Top-ranked Alabama survives Swamp, edges out Florida, 31-29
Down 21-3 in the first quarter, No. 9 Florida was staring at a worst-case scenario against No. 1 Alabama.
But the Gators showed no quit. And in the end, their guile may be what gets them through this season.
Florida was able to very nearly catch the Crimson Tide in the fourth quarter, cutting the Alabama's lead to 31-29 on a Dameon Pierce touchdown run. But a two-point conversion was denied and Alabama was able to run off enough clock down the stretch to hold on for the 31-29 win.
The game was a rematch of the Crimson Tide's 52-46 SEC Championship Game win in December.
Alabama hasn't visited Gainesville since Oct. 1, 2011, but is 11-2 in The Swamp and has won the last seven meetings overall.
No. 1 Alabama 31, No. 9 Florida 29
Alabama 21 0 7 3—31
Florida 3 6 14 6—29
ALA_McClellan 7 pass from Br.Young (Reichard kick), 11:21.
FLA_FG Howard 25, 7:08.
ALA_Billingsley 26 pass from Br.Young (Reichard kick), 4:14.
ALA_B.Robinson 7 pass from Br.Young (Reichard kick), :48.
FLA_Davis 26 run (kick failed), 6:34.
FLA_Pierce 3 run (Howard kick), 10:20.
ALA_B.Robinson 3 run (Reichard kick), 4:33.
FLA_Jones 5 run (Howard kick), :29.
ALA_FG Reichard 23, 9:25.
FLA_Pierce 17 run (run failed), 3:10.
First downs 19 26
Total Net Yards 324 439
Rushes-yards 27-9 1 43-258
Passing 233 181
Punt Returns 0-0 1-2
Kickoff Returns 2-51 2-15
Interceptions Ret. 1-4 0-0
Comp-Att-Int 22-35-0 17-27-1
Sacked-Yards Lost 2-9 1-2
Punts 4-42.5 2-47.0
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 0-0
Penalties-Yards 11-75 7-67
Time of Possession 28:05 31:55
RUSHING_Alabama, B.Robinson 14-75, McClellan 9-17, Br.Young 4-(minus 1). Florida, Davis 10-96, Jones 19-80, Wright 7-58, Pierce 7-24.
PASSING_Alabama, Br.Young 22-35-0-233. Florida, Jones 17-27-1-181.
RECEIVING_Alabama, Metchie 6-42, J.Williams 4-61, McClellan 4-41, Bolden 3-19, Latu 2-19, Billingsley 1-26, Earle 1-18, B.Robinson 1-7. Florida, Gamble 5-32, Zipperer 4-51, Whittemore 3-21, Wells 1-26, Henderson 1-18, Wright 1-18, Copeland 1-10, Davis 1-5.
What went right: UF held the Crimson Tide to a lone field goal in the 4th quarter, capping an impressive second half for a defense that allowed just 10 points after the first quarter. And Florida’s offense found the end zone on the ensuing drive, though it wouldn’t be enough to make up the deficit.
What went wrong: The Gators couldn’t convert the two-point conversion that would have pulled UF even with Alabama with less than 3:30 remaining in regulation, and the Florida defense couldn’t get the critical stop on 3rd-and-1 from their own 34-yard line with more than a minute to play, which would have given UF enough time in theory to string together a potential game-winning drive. Instead, UF got just one shot at the end zone, and Jones was brought down behind the line of scrimmage after the pocked closed.
Play of the quarter: For Florida, it’s Dameon Pierce’s 17-yard rushing touchdown, because it gave the Gators an opportunity to do what many thought they couldn’t: take down the Crimson Tide. Without Pierce’s rush, the Gators likely don’t get to battle until the final minutes, as was the case Saturday.
A big third-down run by Jace McClellan gave Alabama just enough to run out enough clock, although the Tide did have to punt and give the ball back with 4 seconds left.
However, Emory Jones, with one play left, was sacked before he could get the pass away. Game ends, Alabama 31, Florida 29.
Dameon Pierce scores a touchdown, powering through the Alabama defense from 17 yards out, a huge, huge play with 3:10 left to go, and cutting the lead to 31-29.
But the Gators have to go for 2 to tie the game. And they can't quite push it across, so the Crimson Tide retain their lead with not much time left.
Two critical third-down plays helped keep Alabama's drive going as the Tide answered the Gators' 99-yard drive. A pass interference penalty against Avery Helm kept it going in Alabama territory, and then a 10-yard pass to Cameron Latu got it close.
The Gators' defense stiffened, however, stopping Jace McClellan at the goal line, and Will Reichard's 24-yard field goal made it 31-23.
