Alabama's offense struggled in the Red Zone and had very costly turnovers. Bama's defense gave up long drives and big plays. As a result, Alabama let a possible Southeastern Conference road game get away for the second consecutive week. The loss to Florida left the Tide at 3-2 overall and 1-2 in SEC play.
Alabama returns to Bryant-Denny Stadium next Saturday to host Duke in a non-conference game. Kickoff will be at 6 p.m. CDT with the only television coverage on a Pay Per View basis.
Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson had a rough outing in what was the biggest challenge of his young career. He took a sack that may have cost Alabama critical points at the end of the first half and he suffered three interceptions that were returned 100 yards, one for a touchdown and one setting up a touchdown. Otherwise, he had a decent day, completing 21 of 40 passes for 205 yards.
Bama has been waiting for the Kenneth Darby of 2004 and 2005 to show up this year, and there was a positive sign that Darby is close to being back. Even though Alabama had to pass most of the fourth quarter, Darby was the game's leading rusher with 15 rushes for 74 yards, a smidgen under five yards per carry. He also had five receptions for 30 yards.
But Alabama's offense couldn't get a touchdown. Wilson had a few passes that might have been completed, but weren't–one to Matt Caddell and one to tight end Nick Walker, both in the end zone, and one to Keith Brown at the one-yard line. Twice the Tide got inside the Gators' 10-yard line and both times Bama had to settle for field goals.
Jamie Christensen returned as Alabama's placekicker on field goals and extra points. He made the two short ones, 21 and 26 yards, and the lone extra point try. At the end of the first half Bama was in position for another field goal, about a 40-yard try. But on the next-to-last play of the half Wilson took one of his three sacks, a 12-yard loss that turned that opportunity into a 52-yard try. Christensen missed it badly.
Alabama's lone touchdown came in the first quarter. Florida quarterback Chris Leak was trying to get his offense set when the shotgun snap hit him in the chest. Bama middle liinebacker Prince Hall picked the ball up at midfield and ran it to the end zone for a 7-0 lead.
Late in the first quarter the Tide started a drive in Florida territory. Bama had good field position because the kickoff coverage team, led by Jimmy Johns and Bryan Kilpatrick, pinned the Gators at the 10-yard line. On a third down play, Bobby Greenwood sacked Leak at the Florida 8. After a punt to Xavier Arenas, who returned it six yards, the Tide started at Florida's 44.
Wilson had a 14-yard scramble and Florida had a holding penalty to set the Tide up with a first down at the seven. But three plays later, Bama had picked up only four yards and Christensen kicked it to 10-0.
The Florida quarterback tandem of Leak and Tim Tebow got the Gators a touchdown in the second quarter. In hindsight, it would be a pivotal possession. Bama punter P.J. Fitzgerald had punted Florida to its own five-yard line. On first down, Leak through a poor pass, right into the hands of Alabama cornerback Ramzee Robinson. But Robinson couldn't hold it. Given new life, the Gators went 95 yards in 12 plays for the score. Leak had a 45-yard run in the drive and Tebow took it in from two yards out to cut the Tide lead to 10-7.
It looked like Bama might tack on three more points when Darby had a 21-yard run and Wilson connected with D.J. Hall on a 31-yard gain to the Florida 22 with time running out. But the sack of Wilson put the field goal try at seven-yards longer than Christensen has ever made, and–predictably–he missed.
Hall was something of a marked man by the Gators after his inappropriate behavior (imitating the Gator chomp and giving the illegal throat slash move) at the end of last year's 31-3 Crimson Tide win over Florida. Marked or not, Hall had a good day, six catches for 117 yards.
Florida took the lead midway through the third quarter with a seven-play, 80-yard drive, mostly through the air. The touchdown came on a 16-yard Leak to Andre Caldwell pass in which Alabama defensive backs had a couple of missed tackles.
Early in the third quarter, Bama pulled to within a point, but it would be the final Crimson Tide points. Alabama drove inside the Florida 10-yard line, but a third down pass to Walker was incomplete and the Tide settled for another field goal.
Wilson was intercepted at the Alabama 34 midway through the fourth quarter. The Gators took quick advantage of the opportunity, Leak hit Dallas Baker on a 21-yard pass to cap the four-play drive and make it 21-13.
It was still a one-possession situation for Alabama. The Tide needed a touchdown and two-point conversion to tie the game. It wasn't to be. Wilson had a couple of 14-yard pass completions to move Bama into Florida territory, but then Wilson had a pass picked off by Reggie Nelson at the Florida 30. Nelson returned it 70 yards for a touchdown and the nail in the coffin with 4:19 to play.
Statistically, the game was close. Bama had 20 first downs (9 rushing, 10 passing, one by penalty), Florida 18 (11-6-1). Alabama had 72 plays for 306 yards,. 4.3 per play, Florida 55 plays for 325 yards, 5.9 per play. The Tide having three passes intercepted was offset a bit by Florida losing two fumbles. Alabama was penalized five times for 32 yards, Florida nine times for 54 yards. Alabama converted 8-15 on third down, Florida 4-11.