A turnover-filled yet nevertheless tied game in the third quarter turned into a 42-21 blowout victory for the No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide (4-0, 1-0 SEC), which dominated the third quarter and stomped on the visiting Florida Gators (2-1, 1-1 SEC) on Saturday afternoon at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Head coach Will Muschamp spoke with the media after the devastating defeat.
HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS
» Alabama improved to 24-14 all-time against Florida and now holds an 8-5 edge in games played in Tuscaloosa. UA has won four-straight games against UF, outscoring it 143-50 in those contests.
» The Gators are now 4-13 against ranked opponents under Muschamp.
» Florida is now 4-14 under Muschamp when tied or trailing at the half and 5-12 when an opponent scores 21 points or more in a game.
» The Gators’ defense gave up a school-record 645 total yards on Saturday.
» Florida forced four turnovers on Saturday and is now +8 on the season after coughing up three of its own.
» The Gators allowed the Crimson Tide to convert seven-straight third-down attempts including all six they tried in the third quarter of the game. Alabama finished 12-for-16 on third downs, while Florida was a paltry 2-of-13.
» All 21 of UF’s points on Saturday came off turnovers.
» The Gators did not call a single timeout on Saturday.
» The Crimson Tide completely dominated the third quarter, outgaining the visitors 160-41, out-possessing them 12:02-2:58 and converting six third downs (two for touchdowns).
» Sophomore safety Keanu Neal’s fumble return touchdown was Florida’s first since 2011 and the sixth-longest in school history (49 yards).
» Redshirt senior wide receiver Quinton Dunbar has now caught a pass in 31-straight games. He is four games away from tying a school record for most consecutive contests with a reception.
» Redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel completed just 32.1 percent of his passes on Saturday, the lowest mark in his career for a game he started and did not leave due to injury. His 57.5 quarterback rating was the lowest of his career for a game he started.
“[We] had our opportunities certainly with the turnovers we created, knocked the ball off them a couple times. First play of the game [for Alabama], man situation, outside, bit on the double move; good execution on their part. They hit us on the double move and then we busted coverage, supposed to be rolling over to the middle of the field, we don’t, 79-yarder. That’s 14 points [on two plays] in the first half. You can’t do that against a good football team.
“We’re 21-21 in the third quarter. Offensively, third down, we’re just 2-of-13 for the game, couldn’t stay on the field. We couldn’t get off the field defensively, 12-of-16, and as the game wore on, we just wore down. We had a hard time hanging in there in the run game. We need to be able to sustain some drives. We had some tempo planned for the game, but we couldn’t sustain drives offensively. And if you can’t stay on the field, when you tempo, you put your defense back on the field. We couldn’t get off the field defensively, so I didn’t feel like that was the best situation for us.
“I thought our guys competed in the game. To be 21-21 with some of the plays we gave up, in my opinion, through the game, [we gave] ourselves an opportunity there. We need to stay the course right now. That’s a good football team, but we’re a good football team, too, and we still have everything sitting out in front of us. We did not have the execution we needed to have offensively, and the two big plays in the first half, defensively, were killers. We wore down as the game wore on.
“Those are the things we’ve got to go back [and examine]. We’ve got an open week, which comes at a good time for us to make some adjustments defensively in what we need to do moving forward. Execute better on the offensive side of the ball and be able to stay balanced and stay on the field on third down. That was just a killer for us.”
Seven different Gators went down on Saturday, and a couple found themselves on the grass more than once throughout the afternoon. Though Muschamp did not run through each player to provide injury updates, he discussed the serious ones.
Junior running back Mark Herndon injured his knee on a kickoff return early in the contest and did not come back after two trainers helped him off the field. UF does not know the severity of the ailment at this time.
Senior right guard Trenton Brown hurt his ankle midway through the contest, but X-rays after the game did not reveal any structural damage. The Gators are treating the injury as sprain (potentially a high-ankle sprain), but he should be able to return after the off week.
Muschamp said none of the other injuries were serious, calling most of them “cramps.”
Redshirt senior tackle Chaz Green got his right leg rolled up on early in the first quarter; he left, got his ankle heavily wrapped and returned to the game.
Sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III found himself on the ground twice and appeared to be hobbling late in the contest. It appeared as if he was being checked for an Achilles injury, though he played the rest of the game.
Driskel was limping after taking a big shot late in the contest, and both junior defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. and sophomore linebacker Jarrad Davis spent some time recovering from minor injuries during the game.
