By Terrance Turner
Sept. 18, 2021
Today, the Alabama Crimson Tide sought a win on the road. Batting the Florida Gators at the University of Florida, the Tide took a commanding early lead. But the Gators paired a strong defense and a vastly superior run game to give the Tide a run for their money.
In the first quarter, the Tide looked primed for a blowout. Alabama overcame a dropped snap and put together a 75-yard scoring drive. Running back Jace McClelland powered into the end zone for the touchdown. Alabama went up 7 to 0.
Florida used its run game to advance down the field, picking up yardage on play after play. They advanced as far as the 5-yard line, but were unable to overcome a stout Alabama defense. On 4th down, Florida settled for a 25-yard field goal, which was successful. The score was 7-3.
Alabama went 75 yards again on its ensuing drive. Quarterback Bryce Young threw to tight end Jameel Billingsley for the touchdown. Alabama led 14-3.
Florida QB Emory Jones was hit as he threw, and the ball was intercepted by cornerback Jalyn Armour-Davis. Alabama cashed in on the turnover. WR John Metchie had a big gain, and then Williams got the first down, advancing the Crimson Tide to first and goal. Bryan Robinson ran almost untouched into the end zone. An extra point attempt made it 21 to 3, with 48 seconds left in the first quarter.
As a second quarter got underway, so did the Gators’ drive. They stalled at midfield and attempted to go for it on 4th down. But Florida took too much time to start the play, which forced the head coach Dan Mullen to call a timeout. The Gators went for it on 4th down, but the pass was incomplete. They turned it over on downs. But Alabama also struggled to score despite the short field. They were compelled into their first punt of the game.
Florida’s drive was kept alive by a pass interference call on the Tide defense. That took the Gators to the 26-yard line. They capitalized on that penalty when Malik Davis broke free, dashing past the goal line. Florida had finally reached the end zone. But the kicker missed the extra-point kick, leaving it 21-9.
The Gator defense got its third stop of the game when it stopped Alabama with 4:50 left in the half. But they got stopped, too, before they could score. A promising drive was undone by an offensive holding penalty and a defensive sack of Jones. The Crimson Tide led 21-9 at halftime.
In the third quarter, Florida finally got within reach of the Crimson Tide. Dameon Pierce punched it in on fourth-and-1 from two yards out to cap off a 10-play, 75-yard drive coming out of the locker room to cut the lead to 21-16.
Alabama embarked on a long scoring drive marked by two very big referee calls. On third down, Mohammed Latu caught the ball, ran towards the first-down marker, and then extended his arms to extend the ball over the line of gain. After review, the refs decided that he had in fact gotten the first down. Then, on a run by McClelland, he fell across the first-down line but was ruled short after review.
Still, the Tide kept the drive alive. On 4th and inches, running back Brian Robinson Jr. cruised into the end zone from three yards out on fourth-and-1 to cap off a 13-play, 75-yard drive. Will Reichard made the extra-point kick that extended the Alabama lead, 28-16.
Florida embarked on a scoring drive of its own. Backed up in its own end zone, Florida advanced 99 yards to midfield and beyond. Once again, the Gators picked up major yards on the ground, with the Alabama defense utterly unable to stop the run. Florida’s drive was anchored by two dramatic catches by Steve Whittemore and was capped by a 5-yard rushing touchdown by QB Emory Jones. That made it 28-23, with 4:04 remaining in the third quarter.
Alabama put together a lengthy drive, marked by a dramatic goal-line saga. On 3rd and 3, Young slung the ball to Latu, who surged forward to the two-yard line to make it 1st and goal. Robinson stuffed before he could reach the end zone. YOUNG scrambled on 2nd and goal; he ran toward the 5-yard line. But instead of running, he threw to Latu. The ball got tipped, and though Latu easily made the catch, he stepped out of bounds. Then a timeout was called, further delaying the action. On 4th and goal, Alabama settled for a 24-yard field goal. Will Reichard made the kick to make it 31-23, with 9:52 left in the fourth quarter. But then Florida went 75 yards on 12 plays in just over six minutes. Gator running back Dameon Pierce ran 17 yards into the end zone to make it a two-point game.
Alabama now led just 31-29, with only 3:10 remaining. A two-point conversion would tie the game for Florida. But the try was unsuccessful. The game clock began malfunctioning shortly afterward. When the Tide ran their first play of the series — a 3-yard run by Brian Robinson to the Alabama 28 — the clock remained fixed on 3:10 (despite the fact that Florida scored with 3:08 left on the clock). The clock remained inoperable for a good portion of the Tide’s final drive, and Bryce Young had to rely on the play clock. The officials kept the official time. Still, Alabama managed the clock well enough to leave just four seconds for Florida on its final drive (which ended when Young was tackled by the defense). Alabama held on to win, 31-29. The Tide remain unbeaten at 3-0.