Rapid Reaction: Alabama barely hangs on to deny Florida
No. 1 Alabama had its first true road game of the season and the Crimson Tide faced quite the test at No. 11 Florida on Saturday, with the game swinging on two missed conversions.
The Crimson Tide, in their first visit to Gainesville since 2011, hung on against the Gators and escaped The Swamp with a 31-29 victory in the SEC opener for both teams.
Florida running back Dameon Pierce ran for a 17-yard touchdown with 3:10 left in the game to bring the Gators within 31-29, the closest they had been since the first drive of the game. But Bama stuffed the 2-point conversion, made necessary because UF missed an extra point after an earlier TD.
Alabama ran down most of the clock on its ensuing drive. A punt left UF with 4 seconds remaining at its own 24-yard line. Bama s=came up with a sack on the final play to deny the Gators a chance at a Hail Mary throw.
On the previous drive, Alabama appeared set to go for it on 4th down for the second time in the second half, but a false start penalty led the Crimson Tide to settle for Will Reichard’s 23-yard field goal for a 31-23 lead with 9:22 left.
Gators quarterback Emory Jones capped a run-heavy, 99-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown run to bring the Gators within 28-23 late in the third quarter. At that point Florida had rushed for 210 yards in the game; Alabama had just 52 yards on the ground at that point even though the Tide had led the whole way.
The Gators got the ball to start the second half and drove 60 yards in 10 plays, capped by Dameon Pierce’s 3-yard touchdown run on 4th and 1. That brought UF within 21-16.
Jones had 195 yards passing and 76 rushing with the TD. He was going it alone at the quarterback spot with coach Dan Mullen saying in the pregame that backup Anthony Richardson (hamstring) would only play if Jones got injured.
On its first drive of the 3rd quarter, Alabama went for it on 4th and inches from the 3-yard line and running back Brian Robinson scored untouched for a 28-18 Tide lead.
The UF defense showed some major backbone in the second quarter after being pushed around in the first. Alabama went 3 and out on all three drives in the quarter, gaining just 4 yards. Bama dominated early, taking a 21-3 lead in the first quarter.
The Crimson Tide, ranked atop the Associated Press poll for the 133rd week in program history (extending the all-time record), drove 75 yards in 8 plays on their first possession to take a 7-0 lead. Young, making his first college road start, had a bit of a scare when he fumbled a snap inside the red zone. But he recovered the ball and, on the next play, hit Jase McClellan for a 7-yard touchdown on a swing pass.
The Gators responded with a fine 75-yard drive of their own but Bama broke up a 3rd-down pass at the goal line and UF settled for Chris Howard’s 25-yard field goal.
Bama drove 75 yards again, this time in 7 plays, capped by Young’s 26-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jahleel Billingsley for a 14-3 lead in the first quarter.
Jones was intercepted by defensive back Jalyn Armour-Davis, setting up the third Tide touchdown on three drives. Young hit Jameson Williams on a crossing route to convert on 3rd and 5, then connected with Robinson for a 7-yard touchdown and a 21-3 lead with 48 seconds left in the first quarter.
Malik Davis brought the Gators within 21-9 with a 26-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, though the score stayed at 21-9 when Howard missed the extra point.
The Tide outgained the Gators 172-81 in the first quarter.