STICKING WITH DRISKEL
Barring an unforeseen change of direction, Driskel will remain Florida’s quarterback going forward despite his abhorrent performance on Saturday. Muschamp indicated as much after the game when asked if he considered substituting freshman QB Treon Harris for Driskel late in the contest.
“I did, but Jeff gives us the best opportunity right now. Really, for us to win a football game like that, Jeff Driskel needs to play. As we move forward, we need to play better at that position and a bunch of other positions. We’ll evaluate that,” he said.
Yet while Muschamp appeared to stand by Driskel with that comment, he also said that he plans to evaluate where the Gators are at quarterback and a number of other positions.
“The execution was not what it needed to be [from Driskel]. [He] missed the deep ball to [Demarcus Robinson] early in the game. We had it open; we got on top of a guy,” he said. “We had a dropped third down. Against a team like that, you got to make plays when you have opportunities, and we didn’t do that. We didn’t run the ball efficiently enough, but we didn’t stay on the field on third down. We need to go back and evaluate the decisions we made going into the game and during the game for that situation.”
In the end though, Driskel’s execution – or lack thereof – was only part of the problem. Florida’s pass-catchers dropped some important first downs – for the second-consecutive week – and UF was also unsuccessful running the ball.
“We just got to go back and evaluate what we carried in the game, what we repped through practice, what we called in the game and see where we make improvements from there,” Muschamp said. “That’s what we need to do at this point. We got a lot of football to play. Everything is sitting in our hands. We need to take care of it.”
MORE (BAD) RECORDS FALLING
Seemingly every time the Gators play a football game under Muschamp, something historic happens. During the 2012 season, many of those historic occurrences were positive for Florida. UF forced turnovers, severely limited opposing offenses and won games without scoring many points.
However, over the last two years, the fallen records are nothing to be celebrated.
In 2013, the Gators snapped a long bowl game streak, put together their first losing season since 1979, ended an impressive winning streak against Vanderbilt and lost to an FCS opponent (for the first time).
On Saturday, Florida’s defense gave up 645 total yards, the most in school history.
“We got to go back [to the] two big plays – an 87-yarder and a 79-yarder,” said Muschamp.
“And then as the game wore on, when you can’t get off the field, we had the screen pass – we had two guys on the back in that situation. We got to execute. That’s a lack of execution. That comes back on me. We got to do a better job executing in those situations and playing better in those situations.”
The secondary is Muschamp’s specialty, and the safeties – a position group Muschamp personally coaches – were arguably the worst players on the field Saturday night.
TIMEOUTS AND HALFTIME DECISIONS
Trailing Alabama 21-14, Florida earned the ball back with 1:44 remaining in the first half. Despite having their full complement of timeouts and more than enough time to try and make something happen from their own 20-yard line, the Gators chose to run the ball three times and allow the clock to expire…despite the fact that the Crimson Tide were scheduled to get the ball to open the second half.
There are two schools of thought on this decision.
With 80 yards to go and an offense that did not show the ability to move the ball well to that point, perhaps it is better to cut your losses, run out the clock, make some adjustments in the locker room and start things over in the second half. A miscue or turnover could give Alabama the opportunity to score once more before half, putting Florida in a bigger hole.
Or, instead, the Gators could have realized that 1:44 on the clock and three timeouts in their pocket gives the team an opportunity to be aggressive on the road and put some points on the board before the half – that there is not necessarily any more danger in trying to create some offense with that much time and that many timeouts remaining as opposed to any other point in the game.
Florida chose the former option, either playing smart (if you fall in the former camp) or cowering at the opportunity to show some confidence and aggression (if you fall in the latter camp).
“We wanted to get into half. We were spent defensively. I didn’t want [our defense] to go back on the field,” Muschamp said. “If we had gotten [the ball at] our 40, we were going to go fast. That’s kind of what our landmark is, especially being on the road.
“The worst thing we could have done in that situation is give a turnover up. We weren’t executing very well. We wanted to be able to get out of the half. I didn’t feel like [Nick Saban would] call a timeout and force us to punt; he didn’t, so we wanted to get out of the half in the situation we were in.”
Florida entered halftime with all three timeouts in its pocket. The Gators did the same thing in the second half, despite the fact that their defense was visibly spent and unable to get off the field on third down. In fact, there was only one timeout called in the entire contest – by Alabama with 2:52 left on the clock…in the first half.
NOTES AND QUOTES
» On failing to get off the field on third down: “The 16-play drive, we had plenty of opportunities to get off the field on third down. We didn’t. The screen, the flare screen hurt us. They pinned the [line]backer on that situation and that hurt us. A combination of those things, certainly that was where we played six snaps on offense in the third quarter.”