What went right: Florida’s first drive of the second half ended in a touchdown when Dameon Pierce found the end zone from three yards out, cutting the Crimson Tide’s advantage to just five points following Chris Howard’s successful extra point attempt. Although ‘Bama would answer right back with a 16-play, 75-yard touchdown drive, Jones would lead UF down the field and eventually plunge into the end zone from five yards out to pull the Gators back within five points heading into the final period of play.
What went wrong: After a rather clean second quarter, it was the return of the miscues. Florida continued to commit penalties at critical points Saturday, and it didn’t end after the halftime break. The Gators may have committed a lone penalty for just eight yards, but it would end up being a rather costly one. Brenton Cox’s pass-interference penalty on 3rd-and-12 from the UF 30-yard-line allowed Alabama to stay on the field rather than attempt a 47-yard field goal, and the Crimson Tide would ultimately answer UF’s touchdown with one of their own. Adding insult to injury, the Gators began their ensuing offensive possession on their 1-yard line instead of at the 25-yard line after UF returner Ja’Markis Weston didn’t call for a fair catch.
Play of the quarter: Jones’ 18-yard pass to Xzavier Henderson on 3rd-and-9 was a critical completion for a team that desperately needed to answer back if it hoped to remain in the game entering the fourth quarter.
Trending: Florida’s defense, having allowed just 82 yards since the conclusion of the first quarter, retakes the field in the fourth quarter with the Gators eyeing an upset of the No. 1-ranked team in college football.
— Graham Hall
Alabama 21 0 7
Florida 3 6 14
After went back up by two scores, Emory Jones and the Gators offense responded with their second straight TD drive — this time 99 yards — and third in their last four possessions. Jones scored on first-and-goal from the 5.
After just three yards of total offense in the second quarter, the Tide had a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive on their first possession of the third. Brian Robinson Jr. scored from three yards out on fourth-and-1.
The Gators marched 75 yards in 10 plays on their opening drive of the second half, capping it off with Dameon Pierce's three-yard touchdown run.
What went right: Every defensive series for the Gators — the opposite of the first quarter. After giving up touchdowns on Alabama's first three possessions, Florida's defense forced three consecutive three-and-outs. Offensively, UF found the end zone on Malik Davis' second touchdown of the season.
What went wrong: Florida's final offensive series of the half. After cutting the deficit to 11, the Gators were threatening on their ensuing series and reached the Alabama 48, but Jones took a first-down sack and Rick Wells was calling for holding on the next play, derailing the drive.
Play of the quarter: Davis' 26-yard touchdown run. The Gators eclipsed 100 yards rushing (102) in the first
Trending: Florida's defense, which pitched a second-quarter shutout.
— Zach Abolverdi
Alabama 21 0
Florida 3 6
After three points in four drives, the Gators finally scored six on a 26-yard touchdown run by Malik Davis. The PAT was no good.
What went right: Florida’s opening possession on offense, although it stalled in the red zone. The Gators responded to Alabama’s first touchdown with a 75-yard drive of their own, but couldn’t reach the end zone and had to settle for a 25-yard field goal from kicker Chris Howard.
What went wrong: Every defensive series for the Gators. Alabama scored on all three of its possessions in the first quarter and quarterback Bryce Young threw a touchdown each time. The third score was set up by Emory Jones’ interception in UF territory on third-and-long.
Play of the quarter: Bryce Young’s 26-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jahleel Billingsley.
Trending: Young, who had 138 yards on 12-of-16 passing.
— Zach Abolverdi
Gators quarterback Emory Jones was picked off on third-and-10 and set Alabama up on the UF 38. Bryce Young hooked up with Brian Robinson Jr. for his third touchdown pass, another seven-yard score.
Alabama answered Florida's first score with another touchdown drive. UF safety Trey Dean III was taken out in coverage and Bryce Young tossed a 26-yard TD to tight end Jahleel Billingsley.
The Gators marched 75 yards on their first possession, but couldn't punch it in the end zone. Kicker Chris Howard hits UF's first field goal of the season from 25 yards out.
The Tide took the game's first lead on running back Jase McClellan's seven-yard touchdown reception from Bryce Young.
Alabama is the first No. 1 team to visit the Swamp since Miami in 2002. The defending national champion Hurricanes dominated that one, winning 41-16. ... The Tide has won 31 consecutive games against teams from the SEC’s Eastern Division. The Crimson Tide’s last loss to an East team came at then-No. 19 South Carolina, coached by Gators Great Steve Spurrier, on Oct. 9, 2010. … Young is the only player in Alabama history with seven touchdown passes in his first two starts. … Alabama has scored at least 30 points in 28 consecutive games, a streak that’s tops in the Football Bowl Subdivision. … Mullen is 0-10 as a head coach against the Tide, losing all nine meetings while at Mississippi State and reaching double digits last December with the Gators. … Florida leads the FBS in rushing, averaging 381.5 yards a game on the ground, and ranks third in total yards.