Alabama Offense Falters In Loss

Conventional wisdom for this season was that Alabama's offense might have to carry the Crimson Tide. Bama's offense is making things exciting, but not getting the job done on a consistent basis. Moreover, the Tide offense gave up what would be a critical touchdown to FSU.

Playing an unusual neutral site game in Jacksonville, Fla., Florida State took a 21-14 win over Bama. Neither team was able to muster any offense in the first half. In the second half the Seminoles got it going on offense and continued to stymie the Crimson Tide, save for last second theatrics that were too little, too late.

Much was made of FSU Coach Bobby Bowden, a native Alabamian and longtime Alabama fan, getting a win in his first game as coach against the Crimson Tide.

The loss dropped Alabama to 3-2 on the season and was the Crimson Tide's second consecutive loss. Bama, which is 2-1 in Southeastern Conference games, continues out of conference play next week. Alabama will host Houston for homecoming with kickoff at 2 p.m.

FSU made the bold move of changing quarterbacks and Xavier Lee takikng over for Drew Weatherford seemed to ignite the Seminoles offense.

The teams played to a scoreless first half, with most of the play on the South side of sold out Jacksonville Municipal Stadium. A brisk wind influenced everything about the play in the first half, including FSUÕs decision to defer after winning the coin toss. That wind also forced Bama to both kick off and go into the wind in third quarter in order to have the wind in the fourth stanza.

Alabama played the entire first quarter with its back to the goalline. The Tide couldn't get a first down against the Seminoles and Bama punter P.J. Fitzgerald couldn't kick FSU back. While Alabama was starting drives at its 20 twice, 9 and 29, Florida State was beginning its offensive work from 47, 43, Alabama 41 and FSU 45. Bama's deepest penetration was to its own 32.

Both teams just missed having great opportunities. In the first quarter, an Alabama punt hit a FSU man and became a free ball at the FSU 43, but the Seminoles recovered the ball.

FSU had the closest chance at a score. After the Seminoles started at the Tide 41, on fourth and two Florida State placekicker Gary Cismesia was -- and FSU partisans are familiar with this -- wide right on his 46-yard field goal attempt 4:47 before the end of the first quarter.

Things picked up a little in the second half, but not much. Again, the closest opportunities were missed opportunities. FSU had a 27-yard run to the Alabama 23 wiped out by a penalty. Bama finally got into FSU territory at the FSU 47 with 3:03 to play before halftime. That drive got to the FSU 36 on first down. But the Tide offense fell apart and never challenged for a score.

Bama's first good play of the game was a second quarter pass from John Parker Wilson to Terry Grant, who made it a 27-yard gain. That was more than one-third of Alabama's entire first half offense, which was 29 plays for 78 yards (10 rushed for 11 yards, 11 of 19 passing for 67 yards). The Tide had three first downs.

But the Alabama defense was doing its job. FSU's offensive numbers were also low: five first downs, 19 rushes for 39 yards, 8-14 passing for 50 yards, and 33 plays for 89 yards.

FSU came out strong offensively in the second half. With back-up quarterback Xavier Lee running the offense, the Seminoles went quicklly to a 7-0 lead. Florida State drove 67 yards in eight plays with Lee completing a 7-yard pass to Di'Cody Fagg for the touchdown. Lee completed all five of his pass attempts in the drive, including plays of 14 yards to Fagg and 28 to Greg Carr in the3 four-minute drive.

The Seminoles got another of Lee's dramatic plays on the next possession. A fine punt pinned the Seminoles inside the 15, but Lee connected with Greg Carr on a 56-yard completion to the Alabama 29. Fortunately for the Tide, it came to nothing. Prince Hall made a huge defensive play for Bama, picking off Lee at the six and returning the ball to the Alabama 17.

It looked like that might spark the offense. After a first down, Wilson hit D.J. Hall on a 27-yard completion to the FSU 46 and a eight-yard gain to the 38. Glenn Coffee picked up the first down at the 33. A pass to Nick Walker got eight, but a procedure penalty made it third and seven. Wilson was then sacked for a loss of eight. Alabama was out of field goal range and a punt into the end zone was the end of the opportunity.

Alabama got the wind to start the fourth quarter, but things didn't go as expected. The Seminoles were forced to punt, but Graham Gano showed no problems with the breeze. He booted one 54 yards dead to the Alabama 15. After an exchange of punts, Bama was starting at its 13 with just over 10 minutes to play.

Things couldn't have gone worse for Alabama. Not only did the series start with a sack of Wilson, it ended with another one. On this one Wilson fumbled the ball. Everett Brown caused the fumble and was recovered at the five by Letroy Guion.

On first down, Antone Smith ran it in for a 14-0 FSU lead.

Alabama pulled to within a touchdown with an exceptional drive. Bama went 91 yards in 13 plays and took just under four minutes to pull the Tide to within 14-7. It looked like it might be another frustrating failure. After making a first down at the FSU seven, it took four plays for the TD. And it was close. The score was a seven-yard pass from Wilson to D.J. Hall in the back of the end zone that had to be confirmed by replay officials. Leigh Tiffin kicked the extra point.

Glen Coffee had a pair of 11-yard runs and Wilson had runs of 10 and eight yards in the drive. Hall had an excellent catch of a Wilson pass for a 24-yard gain.

But any hope Alabama had of a miracle comeback disappeared moments after the kickoff. It took just one play and 13 seconds -- Lee to Fagg on a 70-yard touchdown pass.

Both FSU passing touchdowns were at the expense of Alabama's Marquis Johnson, who had replaced Lionel Mitchell at right cornerback.

Bama seemed to have spent its last chance when a long pass to Keith Brown at the goalline was broken up with just under three minutes to play. But Alabama used its timeouts and got the ball back 44 seconds later. On fourth and 10 from the Alabama 40, Wilson connected with Matt Caddell for 25 yards. Wilson scrambled for a 18-yard gain to the FSU 17, then connected with Brown in the end zone. Brown was injured on the play, but held on for the score.

Improbably, Alabama had one more chance to pull off a miracle. Alas, a nice onside kick hit an Alabama player before it went nine yards, and that last faint hope was gone.

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