The No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide answered the nation’s questions Saturday with its convincing 31-6 victory over the No. 7 Florida Gators in Bryant-Denny Stadium. Both teams came into the game unbeaten, but only Alabama stays perfect at 5-0, 2-0 in the Southeastern Conference. Now only three unbeatens remain in the SEC.
“I think we played more as a team today than we usually do,” running back Mark Ingram said. “We believe that when we’re on the same page and play with the intangibles that Alabama football is built on like disciple, toughness, execution, everybody being accountable of their job and everybody being supportive of their teammates, that we’re real tough to beat if we’re all on the same page.”
Alabama started off with a solid 68-yard drive that resulted in a field goal. Then when Florida got the ball back, the Gators managed to march down to Alabama’s 2-yard line. On a fourth-and-goal, Florida quarterback Trey Burton threw a Tim-Tebow-like jump pass over the heads of the defensive line.
Instead of a touchdown, however, linebacker Nico Johnson snatched it up for a touchback instead, giving Alabama a huge momentum swing early in the game.
“I think fourth and whatever to get out of there with no points after they put together a really good job probably was a big momentum changer in the game,” head coach Nick Saban said. “That was a huge play in the game, especially early in the game.”
Alabama started off the second quarter with Ingram’s fifth touchdown run of the season, and only minutes later, he ran in for his sixth. All the while, the Tide’s defense managed to keep Florida from driving.
After defensive back Dre Kirkpatrick intercepted a pass from John Brantley, the Gators’ starting quarterback, Alabama threw some trickery into the game.
Wide receiver Marquis Maze, who played quarterback some in high school, took the snap and threw the ball to tight end Mike Williams in the right corner of the end zone.
Florida managed one field goal, an attempt from 39 yards out, and so the halftime score was 24-3, coincidentally the same halftime score as in 2005 when Florida was in Tuscaloosa last.
In the second half, Florida received the ball first to tack on another three points with a 21-yard field goal attempt. But that was all the scoring Florida would do. The Gators gave up two more turnovers in the second half: one interception to C.J. Mosley that was good for six points and then a fumble at the goal line, giving Alabama the ball back at its own 5-yard line.
However, in the second half, Alabama only scored one touchdown, and Saban said the team needs to work on finishing strong.
“I think it’s always important to be able to start fast,” he said. “You want to finish strong, which we didn’t necessarily do today. We started fast in the game, and that was good.”
On the defensive side, Courtney Upshaw led the way in tackles for a loss with four. In total tackles, he had seven, while Mark Barron led the board with 11. Barron had the only sack of the game too, for a loss of 8 yards.
Next week, the Tide travels to Columbia, S.C., to take on the No. 20 South Carolina Gamecocks for another big SEC road test. Ingram said the Florida game will give the team momentum going back on the road.
“I think it helps definitely because we should be proud of the way we played today,” he said. “We beat a great team in Florida out there today, but we still have lots of room for improvement in all aspects of our game.”