"There is a big difference between being ready and being prepared," Coach Urban Meyer said afterward. "And we got beat by a team that was better prepared. Pass defense had been one of our strengths, but today it wasn't. Brodie Croyle played brilliantly and Prothro is a heck of a player."
Mike Shula, Dave Rader, and Joe Kines receive high praise in this one. Offensively, the Crimson Tide went for the jugular of the big reptile early with a slant play early that resulted in Alabama's first score, an 87 yard pass from Brodie Croyle to Tyrone Prothro. Dee Webb demonstrated the same measure of aggressiveness that has earned him praise early in throughout the season, but he allowed Prothro to get behind him and had no help over the top from the safety.
Shula and company used an Alabama offensive line that included freshmen at the guard positions and tight end to beat a defense with a tremendous amount of experience along the front seven.
The Crimson Tide staff did something that Tennessee Coach Phil Fulmer and his staff weren't able to accomplish, solve the Gators. They effectively got the ball into the hands of their playmaker, Tyrone Prothro, until his injury with 8:53 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Gators were unable to solve Prothro and get the ball into the hands of wide receiver Chad Jackson often enough. Furthermore, they were unable to utilize the aforementioned experience of their defensive front .
There are two don'ts in the SEC. Rule one says…Don't give up big plays that allow the home team secure the early momentum. Rule two states…Don't allow rule one to happen again.
Unfortunately, Florida allowed big play after big play. Even when the momentum swung the Gators way after gunner Reggie Nelson nailed Prothro on a punt return and forced a fumble after Florida's first possession, the Gators failed to capitalize. That breaks rule number three.
Florida looked slow period. Offensively, the Florida receivers couldn't separate from the Alabama defensive backs. How many plays did Crimson Tide linebackers Ryans, Roach, and Simpson make coming up after dropping back in coverage. It got my attention when Chad Jackson was dropped repeatedly without being able to even begin to shake these guys.
Defensively, it was much of the same. Too often defensive backs were running behind Alabama receivers. Too often linebackers were running way, way behind Alabama receivers. And the Florida D-Line didn't have much to offer when Kenneth Darby ran through them.
The success of the Florida option is in large part build around the blocking successes of the receivers. While there were a few today, more often than not those were failures. For instance, Kenneth Tookes was blown up by an Alabama safety Charlie Peprah , who made the stop and in doing so, saved what appeared to be a certain Florida touchdown in the first quarter. Again, a great play by Alabama and a missed opportunity by the Gators.
Chris Leak was quick to point out the good job by his offensive line in the post game press conference, but that was hardly the case. Alabama has a very good front seven, but this was a game in which Florida needed leaders to step up early, among them from the big uglies
One of the most surprising things to come out of today's loss was the poor tackling by the Florida defense. The Gators missed several tackles when they were in position to make them. It wasn't a problem of one or two members of the team. This was across the boards.
Is this guy a catalyst or what? We told you in the preview that Prothro was a dangerous threat who was capable of giving the Gators fits as a receiver, runner, and special teams playmaker. He needed only one play to prove his worth and provide Alabama with the jumpstart they needed to send revved Bryant-Denny crowd into a frenzy.
While much of the talk centered around has centered around Florida quarterback Chris Leak, there was no question that Brodie Croyle made believers of many who doubted him. Croyle's quick release and accuracy were just tremendous. He finished 15 of 18 for 286 yards and three touchdowns. Stats aside, Croyle's leadership was evident both in the huddle and on the sidelines. He is the SEC Offensive Player of the Week.
"Croyle's passes were right on the dot," Meyers said. "He's an NFL quarterback and he played like it, too. Fifteen of eighteen for 286 yards are very good numbers."
While they certainly didn't look the part today, Croyle and Alabama accomplished the feat against a very talented secondary that when all is said and done will go down as one of the best units in 2005.
TIME OF POSSESSION
My how things have changed since the days of legendary Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant. Bryant's teams were renown for marching up and down the field while chewing up the clock. Today, the Crimson Tide jumped out to a 17-0 lead after one quarter of play while holding the ball all of 3:40.
THE GREAT SECONDARY DEBATE
One of the many interesting aspects going into this game was the great secondary debate. With two so highly ranked, whose was better? Today, it was Alabama, with an exclamation point.
A Florida secondary that hadn't given up a pass play for more than 31 yards all season was toasted, roasted, and basted by Brodie Croyle and the Alabama passing game. Two of Alabama's four touchdowns went for 87 and 65 yards respectively.
The Alabama crowd was tremendous. They too were prepared and they made things very difficult for Chris Leak and company.