jim Leavitt was more concerned with another benefit besides the ranking and the latest entry into the Bulls' growing reputation for knocking off more well-known programs.
``It's going to give us confidence,'' said Leavitt, whose team had been 0-4 against the Southeastern Conference. ``We've got the toughest schedule we've ever had this season. We've got North Carolina coming to our place and they're going to be an outstanding team. We'll have to play just as well against them.''
And Auburn will have to play considerably better to avoid a disappointing season. The Tigers committed five turnovers and managed just 290 yards, just two in their overtime possession, which ended with Wes Byrum's third field goal and sixth in two games. The freshman has been the biggest weapon for an offense that has managed just three touchdowns in two games.
The Tigers fell out of the Associated Press' Top 25 poll from a No. 17 ranking.
While South Florida hosts North Carolina and No. 4 West Virginia in the next two weeks, Auburn might actually have some time to work out its problems without absorbing another loss. The Tigers host Mississippi State and New Mexico State.
Some of their shakiest performances have come in their first two games against nonconference teams the past six seasons, including five of the team's 15 losses in that span and last week's narrow escape against Kansas State.
``You play tough competition,'' coach Tommy Tuberville said, ``you have to go out and play.''
South Florida quarterback Matt Grothe did that, completing a 14-yard pass to Jessie Hester for the game-winning touchdown in overtime and often eluding a relentless pass rush despite getting sacked three times.
For Grothe, the win topped even upsets over Big East Conference rivals Louisville and West Virginia the past two seasons. Part of that was personal.
``This is my all-time favorite win because it happened on my birthday,'' he said.
It left Auburn fans and players stunned, wondering how a promising season, and an offense, could take such a sour turn early.
``I think our fans were kind of speechless when it first happened,'' Hester said, ``but then they were the only thing you could hear in the stadium.''
The Bulls didn't even have to play their best game to beat the Tigers. They missed four field goals and averaged only 2.6 yards on 52 rushes.
They still managed to push it to overtime on Delbert Alvarado's 18-yard field goal with 55 seconds left. They're hard to beat in OT, improving to 6-0.
Leavitt, who grew up in Florida and was once a leading candidate for the Alabama coaching job, savored the win.
``I grew up in the South so the Auburn deal is big for me,'' he said. ``I played against Alabama, coached against Alabama. I'd never played or coached against Auburn. It's very special to me because of where I was raised. It's a little bit different from that standpoint.''
The Tigers, meanwhile, were left trying to find answers for an offense that has struggled in all phases the first two games.
``Obviously, we need to make some changes,'' Tuberville said. ``And we will do that.''

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