From the moment Callaway scored, Alabama went into its beast mode. The Crimson Tide scored on its next two possessions before the halftime intermission for a 12-7 lead then added a field goal and a TD to stretch on its first two possessions of the second half to stretch the lead out to 22-7. During that stretch of five Alabama possessions, the Gators did three 3-and-outs, plus threw an interception.
Florida was outgained, 437-180 and was dominated in time of possession, 43:29-16:31. The Gators managed 15 rushing yards and 165 through the air. Alabama, which had a 25-7 margin in first downs, ran for 233 yards and passed for 204.
“They dominated the line of scrimmage,” Florida coach Jim McElwain said. “That’s what big, strong highly recruited guys do.”
Still, the Gators acquitted themselves well. They held Heisman Trophy front runner Derrick Henry in check most of the game. Henry barely had 60 yards at the half. That he finished with 189 yards on 44 carries was more about Florida’s defense giving out of gas than anything else.
As the Florida defense wore down, Henry picked up the bulk of his yardage but it never was easy. His longest gain of the night was 21 yards. The real thorn in Florida’s side was Alabama QB Jacob Coker, who completed 18-26 of his passes for 204 yards and 2 TDs. Both of his touchdown passes were third down conversions, one for 33 yards to ArDarius Stewart and the other for 9 to Richard Mullaney.
Although the Gators struggled to move the ball early, the offense went into the deep freeze after the Callaway TD. From that point until just under 6 minutes to go, the Gators were held without a first down. Florida got a first down on a 15-yard Treon Harris to DeAndre Goolsby pass with just over 14 minutes remaining in the half and then didn’t get another one until Harris connected with Jake McGee for 17 yards in the fourth quarter. That jump started an 81-yard scoring drive that took only three plays. After the pass to McGee, Harris hit Valdez Showers for 18 yards and followed that up with a 46-yard touchdown pass to C.J. Worton.
What happened in between the first down to Goolsby and the scoring drive was indicative of how Bama dominated. The Gators went 3-and-out five times and Harris threw an interception on the other possession.
Alabama, meanwhile, squeezed off 84 offensive plays to 46 for the Gators. When Bama wasn’t grinding out the yards on scoring drives, the Tide defense was making life miserable for Harris, who was sacked five times, threw the interception and was only 9-24 passing for 165 yards.
Alabama will represent the Southeastern Conference in the College Football Playoff, most likely as the #2 seed. Florida will most likely land in the Sugar Bowl or the Citrus Bowl.
ALABAMA 2, FLORIDA 0; 9:05
Florida’s second possession of the game began at the UF 13 and went nowhere. On 4th-and-10 from the 13, Alabama loaded up the left side in an all out attempt to rush the punter and that allowed Keith Holcombe to run untouched. Holcombe laid out and blocked Johnny Townsend’s punt with the ball rolling out of the end zone before any Crimson Tide player could fall on the ball for a touchdown.
FLORIDA 7, ALABAMA 2; 11:53
Florida’s defense forced a 3-and-out on Alabama’s first possession of the second quarter, forcing a punt by Bama’s J.K. Scott. Scott’s 57-yarder outkicked his coverage, giving Callaway a 15-yard running start into the heart of the Alabama coverage unit. He made one move to split two Bama defenders at the 30, then it became a dead sprint to the end zone, which was a total mismatch. Callaway’s 85-yard TD return was the longest punt return in SEC Championship Game history. Neil MacInnes came on to kick the extra point to give the Gators a 7-2 lead.
ALABAMA 5, FLORIDA 7; 5:45
Alabama put together its first sustained drive of the game following the Callaway TD, driving 14 plays and picking up four first downs as the Crimson Tide moved from its own 25 to the Florida 11 before the drive bogged down. Critical in the drive were two runs by quarterback Jacob Coker, one for 17 and another for 10 that gave the Crimson Tide a first down at the UF 16. But the UF defense stiffened, held Alabama to five yards and that brought on Adam Griffith to knock down a 28-yard field goal to cut Florida’s lead to two points with 5:45 to go.
ALABAMA 12, FLORIDA 7; 2:26
After forcing a 3-and-out by the Gators, Alabama got the ball in decent field position at its own 42. On first down, Coker went deep off play action and found Calvin Ridley between Marcus Maye and Vernon Hargreaves at the UF 3. From there Derrick Henry got the ball on consecutive plays, taking it in from the 3 with 2:26 left. Griffith’s extra point gave Alabama the 12-7 lead it took into the locker room at the half.
ALABAMA 15, FLORIDA 7; 8:04
This 13-play scoring drive that took the first 6:56 of the third quarter off the clock was a gift thanks to a roughing the passer penalty on Jarrad Davis that gave Alabama a first down. On 3rd-and-11 at the Bama 39, Florida flushed Coker out of the pocket where he threw an incomplete pass, but Davis clearly hit him late and the 15-yard penalty extended the drive. Alabama converted a critical 4th-and-2 from the Florida 38 when Coker rolled right and hit ArDarius Stewart for a 17-yard gain to the UF 21. Florida’s defense dug in and forced a field goal attempt. Griffith came on to kick his second field goal of the game from 30 yards out for an 8-point Bama lead.
ALABAMA 22, FLORIDA 7; 2:49
On Alabama’s next possession, the Crimson Tide needed 10 plays to drive 81 yards for a touchdown, the score coming on a 33-yard pass from Coker to ArDarius Stewart, who caught the ball between three Gators.
ALABAMA 29, FLORIDA 7; 8:50
Going against a Florida defense that was completely out of gas, Alabama drove the ball 57 yards in 9 plays for a touchdown. A 21-yard run by Henry and completions of 11 yards from Coker to Ridley and 8 yards to Mullaney set up a 9-yard TDP from Coker to Mullaney.
FLORIDA 15, ALABAMA 29; 5:02
The Gators found some offense for the first time since the first quarter after the Bama TD. Harris completed three passes in a row – a 17-yarder to Jake McGee, a 19-yarder to Valdez Showers and then a 46-yard TDP to C.J. Worton, who outleapt two Bama defenders in the end zone with 5:02 to go. The Gators elected to go for two and Harris got the ball in the end zone when he rolled to his right, saw an opening then ran through contact at the 1 to get the points.