The 11th ranked Florida Gators (2-1) hosted the defending national champion Crimson Tide in front of 90,887 fans, the fifth largest crown in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium history.
The No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (3-0) made the work look easy against the Gators in the first quarter, scoring touchdowns on their first three drives of the game against a Florida team who have been struggling to find some mojo on offense and defense. But what is crazy to me, is that Florida outplayed Alabama in the next three quarters and I give majority credit to the deafening environment in the stadium.
Even though the Gators took a 31-29 loss on paper, there were plenty of positive notes to take away from Saturday’s game. Redshirt junior quarterback Emory Jones looked like a totally different quarterback despite, the defense held their own and kept Alabama under 100 rushing yards, and the offensive line played a tremendous game. You may see the Gators return for a rematch in Atlanta for the SEC Championship if everything goes as planned and they continue to play like this.
I don’t expect a moral victory from this game. But this is not a bad loss. Yes, a loss is a loss on paper, and Alabama has won eight straight against us and 32 against an SEC East opponent, but this is not a ‘bad’ loss in my book. Florida showed much better improvement across the board and they proved on Saturday that they can play with any team in the country.
Miscues cost the Gators’
Let’s first point out the poor tackling performance by the Gators defense in the first quarter. No matter what opponent Florida faces, missed open tackles are unacceptable. Especially when competing against a high caliber team like Alabama. But I tip my hat to the Gator defense. After allowing a three touchdown drive in the first quarter, they managed to hold the Alabama offense to just three yards of offense in the second quarter and just one touchdown in the entire second half.
The Gators had four costly pass interference calls, three of them which occurred on third down after forcing a stop to Alabama’s offense. Alabama capitalized with a new set of downs. It brought back Déjà vu last year when Florida made a crucial third down stop against LSU at home before Marco Wilson decided to throw a shoe and give LSU a new set of downs. To beat the best team in the country, third down penalties are far too big to screw up in situations like yesterday. And to beat teams like Alabama, Florida will need to overcome these types of plays in a game.
A missed extra point in the second quarter was also a huge factor in yesterday’s loss. After a 26-yard touchdown run by Malik Davis, Chris Howard’s PAT was unsuccessful and left the Gators trailing 21-9 at the half. If the extra point was successful, there would have been no need to go for the two-point conversion in the fourth quarter and the game would have been tied up 31-31. And who knows what happens next. Between the Gators momentum in the fourth and the electrifying crowd, there is no doubt in my mind Florida pulls out the win.
At the end of the day, all the Gators can do is keep pushing forward and continue to improve throughout the season. Although the end result was not in favor, I am extremely proud how these guys came out with fire and failed to give up when they got down. And I tip my hat to the Gator offensive line who assisted to Florida’s 245 rushing yards and the Gator defense for keeping Alabama in check from the second quarter to the end. The season is far from over and it looks promising for this young talented Gator team.
The Gators are back in the Swamp next Saturday for a night game as they host Tennessee for another SEC showdown at 7:00pm est.