Six things we learned: Alabama’s historic beat down latest black eye for Florida

By Adam Silverstein
December 4, 2016
Six things we learned: Alabama’s historic beat down latest black eye for Florida

Image Credit: ESPN Images

The No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (13-0) continued their dominant run, winning their 25th straight game and fifth this season by 38 points or more in a 54-16 beat down of the No. Florida Gators (8-4) on Saturday in the 2016 SEC Championship Game.

Alabama’s win was historic. It broke a 4-4 SEC title game head-to-head tie with Florida, brought it to even with the Gators as each team now has seven SEC crowns, and ensured that UA became the first team since UF in 1993-96 to be kings of the SEC in three consecutive seasons.

There’s more. The 54 points scored by Alabama were the second-most in SEC history, and its 38-point win over Florida was the second-most decisive; only Auburn’s rout of South Carolina in 2010 barely beat both figures. The Gators had the most points scored on them since Nebraska trounced Florida 62-24 in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl. (A bit of solace for UF fans? It won the national title the following season.)

Here are six things we learned from the Gators’ loss on Saturday.

1. There’s just no comparison: No matter how well Florida played, it was bound to lose this game. Yes, even if the three turnovers and blocked punt return touchdown — more on those later — never happened. Like many teams in the SEC and across the country, the Gators were simply outmatched from top to bottom by the talent the Crimson Tide had on the field. And not just on the first string or due to injuries but because Alabama has recruited and developed players better. The talent disparity between UA and UF in the game was comparable to the margin between Florida and Arizona. That’s not unique for Alabama against an opponent, but it’s still drastic and shows exactly how far head coach Jim McElwain has to go to actually make the Gators a competitive team in the SEC.

2. The offense actually wasn’t that bad: Florida became the first team in 42 days to score a touchdown on Alabama. It opened the game with a 64-yard drive, scored on a 92-yard drive on a two-minute drill in the second quarter and moved the ball down to the goal line on a 64-yard drive in the third quarter (but was unable to punch it in). The three awful interceptions thrown by graduate transfer quarterback Austin Appleby are obvious eye sores, but you already knew he was a bad signal caller who makes poor decisions. The 24 carries for 43 yards are a product of going up against the nation’s best defensive line. UF was legitimately facing an all-time defense on Saturday. The 16 points scored by the Gators are the third-most posted against the Crimson Tide this season.

McElwain and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier were more creative than they had been this season and ensured that the ball got in the hands of their playmakers. Junior wide receiver Brandon Powell had a career-high nine receptions. Junior tight end DeAndre Goolsby caught seven passes for 91 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore WR Antonio Callaway had six touches, 63 receiving yards and a touchdown before exiting with a hamstring injury. Florida’s offense was not good enough to beat Alabama — few if any are — but it does make you wonder where the hell this was this season, particularly last week.

3. Comedy of errors not so funny: It’s always something with the Gators these days. Appleby opened the game 6-for-7 for 67 yards and 3-for-3 on third down as part of a 10-play touchdown drive. Florida immediately forced a three-and out and just like that it looked like this might be a game. Then Appleby threw an interception with a 40-yard return, followed with a pick six (missing a wide open Callaway) on the next series, and the Gators just decided not to block on special teams as redshirt junior punter Johnny Townsend got a punt blocked and returned for a touchdown. After all that, Florida held Alabama to -7 yards, and yet, it trailed 16-9.

For the first time all season, UF decided to go for a fake punt and failed miserably. Appleby threw a third pick before halftime by tossing a 50/50 ball up to senior WR Ahmad Fulwood, who is branded as a guy who refuses to use his physical gifts to make such catches. Just like that, Alabama was up 33-9, setting an SEC Championship Game record with 33 points in a half. The Gators outgained the Tide, were 5-for-10 on third down (0-for-12 last week) and doubled the favorite’s time of possession but trailed by 15.

We could go on about the second half, though that was not so much errors as it was a beaten team simply being outscored 21-0 after failing to convert with four plays from the 2-yard line and allowing a 98-yard touchdown drive on the back of that failure. The game was over in the first quarter and certainly the first half.

4. Nothing wrong with aggressiveness, even when it backfires: McElwain going for it on fourth down, calling a flea flicker, and putting in a fake punt were gutsy moves, the latter of which had not been attempted this season. The timing, though, was questionable. McElwain obviously believed in his defense down near Alabama’s end zone, but it’s the second time in the last few weeks that such a decision has backfired. The flea flicker was simply an awful call considering the Gators were going up against a dominant Tide defensive line that would surely get to the quarterback with ease. The fake punt might have been hit if it was executed properly, but a bad snap, poor effort going for the ball and indecision after it fell into Townsend’s hands made the play call look like amateur hour. Just like Urban Meyer’s fake punt last week against Michigan, some of McElwain’s calls reeked of desperation. And yes, Florida actually was desperate on Saturday. The question remains, just as it was asked with the offensive play calling, why not play to win all season?

