Interceptions Key In Tide's Big Win

For the past few years, Florida opponents have suffered at the goal line as the Gators used a little jump pass to go over bunched up defenses. But Tim Tebow, the man who made the play a Gators staple, wasn't in Florida orange and blue Saturday night at Tuscaloosa's Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Alabama linebacker Nico Johnson was in the right place to make an interception off a jump pass by Florida's fabulous freshman, Trey Burton, and turn the Tide as it were. Instead of Florida taking a lead, the interception was a key play in propelling Alabama to a 31-6 win over the Gators.

Johnson's interception wasn't the only one that led to Alabama scores. Dre Kirkpatrick had a pick to set up a touchdown and freshman linebacker C.J. Mosley did it one better taking an interception 35 yards for a touchdown. The Alabama defense also had a nifty goal line stand, Courtney Upshaw recovering a fumble inside the five-yard line.

With the win, Alabama improved to 5-0 on the season and cemented its hold on the nation's number one ranking. The Crimson Tide is now 2-0 in Southeastern Conference games. Florida, ranked seventh in the nation coming into the game, suffered its first loss against four wins and is now 2-1 in conference games.

Alabama continues in SEC play and goes on the road for the Crimson Tide's third consecutive game against a nationally ranked team. Bama takes on South Carolina in Columbia, South Carolina had an open date Saturday, the first of six consecutive conference games in which the opponent will have an extra weeks to prepare for Bama.

The Alabama-South Carolina game will kick off at 3:30 p.m. EDT (2:30 p.m. central time) and will be the Tide's third consecutive game televised by CBS. Alabama plays its third road game in four weeks with a visit to the No. 19/22 South Carolina, which is ranked 19th by the Associated Press and 22nd in the Coaches Poll. It will be the Crimson Tide's first visit to Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia since a 34-14 victory on September 17, 2005. Alabama boasts an 11-2 record (win in 2005 later vacated per an NCAA ruling) against South Carolina, including an actual record of 3-1 in Columbia. UA's only loss in Columbia was a 37-36 setback in 2001. Alabama defeated then-number 22 South Carolina, 20-6, at Bryant-Denny Stadium last season.

Alabama-Florida Stats

Alabama had a three-point lead when Johnson made his first quarter interception of the jump pass. It was a fourth down play. Had the ball been incomplete, the Tide would have had the ball on its own two-yard line. But the pick came in the end zone and Alabama was able to start at the 20.

Bama had somewhat squandered its first possession, driving to a first down at the Florida 12, only to settle for a Jeremy Shelley 28-yard field goal.

The Gators had a nice drive into Alabama territory before the turnover. Marcell Dareus had a hand in the goal line stand with a fine tackle for a one-yard loss on third and goal from the two.

Bama didn't waste its second chance.

Florida had started the game and played much of it in its so-called "heavy package," a defense with at least seven in the box. Bama operated with a three-wide receiver offense and finally forced the Gators into a nickel defense. That's when tailback Trent Richardson took a handoff and went 30 yards at left end to a first down at the 39.

Tide quarterback Greg McElroy hit wide receiver Darius Hanks on back-to-back completions totaling 25 yards as the first quarter ended. On the first play of the second quarter, he hit Hanks for another gain, eight yards to the Florida six. On second-and-two, Mark Ingram took it at right tackle, bounced outside behind a block by Preston Dial, and went into the end zone for his first touchdown. Shelley's kick made it 10-0 Bama.

Florida has an outstanding punter in Chas Henry, and he boomed a 54-yard punt to Julio Jones at the Alabama 17. But the kick was beyond the coverage, and Jones returned it 41 yards to the Florida 42.

Things didn't look promising as three plays were just short of mis-fires, including a fumble by Richardson that Julio salvaged for a five-yard gain. On a third-and-five McElroy scrambled for a first down at the Florida 26. Richardson gained three, and then had a tackle-busting burst up the middle for 15 yards to the Florida 8. It took Ingram three runs to get his second touchdown of the game, a run of less than a yard for the score. It was Alabama 17, Florida 0.

Florida looked out of sync, but it wasn't so much poor play by the Gators as an excellent play by cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick that set up Alabama's next score. Kirkpatrick stepped in front of the John Brantley pass at the Florida 27 and returned it to the 18-yard line.

After McElroy lost a yard, Marquis Maze went into the wildcat position. Maze had boasted earlier that he had been a quarterback as a junior in high school and could pass the ball. He proved it with a 19-yard pass to tight end Michael Williams in the end zone for a 24-0 lead.

A punt exchange in which the Gators picked up 49 yards -- Henry kicked 75 yards to the Alabama 2, and coming out the Tide's Cody Mandell had a 26-yard effort to set the Gators up at the Alabama 36 with just over three minutes to play in the first half.

The Gators drove to a fourth-and-six at the Alabama 21 and had to settle for a 29-yard field goal by Henry, cutting the Alabama lead to 24-3 at halftime.

The Gators opened the second half with a very nice drive to a first and goal at the nine, but again couldn't punch in a touchdown, another field goal by Henry.

(Florida's regular placekicker, Caleb Sturgis, was injured and did not make the trip to Tuscaloosa.)

Bama's Mandell made up for his poor punt at the end of the first half with a beauty, 53 yards to the Gators two-yard line. Florida edged out to its 33, but then Brantley was picked off by freshman linebacker C.J. Mosley, who took it to the end zone for a 31-6 Alabama lead with 6:10 remaining in the third quarter.

Alabama didn't need to score any more and Florida couldn't, so that was the final.

Three bad penalties against Alabama defensive backs -- holding and pass interference on DeMarcus Milliner and unsportsmanlike conduct on Mark Barron -- helped Florida to what seemed would surely be a Gators touchdown at the end of the third quarter. But the Alabama defense bailed out Bama. Jeffrey Demps lost control of the ball on a third-and-goal at the one. Courtney Upshaw, who had an outstanding game for Bama from his jack linebacker position, won the battle for possession from Florida's Brantley at the Alabama 6.

Florida had more offense and greater time of possession than Alabama, but the Crimson Tide's four takeaways and no turnovers more than made up for the slight advantage the Gators had on offense. Florida had 63 plays for 281 yards, Alabama 52 plays for 273 yards.

Florida was determined to not let the Tide's tailbacks, Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, beat them, and the Gators defense did hold Richardson to 63 yards on 10 carries and Ingram to 47 yards on 12 runs. Quarterback Greg McElroy had seven runs for 33 yards. McElroy completed only 11 of 17 passes for only 84 yards.

Mark Barron led Alabama with nine primary tackles and two assists, including a sack. Courtney Upshaw had five primary tackles and two assists and was in on four tackles for loss.

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