“We need to make some changes,” Florida head coach Will Muschamp said post game after the third-ranked Crimson Tide racked up 645 yards – 449 through the air – and scored six offensive touchdowns. “That’s going to happen.”
This was a 21-21 game following Florida’s first possession of the second half when Jeff Driskel ran a quarterback draw up the gut for a touchdown following an interception return by Antonio Morrison gave the Gators the ball on the Alabama 16. With 12:42 remaining in the third quarter, this looked like a game the Gators could hang around and possibly win even with a sputtering offense.
But that was as good as it got for Florida.
From that point on, Alabama dominated the Gators on both sides of the ball. The Tide answered the Florida touchdown with a 16-play, 66-yard drive, going 5-5 on third down conversions including a 28-yard screen pass from Blake Sims to Derrick Henry that turned third and 23 into first and goal at the UF three. Henry finished off the drive with a three-yard scoring run, but Florida was out of answers.
The Gators went three-and-out when they got the ball back. Alabama answered with an eight-play, 80-yard scoring drive that featured consecutive running plays of 23, 25 13 and 10 yards and finished with a four-yard touchdown pass from Jacob Coker to Amari Cooper with 21 seconds left in the quarter.
When the Gators turned the ball over on their next possession, Alabama answered with a six-play, 60-yard scoring drive that finished with a six-yard touchdown pass from Sims to Cooper with 10:10 left in the game.
By that time it was also abundantly clear that Florida’s offense was no match for the Alabama defense. While the Alabama offense was busy going 12-16 on third down conversions, Florida was just 2-13, and that’s something you just can’t do and expect to win on the road in the SEC, much less against a defense as physical and talented as Alabama’s.
The Gators came into the game averaging well over 500 yards per game. They managed just 200 against Alabama – 93 on the ground and 107 through the air. That’s one yard less than Cooper burned the Florida secondary – 10 catches, 201 yards and three touchdowns.
Florida managed only two offensive touchdowns and both of them came after Alabama turnovers. The Gators also got a defensive touchdown from Keanu Neal, who scooped up a fumble caused by Neiron Ball and ran it back 49 yards for a touchdown that gave the Gators a 14-7 lead with 9:42 to go in the first quarter. Florida’s first touchdown came on a Driskel pass to Valdez Showers after a Kenyan Drake fumble caused by Ball and recovered by Vernon Hargreaves III.
While Florida struggled to generate any kind of offensive momentum, Alabama struggled to hold onto the football. Still, the Tide led at the half, 21-14, despite three turnovers thanks to three touchdown passes by Sims, who finished the day 23-33 for 445 yards and four touchdowns. Sims threw an 87-yard touchdown pass to Drake on Alabama’s first offensive play of the game. He also threw a 79-yard touchdown pass to Cooper with 4:12 left in the first quarter.
Bama wasn’t the only team having troubles holding onto the ball, however. Driskel threw an interception on the only Florida drive of the day that really showed promise. A Matt Jones fumble on the first play after a shanked Bama punt gave the Gators a short field to work with (starting position Alabama 49) and that led to a 56-yard scoring drive that culminated with a Sims to Jalston Fowler pass that provided the 21-14 halftime margin.
In the second half, Florida’s offense ran only 21 offensive plays and the defense couldn’t get the Crimson Tide off the field. For the game, the Gators averaged only 3.3 yards per pass attempt and 3.6 per offensive play. Alabama ran 76 offensive plays and averaged 8.48 per play overall and 12.5 per pass attempt.
Fortunately for Florida, there is a week off before traveling to Tennessee. The Gators have the extra week to regroup, study the film, plug the leaks and figure things out. They don’t play again until October 4 when they travel to Knoxville to face a much-improved Tennessee team that has lost 10 straight games to UF.
ALABAMA 7, FLORIDA 0: Alabama got the mismatch it wanted on its first offensive play of the game when middle linebacker Antonio Morrison had the coverage on running back Kenyan Drake. Drake blew by Morrison and there was safety was too late to help. Blake Sims’ pass was caught in stride and Drake sped into the end zone to complete an 87-yard scoring play. Adam Griffith kicked the extra point to make it 7-0 with 13:47 left in the quarter.
FLORIDA 7, ALBAMA 7: The Gators got a touchdown on third and seven from the Alabama 28 when Jeff Driskel looked right then came back to his left where Valdez Showers beat Jabriel Washington on a simple out route from the slot. It was an easy pitch and catch for the touchdown with 11:26 left. Frankie Velez tied the game with the extra point. The three-play, 31-yard scoring drive was set up by a turnover. Marcus Maye stripped Drake and Vernon Hargreaves III recovered at the Florida 31.
FLORIDA 14, ALABAMA 7: The Gators took the lead on a defensive touchdown when Neiron Ball stripped the ball from Alabama receiver DeAndrew White and Keanu Neal scooped up the loose ball and returned it 49 yards for the score with 9:24 remaining in the first quarter. Frankie Velez added the extra point to put the Gators ahead, 14-7.
ALABAMA 14, FLORIDA 14: This was another one-play scoring drive for Alabama. Amari Cooper simply split the Florida zone, busting wide open with a simple fake that sent Neal to the sideline while he continued running down the middle of the field where Sims hit him in stride for a 79-yard touchdown. Griffith’s extra point tied the game at 14-14 with 4:12 left.
ALABAMA 21, FLORIDA 14: The Gators failed to capitalize on extraordinary field position twice, taking over on the Bama 35 after a Blake Sims fumble and the Bama 49 after a shanked punt. It was after the punt that Matt Jones fumbled the ball at the Alabama 44 that the Crimson Tide put together a scoring drive that lasted more than one play. A Florida personal foul by Darius Cummings gave the drive momentum with key plays a 19-yard Sims to Jalson Fowler pass and an 11-yard run by Derrick Henry. The touchdown came on a two-yard Sims to Fowler pass with 7:19 left in the half. Griffith added the extra point to cap the six-play, 56-yard drive.
FLORIDA 21, ALABAMA 21: Neiron Ball made his presence known for the second time in the game, tipping a Blake Sims pass that was intercepted by Antonio Morrison and run back to the Bama 16 on the opening series of the second half. On the second play after the turnover, Driskel ran a quarterback draw straight up the gut to power into the end zone with 12:42 left in the quarter. Velez added the tying extra point.
ALABAMA 28, FLORIDA 21: Alabama had an answer for Florida’s touchdown, a 16-play, 66-yard drive that took 7:15 off the clock. The backbreaker on the drive was a 28-yard screen pass to Derrick Henry on a third and 23 at the Alabama 31. The Gators were poised to force an Alabama field goal when Sims lofted a little screen in the left flat to Henry who had space to run and was helped by two missed Florida tackles before he went out of bounds at the three. Henry scored on the next play to give Bama the lead with 5:27 remaining in the quarter. Griffith’s extra point extended the lead to seven. Alabama was 5-5 on third down conversions on the drive.
ALABAMA 35, FLORIDA 21: Following a three-and-out by the Alabama defense, the Crimson Tide went 80 yards in eight plays, scoring on a four-yard touchdown pass from Jacob Coker to Cooper with 21 seconds left in the quarter. On the second play of the drive, Sims left the game with a shoulder injury after a 24-yard run. Jacob Coker came in to direct the last six plays, with Henry picking up 38 on consecutive plays followed by a 10-yard run by T.J. Yeldon.
ALABAMA 42, FLORIDA 21: After Landon Collins picked off a Driskel pass and returned it to the Bama 40, the Crimson Tide drove 60 yards in eight plays, scoring on a 6-yard Blake Sims out pass to Amari Cooper.