5. It’s not all on the coaches: This was here last week, and it remains true. Yes, there are coaches on the Gators who need to be replaced, namely special teams coordinator Greg Nord. But McElwain, Nussmeier and defensive coordinator Geoff Collins did not lose the game Saturday based on their play calls and preparations — and I say that as someone who has criticized McElwain and Nussmeier endlessly this season. Florida moved the ball against a defense that does not let teams move the ball. And it did so with Appleby at quarterback, playing without its starting center and while completely unable to run the ball against a stout front. The defense, as it has before, was strong in the first half and held Alabama back on numerous occasions — but it eventually got gassed due to a combination of a lack of depth (multiple starters injured) and the overwhelming talent and size of the Tide. This game more than any other this season should point out the value of recruiting, an area in which the Gators need to get drastically better on all fronts. Changes need to be made this offseason, and while replacing Nussmeier would be the right move (particularly to go with a younger, more creative coach like Sterlin Gilbert), I’m not so sure you can expect it to happen anymore.

6. A great bowl game still awaits: Florida lost. The Gators were expected to lose. It’s disappointing to fans the way they lost, more so that it will not even give them the boost they needed to earn a spot in the Sugar Bowl over Auburn. But Florida will be playing in a very good bowl game and a local one at that. Options for UF right now appear to be either the Outback Bowl on Jan. 2 in Tampa against Nebraska or the Citrus Bowl on Dec. 31 in Orlando against Louisville. (LSU will play whichever game Florida does not.) There is some belief that bowls and the SEC attempt not to place teams in the same game in consecutive years, which is where the Gators going to the Outback over the Citrus would come into play. Florida’s deserved slot is the Citrus and a meeting with Louisville, though it appears a rematch of the 1996 Fiesta Bowl in Tampa is more likely.


  1. SJ210 says:

    Great takes as usual Adam. I thought the playcalling was the best I’ve seen all season. On the coaching front, I’m curious why Mike Summers doesn’t get more heat. He has a great reputation but I feel like OL play and recruiting has been very mediocre the last few years under him. With the exception of Ivey, we’ve missed on all the top OL recruits from FL lately. Speaking of recruiting, we currently have 2 commitments from the ESPN top 200 list and are ranked 18th last I saw (and that was before Hansard decommitment). We’re not being seriously considered by most of the top prospects in FL. It’s extremely hard to see this program returning to an elite level if that trend continues.

  2. Fatback says:

    I think Nuss, Nord and Summers all need to go. Those units look poorly coached to me. McIlwain needs to do something different and drastic…or he will be on the block next year.

    • Michael L. Jones says:

      Summers is a well-respected coach who had the least of all of the units to work with in terms of talent and experience. Plus we’ve had some tough injury losses on the O-line all year, beginning before the season even began. I thought he did a hell of a job this year and last night.

      We need continuity with this staff, not knee-jerk over-reaction firings. I think firing Summers would be a big mistake.

      • Fatback says:

        It’s not a knee jerk reaction, our line has been underwhelming for several years, seemingly young and injured every year. I keep hearing Summers is “well respected”, that may be but I’m not seeing much improvement. I agree with continuity when what you are doing is working.

        • Michael Jones says:

          He’s the same OL coach that steamrolled UGA with Treon at QB and only having to throw 2 passes the entire game. He had talent then. He’s got talent now but it’s young, inexperienced and too many injuries. He also lost Rod Johnson before the season even started. Johnson was considered a future NFLer and a huge loss.

          Dude can coach. Let him do his thing with all of these freshman and sophomores having these last two seasons under their belts and a summer to get stronger. Let’s see what happens. The last thing that unit needs is a new coach.

          The whole staff needs more than two years with Mac, although I would have Mac do the offensive playcalling moving forward.

          Go Gators!!!

  3. Alex says:

    Cannot wait to get blown out by a Big Ten team at the Citrus Bowl! Can’t spell Citrus without UT..errr….UF

  4. Michael L. Jones says:

    Before we go crazy, remember the recruits read these comment boards. If you want Mac to recruit better–and we all do–then help him out. No kid wants to sign with a coach who won’t be around because the alum and fan base won’t stop insisting on him being fired.

    That said, special teams has been horrible all year, from guys catching punts inside the 5 to last night’s punt block. Speaking of which, will we ever block a punt? I actually feel sorry for Chris Thompson. He’s a 170 lbs, can run fast in a straight line and gives it his all , but if I never see another DI player blow his skinny frame up again I’ll be alright with that.

    Two things need to happen. First, Mac HAS to recruit more athletic linemen. He has to make house calls and go all out the way he did with Pineiro. Secondly, he HAS to be more involved with the playcalling, which I believe he was last night.

    As crazy as it sounds, if those two things happen, I think we’ll be alright and will be able to recapture our former glory.

    Go Gators!!!

  5. Matt Burris says:

    All those late game comebacks when Tebow played for the Broncos were all because the coaching staff got desperate and stopped playing to not lose and played to win. That’s why Tebow was able to surprise the Steelers in the playoff that one year and have his best passing performance in the NFL, they simply didn’t gameplan for him to throw the ball so much and the Broncos were desperate and aggressive that entire game (it didn’t surprise the Patriots the next game, however.)

