Alabama barely beats Florida in SEC opener

GAINESVILE, Fla. – Ben Hill Griffin Stadium has gone quiet. In a game that came much closer than many expected, Gators fans entered the air with deafening chants as they made one last attempt to propel their team past the Alabama Crimson Tide.

This 31-29 defeat to the Gators confirmed what the Crimson Tide football team already knew, and what its opponents feared: this Alabama program, which predominant ohio state Just nine months ago, the recharge has been done and it is eyeing its next national title.

But Saturday’s performance wasn’t perfect for Crimson Tide. He delivered 12 penalties for 87 yards. He skipped his run game at Tuscaloosa, getting only 91 yards on the ground. He made mistakes down the stretch that prevented him from getting away from the gators, as receiver Slade Bolden dropped an impromptu touchdown pass in the center of the end zone in the third quarter.

The Alabama defense, which allowed just 135 yards on the ground against Miami and Mercer, surrendered 258 yards to the Gators, including a 17-yard touchdown run by Damon Pierce, late in the fourth. went to the end zone. Quarter to bring Florida within 2 points of completing the return.

A failed Florida 2-point effort followed that play, however, holding the Gators to a 2-point deficit and eventually getting them out of trouble.

What sets Alabama apart from almost any other team in the country is its ability to beat opponents on holidays like Saturdays.

Not that the Nick Saban-led team would be exempt from going any season – Alabama was Ranked No. 1 in The Associated Press’s Top-25 Pre-Season Poll — but it’s not the same team that beat the Buckeyes in the 2020 College Football Playoff Championship Game. Ten players who were fit for that game now play in the NFL. Typically, teams with that type of roster turnover see varying degrees of decline in the following season. He certainly wouldn’t be expected to make it to the playoffs race.

Last season, Louisiana State University hardly resembled the dominant team of 2019, winning a 15-0 season through the Southeastern Conference and the college football playoffs. It lost 14 players to the NFL a few months later, including running back quarterback Joe Burrow, Clyde Edwards-Heller and receiver Justin Jefferson, and was limited to a 5-5 record in 2020.

Alabama’s ability to churn out NFL-ready talent every season seems to be on the rise, while other teams spend years recruiting and building to the point that has created a gap between it and many others. And if Saturday’s game was any glimpse of what to expect from the Crimson Tide in conference play, it appears Saban has once again assembled a team looking to make another college football playoff appearance. ready for

“I talked about it when I came here,” said Florida coach Dan Mullen after the game, referring to his handling of the program in 2018. “I want a team that can compete for the championship on a consistent basis. And to do that, you have to beat Alabama.”

During his 15-year tenure at Tuscaloosa, Saban and his employees have shown a perennial ability to recruit and field talent at rates unmatched by even the most successful programs in the country.

Mike Loxley, Maryland coach and former Saban offensive coordinator, said in an interview this year that he believes Alabama’s embracing of a dazzling Hawaiian game helped the program attract a large number of talented players. When stars like Julio Jones electrified Tuscaloosa. .

“I would dare to say that if they are still turning around and trailing 45, 50 times in the game, it becomes harder to recruit skilled receivers,” he said. “But I think the numbers that people like Julio put in and Amari Cooper put in and then obviously Calvin Ridley put in, it kind of created the idea that you can go out there as a receiver and still have that amount of offense. can put numbers in the genre, and it allows you to recruit more people with that type of skill and that type of skill set, which then opens up your offense to be as diverse as they became. Huh. “

The Crimson Tide have never had a losing season under Saban and have avoided retreats, successfully reloading their roster every year. Saban’s program Signed the nation’s top recruiting class In eight of the last 10 seasons. It came in second only to Georgia in 2020 and 2018.

“Obviously, Coach Saban and his staff are the best recruiters, and they do an excellent job with the attitude of the team as well,” said Steve Spurrier, who won Heisman as Florida’s quarterback in 1966.

Spurrier pointed to the crowd as Florida’s biggest advantage in Saturday’s matchup. Although Saban said after the game that he thought sophomore quarterback Bryce Young managed the game well despite the noise of the crowd, the 90,000 fans at his home stadium, known as Swamp, certainly did. Changed the game, forcing Saban’s generally disciplined team. Making Mistakes.

Saban told reporters that some of the team’s errors were the result of snap count issues.

Saban later said, “The center had trouble hearing a couple of times and bowled the ball late,” later adding: “Overall I think there is a lot to learn. I hope our team will be able to learn from this experience.” Will learn from.”

Florida’s defence, which was heavily discredited in 2020 and in the first two games of the season, forced Young into some uncomfortable throws, leading to an imperfection, which stirred up Florida fans in attendance. But Florida’s offense consistently missed opportunities to take advantage of those wrong moves, and Alabama’s offense did enough to stay ahead.

“Our guys were expected to win the game today,” Mullen said, “when you play in a championship-level game, the margin for error is going to be very small.

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