Florida simply didn't have any answers

Published: Saturday, December 5, 2009 at 9:45 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, December 5, 2009 at 9:45 p.m.

ATLANTA There was one last speech for Tim Tebow when he gathered the entire Florida team around him as the third quarter became the fourth. He preached about the fourth quarter and how the Gators had rallied a year ago to win this game.

But this was not a game that could be won with words.

You needed attitude.

Alabama had plenty. Certainly, a lot more than Florida. And as a result, the Tide were able to easily squash the hopes and dreams of this special Florida team as if the Gators were ants scurrying along a sidewalk.

"They did seem hungry, like they really wanted it," said cornerback Joe Haden.

You could see it from the start, a miserable first quarter. When Florida got to halftime looking like Tiger Woods on the day after Thanksgiving but was still in the game, the Gator Nation still had hope.

They kept hoping the defense would start playing like it had all season.

They kept hoping Tebow would find a way.

They kept hoping Florida might call an occasional running play.

And they kept hoping Alabama had wasted so much energy the Tide would eventually fade.

But Alabama had attitude. It was dripping off its helmet. Their players had been chewing on last season's loss to Florida for a year. This would be their confetti rain party.

"It was a revenge game," Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy said.

The coaches had been playing it over in their minds for a year.

"When you play a team for the first time, you learn a lot," Bama coach Nick Saban said. "We learned our lessons."

They rushed five instead of four to keep Tebow in the pocket. They knew every one of the 162 different formations Florida can run at you. They knew that when momentum started to shift in the first half that Charlie Strong would bring a blitz and a screen play would be the perfect call.

On this Saturday in the biggest game in SEC football history, Florida never had a chance. Alabama looked bigger, stronger and faster. They ran harder and blocked better. To say they tackled better would be like saying Jennifer Anniston is better looking than Susan Boyle.

"That's uncharacteristic of a great defense," UF coach Urban Meyer said.

He had no answers. He just kept squinting at the final statistic sheet as if he could blink those 490 yards a way. By the start of the fourth quarter, Alabama had 403 yards. Did Charlie Strong bring Louisville's defense to Atlanta by mistake?

I know they were missing Carlos Dunlap, but this whole defense looked as if it was asleep at the wheel.

Because Alabama was the hungrier team. They ran through tackles manhandled Florida's front four. I've never seen Brandon Spikes go backwards as much as he did Saturday.

In the end, they reduced the emotional Tebow to tears as his dreams had been beaten to the ground.

"We just didn't come to play," said receiver David Nelson, his eyes red from the tears he had shed. "I wish I had the answer for why we didn't. We killed ourselves with dropped passes and penalties.

"This is the hardest thing I have ever gone through in my entire life because I wanted it so bad."

It was a hard night for all of the Gator Nation and a glorious night for the Gator haters who have been waiting for a beatdown like this four four years.

Alabama, with a team as talented as Florida, was the perfect team to administer the beating. Alabama deserves to be the SEC team that will try to win the conference's fourth straight national title.

It's rare that you can say that an Urban Meyer team had less desire and less toughness than the team on the other sideline. Or that it was out-coached. But that's what happened.

All of the Florida flaws that were there this year came to Atlanta and brought some friends. Dropped passes, boneheaded penalties, missed tackles.

And now you get to feel what Alabama felt a year ago. The Sugar Bowl has never seemed like a less desirable place to go.

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