Alabama provides bad memories for Roper

Kurt Roper remembers his last time coaching against an Alabama defense, and the hope is that Saturday will be different.

When Duke hosted Alabama during the 2010 season, the Crimson Tide came to Durham as the No. 1 ranked team in the country. And at the end of the day, there’s no question Alabama deserved the ranking.

The Crimson Tide put up 626 yards of offense, rolling one future NFL star after another into the end zone.

“That was an interesting ballgame,” Kurt Roper said. “If I’m remembering correctly, Mark Ingram it was his first game back from a knee. And it was Marcell Darius’ first game back. Early in that game, they give it to Mark Ingram and he scores. Next thing Julio Jones scores. You’re talking about first-rounders here.

“He scored and then we kick off to (Eddie Lacy), he fumbles it around, kicks it around a little bit, and picks it up at around the 6-yard line and runs a kickoff return for a touchdown. And then they brought their third back, Trent Richardson, so it was a day. That was a crew, now.”

That Alabama offense put up whatever number it wanted to on that day, averaging 9.0 yards per carry and 12 yards per pass attempt.

The Duke offense totaled 302 yards of offense, rushing for 162 yards and passing for 156 yards. They had 17 first downs against a loaded defense with future NFL players like Marcell Dareus, Dont’a Hightower, Dre Kirkpatrick and Mark Barron.

“That was a great collection of college football players and NFL football players, and there were guys all of field that are making money playing this game now,” Roper said. “It’s a credit to them doing a great job recruiting those players, coaching those players and evaluating those players to play well, but again, that was a long day.”

As the Florida offensive staff started to break down film of the Alabama defense, they’ve been able to lean on Will Muschamp because of his familiarity with Nick Saban’s defense.

The film shows a similar scheme to the one Florida runs, pressing the receivers off the line and trying to get after the quarterback. It’s much different from what the Gators saw last week. Kentucky came after the quarterback, but they played one-on-one in the secondary and allowed Demarcus Robinson to get off the line of scrimmage with ease and get open.

That won’t be the case in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide will press the Florida receivers, so if Jeff Driskel wants to get rid of the ball quickly before the pass rush gets to him, the Florida receivers have to get open on their own and help Driskel in the passing game.

“These guys do a great job of contesting every pass,” Roper said. “They like to press the receivers and pattern match a lot of things. They don’t give you a lot of layups. They’re hard to get separation from. They add the ability to rush the passer on top of that, shortening the time. Those are challenges. They’re physical up front and can get off blocks and make the run game difficult.

“They’re a well-coached defense, physical defense. It’s a challenge, an SEC football game in those standards, obviously playing one of the best minds in football between those guys on defense doing it and good football players.”

There’s a balance in the play calling for Roper this Saturday. The Gators have to hit shots down the field to stretch the defense and keep Alabama from playing eight defenders in the box to stop the run. However, the other key Roper mentioned was to stay out of second and long or third and long situations.

So taking a shot down the field on first down can be bad if the Gators don’t hit it. It’s an issue the Gators are weighing this week before deciding how to attack Alabama.

“Long down and distances with these guys are going to bring a lot of issues on third down,” Roper said. “You definitely want to stay on schedule. But at the same time, you’ve got to try to be aggressive and make plays down the field, too. It’s a balance. It makes third down more of a challenge if you don’t stay in good situations that way. But it’s important.”

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