“We just had to talk to each other and tell everybody to stop turning over the ball,” said Alabama senior fullback Jalston Fowler. “We talked it out. We outlasted our opponent. That’s what Coach Saban tells us about, all the time.”
So, why the three lost fumbles and one interception? “I’m not sure,” Fowler said. “But we got some turnovers of our own (the team’s first two interceptions, and a recovered fumble). That’s what we harped on all week in practice. That’s what they mean when they say ‘Built by Bama.’”
Fowler caught two passes for 21 yards and a touchdown. He saw his teammate, wide receiver Amari Cooper, haul in 10 balls for 201 yards and 3 touchdowns. “Sometimes when they double-team (Cooper), it means somebody else is open,” Fowler said
Like Fowler, Cooper discussed how the Tide bounced back from a lot of self-inflicted errors early. “The first half, we didn’t have the ball security. We gave them all they got. The second half, we came out and executed.”
Cooper became the Alabama all-time receiving leader Saturday, but was laid back when informed. “Yeah, they told me about that a few minutes ago. “Yeah, I’m very happy about that,” was about all he would volunteer. Cooper was more interested in discussing the day he had against All-American corner back Vernon Hargreaves and the rest of the Gators’ secondary.
“(Hargreaves) is a great player. He’s strong, and he’s fast,” Cooper noted. “I took what I watched on film, and I tried to take advantage of it.” And what, pray tell, did Cooper see? “I don’t want to share that,” he responded at first, but a few moments later, he did: “Most of the game, they ‘bailed’ with their corners, and we took advantage of that.
“I think Coach (Lane) Kiffin is a very smart offensive coordinator. He knows what he’s doing. He takes advantage of matchups.
Despite a fumble and an interception, senior quarterback Blake Sims had his finest day in Crimson. Sims completed 23-of-33 passes for 445 yards and 4 touchdowns. As always, he took very little credit. Of his performance, Sims called it “pretty fine. When you’ve got great guys that want to play hard, a great offensive line that learns the scheme every week, when you have great wide receivers who want to fight for the ball, and when you have three great running backs like T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake, you can’t help but have a great game. I’m just blessed to have these guys beside me. The guys were just at the right spot at the right time, and doing what the coaches have taught them. We just believe in our coaches and believe in one another.”
On a day when players not named Cooper made plays like Derick Henry, DeAndrew White, Fowler and O.J. Howard, Sims said, ““That was big. Everybody keeps thinking that (Cooper) is the only got we have, but for the other guys come out and make plays for us as well and that is very big for us.”
That said, Sims saw what the other 101 thousand at Bryant-Denny saw. “(Cooper) was very impressive. He put on a good show for everybody today.”
Sims said the 21-7 advantage Alabama posted in the final two quarters showed him something about his team. “We see that we can overcome bad things when they happen.”
One bad thing that happened to Sims came when he had to exit the game briefly with a bruised shoulder, but says Tide fans shouldn’t be too concerned. “I’ll be all right. I’m fine,” he said. “I’ll have ice, ice, ice all week, and hopefully I’ll be ready for Ole Miss (the Tide’s next opponent after a bye week).”
Like Cooper, Sims took a moment to pay homage to his offensive coordinator and position coach, Kiffin. “He keeps me calm,” Sims explained. “He lets me know he has all the confidence in the world in me. He sits me down, and shows me how to take what the defense gives me.”
A man on defense who did some taking away of his own Saturday was Alabama junior All-American safety Landon Collins, who posted five tackles, an interception, and two pass break-ups. Collins said he was happy with how the Alabama defense limited Florida to but 200 yards of total offense. “The performance on defense was really good,” he said. “We had communication going on all over the field. We stayed in tune with each other and we had great composure. Our big concept today was to get turnovers – interceptions or strips, anything we could get. That was our big thing, because if you want to be a champion, that’s what you need to do as a defense.
“We played sound, and we executed,” he said. “It was comforting to me that we got some turnovers. Coach (Saban) harped on that week. In the past, that’s what our great teams did here.”
Asked to describe his interception of an errant Jeff Driskel pass, Collins said, “I just saw how (Driskel) was reading his keys, and I just baited the quarterback to what I saw. I just went up there and got the ball, any way possible.” By “any way possible,” Collins meant with one hand.
Collins said getting the first league win under the team’s belt was huge. “The Florida win is fantastic for us. It is SEC play and one of the big games that you have to win because it can make or break your season. Going into the off week, we have to get at all of our fundamentals, reading our keys, and getting better at what we are doing.