The No. 2/3 Alabama Crimson Tide proved worthy of its lofty ranking, handing the No. 12 University of Florida a 38-10 defeat at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium Saturday night before a crowd of 90,888, the second largest in school history.
Florida (4-1, 2-1 SEC) had all the momentum early, but Alabama (5-0, 2-0 SEC) took control of the game in the second quarter before erasing a 10-3 deficit with 35 straight points. Alabama running back Trent Richardson has put on a show, carrying the ball 29 times for 181 yards and two touchdowns.
The Gators vaunted rushing attack was kept in check, as they have 11 yards rushing. The duo of Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey has been held to 8 yards on 14 carries. The Gators did most of their damage through the air, as John Brantley went 11-of-16 for 190 yards, a touchdown and an interception, but went down with an injury late in the first half and was replaced by true freshman Jeff Driskel. The Gators offense never recovered after Brantley’s injury Saturday night, mustering just 44 yards of offense in the second half.
The Gators grabbed a quick lead on a 65-yard strike from Brantley to Andre Debose on the game’s first play and a 21-yard field goal by Caleb Sturgis, while Alabama got a field goal from Jeremy Shelley, two touchdowns from Richardson, an interception return from Courtney Upshaw and a short sneak by quarterback A.J. McCarron.
After receiving the kick, the Gators wasted little time, as Brantley went deep on the game’s opening play, finding Debose streaking down the far left side of the field as he got behind his defender.
The Crimson Tide cut into the Gators’ lead with an impressive opening drive, marching 52 yards on 12 plays, taking 4:54 off the clock before getting a 32-yard field goal from Shelley to make it 7-3. Richardson carried a bulk of the load on the drive with five rushes for 35 yards.
Brantley continued to move the Gators down the field through the air on their second possession, connecting with Deonte Thompson for a 30-yard and 13-yard gains on a pair of third-and-longs.
It appeared that Brantley and Debose connected for a second touchdown on a second-and-goal from the Alabama 4-yard line. The play was originally ruled a touchdown but after an official review Debose was ruled not to have had possession. Two plays later Sturgis chipped in a 21-yarder to extend the Gators’ lead.
Alabama came right back after Marquis Maze returned the ensuing kick-off 70 yards, setting up the Tide on the Gators’ 29-yard line. Maze later converted a third-and-14 to the Gators’ 1-yard line. After a penalty, Richardson took it in from 5 yards out to knot the game 10-10.
The Gators appeared to be on the move after Brantley hit Debose for a 25-yard gain to the Alabama 43-yard line. After a sack moved the Gators back, Brantley was intercepted by Upshaw who returned it 46 yards to give the Tide their first lead, 17-10.
The Tide added to its lead late in the first half, marching 61 yards on 10 plays and capping its drive with a 1-yard sneak by McCarron to extend the lead to 24-10. The Gators twice had the Tide in third-and-long, but McCarron found Brad Smelley for a 16-yard gain and a short dump to Richardson with the blitz on that turned into a 22-yard gain, putting Alabama inside the Gators’ 5-yard line and setting up the score.
The Gators responded with a strong drive getting all the way down to the Alabama 15-yard line keyed by a 25-yard pass play from Brantley to Chris Rainey. A pair of sacks, however, moved the Gators back to the 35-yard line, the second of which was more costly as Brantley went down with an injury and trainers took him to the locker room and he would not return. Sturgis then missed a 52-yard attempt, his first miss this season after hitting his first 12 attempts.
Florida finished with 176 yards of offense in the first half (193 passing, -17 rushing) while Alabama had a very balanced 177 yards, getting 95 yards passing and 82 yards rushing.
Neither team established offensive tempo in the third quarter as the squads combined for six punts. Early in the fourth quarter, however, Alabama marched 92 yards on a 11 plays and capped the drive with a 36-yard touchdown run by Richardson, his second touchdown on the night.
After a Florida fumble the Tide wasted little time putting an exclamation point on the game with a 20-yard touchdown run by Eddie Lacy to make it 38-10.
Alabama wore the Gators down methodically, finishing with 366 yards of offense, 226 yards on the ground and 140 passing. Florida finished with 222 yards of offense, 207 through the air and just 15 on the ground.
The road ahead gets no easier for the Gators as next up is a trip to No. 1/2 LSU at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge next Saturday (3:30 p.m., CBS).