ATLANTA- There’s few things Alabama’s offense could have done worse in the first quarter of the 25th SEC Championship Game.
Luckily for the Crimson Tide, the SEC’s worst offense outside of South Carolina (averaging only 352.7 yards per game), came prepared to defend that regular season title on the big stage. Alabama might have managed to finish the quarter with negative seven yards, but that was nothing compared to the disaster of a show the Gators put on in the Crimson Tide’s 54-16 victory.
Florida quarterback Austin Appleby managed to throw a trio of interceptions, one of which went for a pick-six. The Gators (8-4, 6-2) also gave up a touchdown on special teams when Alabama running back Josh Jacobs grabbed hold of a punt, blocked by teammate and fellow running back Derrick Gore, and ran it 27 yards to find the end zone.
It was the first time a blocked punt had been returned for a touchdown in the SEC Championship Game.
“I heard the ball, I really didn’t see it,” Jacobs said. “I heard it and the I looked up like ‘Ohhh it’s in the air. It’s moving so slow.’ It felt like everything went in slow motion after that.”
Alabama (13-0, 8-0) capitalized off those mistakes to score 16 points in the first quarter, and the Crimson Tide used those rewrite the record books when it scored an SEC Championship record 33 points in the first half.
Jacobs’ special teams play wasn’t the last time the freshman found the end zone against the Gators. He also carried it in from six yards out to give the team its second offensive touchdown of the game with less than two minutes remaining in the second quarter.
Jacobs was one of two players to find the end zone twice in the championship, but it wasn’t the touchdowns that left the biggest impression on the freshman. His favorite moment was watching fellow running back Gore find the end zone for himself in the final four minutes of the game.
“I mean I wanted that for him so bad I was trying my best not to run out on the field,” Jacobs said.
Gore wasn’t the only other running back to find the end zone. Running back Bo Scarbrough made the most of his 11 carries to finish with a game-high 91 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Scarbrough’s 2-yard run in the third quarter capped a 98-yard drive- a new SEC Championship record for the longest drive- that saw Alabama’s offense move almost at will during the three minutes and 23 seconds it took to complete.
“We got a thing we call the three-headed monster and that’s what we feel like we are,” Jacobs said. “If we get an opportunity we’re going to try to capitalize every time.”
The other two-thirds of Alabama’s rushing attack were on full display during the drive as Scarbrough carried it twice for 36 yards and fellow running back Damien Harris picked up 40 yards on his four carries despite the fact he was stopped at the line of scrimmage once.
Quarterback Jalen Hurts was again asked to overcome adversity early in on during the game when Alabama’s very first play resulted in a fumble.
“As a competitor and me being who I am,” Hurts said. “I always know the sky’s the limit. I’m truly blessed to be in the situation that I’m in right now.”
The first true freshman quarterback to start in the SEC Championship Game didn’t finish as strong as he usually does, but on Saturday, completing 11-of-20 passes for 138 yards and one touchdown was more than enough.
“Anytime you go 13-0 you’re pretty happy for the team,” right tackle Jonah Williams said. “It’s just good to see all the pieces coming together today.”
Source:: The Crimson White Sports