    Basically, I saw the same thing last night. The coaching staff were super aggressive with the gameplan and playcalls because they felt it was their only chance of winning. That’s why Appleby threw the ball so much (of course Bama’s run defense is real good, too.)

    I have no problems with the gameplan or the overall coaching. The issue here, like you said, was the disparity of recruited talent, all the injuries to the starters that didn’t play, and relying on a backup QB who was a transfer from Purdue where he was the backup QB there. Hell, I think even the 2008 team led by Tebow would’ve had a tough challenge with this Bama team.

    • Basshole says:

      “Hell, I think even the 2008 team led by Tebow would’ve had a tough challenge with this Bama team.”

      I was thinking the same thing last night. This Bama team is very tough against the run but seemed susceptible to the long ball, at least they did last night with their injured secondary.

      • Michael L. Jones says:

        Seriously, guys? This Bama team would have had a hard time getting a first down against that Gator team.

        We are so far below where we were that everybody looks like the New England Patriots compared to us. For that matter the whole SEC is down and has been down for awhile.

        I’ll be pulling for Bama in the playoffs because I’m an SEC guy, but we’re about to see how good they really are.

  6. SW FL Joe says:

    Mac has been hinting strongly that the UAA needs to financially commit to the football program big time. Foley supported women’s athletics at the expense of football that has got to change. Football is the economic engine that drives the UAA and it should be treated as such. If cutting Mary, Becky and both Amanda’s budgets would put a better product in the Swamp, so be it.

    • Oldflyer says:

      Time for Mac to quit whining about money and start recruiting. Just saying.

      I find it hilarious–not really–that Muschamp was trashed by Gator fans for saying that Auburn’s facilities were better. Then Mac comes in and empties the bank account–and you say he wants more.

      By the way, it is not only the law, but it is right that other sports, including women, get a tiny bit of the pie. Right?

  7. Matt says:

    I appreciate the aggressive and creative play calling. It showed me that thought was put into the game plan and they were trying to win…

  8. Oldflyer says:

    I have not been sold on Collins either for that matter. I swear that it seems that teams can beat UF on the edge almost any time they want to. There is some kind of schematic issue.
    One glaring issue in the game yesterday was the difference in tackling. Bama defenders go to the runner–fast–and make the tackle. Gators too often do not. Then there is the pass defense. No pressure, no really contested balls. Bama’s misses were mostly due to inaccurate passes.

    I cringe when I hear talk about the great defense that gave up 38 to UT, 31to Ark,31 to FSU, and now 40 to Bama.

    But, Collins and his staff somehow get a pass.

    • Matt says:

      I feel like Collins has done a fantastic job. He did’nt allow ego to get in the way of the best for the Gators. When he was hired, he kept generally the same scheme and adjusted the language he used instead of the players changing for him. That was outstanding, the results have also been outstanding. Top 10 National Defense in most catagories and this is without an offense to complement the defense. The defense is the strongest link and has had to support the load for the entire team. Throw in injuries to Sherrit, Davis, Anzalone, Maye, Dawson and others and the defense has more than pulled their weight. I also give credit to Muschamp for assembling the fantastic defensive units Mcelwain has benefited from the last 2 years. It is interesting how folks say it takes years to get players in place as an excuse for Mcelwain’s lack of improvement and in the same breath say he’s done a great job winning the East..So which is it, does it take years or doesn’t it? If it does take years, shouldn’t we give Will Muschamp a big chunk or most of the credit for winning the East, those are his players. It doesn’t work both ways, you either are responsible or your not…Many fans put all the bad on Muschamp and all the good on Mcelwain despite Muschamp’s specialty being where the good is (defense) and Mcelwain’s speciality (offense) being where the bad is..The truth is that Muschamp was let go because of an injury plagued 2013 4-8 season and lack of offense. Florida wanted an offensive coach to improve that side of the ball, that has not happened, and Mcelwain has survived on the elite defensive players Muschamp put in place. Apologist are saying give Mcelwain more time, what you are failing to see is that as time goes on we are moving away from the Muschamp players which have been the only source of excellence and toward the Mcelwain players and scheme which is the source of inferiority.. The last two seasons we have had a mix of excellent and inferior and now we are moving to just inferiority..

  9. James says:

    Mailk Zaire has us on his short list after winning freedom from the Irish, and NCAA says he´s eligible next season. That kid would go a long way to fixing this hot mess

    • Michael L. Jones says:

      Oh no, please, not another reject from somebody else’s program. Have we Gators developed such an inferiority complex that we think that’s what we have to settle for?

      Franks is a 4 star. Jake Allen coming in is a 4 star. And word is that Trask might be the best of the group. Let’s build from within. I thank Appleby for his service, and I believe he did his best. . . but no more transfers.

  10. gatorfannsc says:

    good points in regards to coaching changes…Mac & Nuss seem to be joined at the hip..possible lure to HC job will exit Nuss. Yet after the whuppin’ settles Gators are East champs & recruits, players do see better than fans. And if Saban can change his offensive plans to a RPO QB will MAC have this “epiphany”? The pressure thru out the season that was placed on talented D was huge and disrespectful. Maybe G leaves for
    HC position, to stay he can demand changes.

  11. ??? says:

    Adam, what’s your take on the quarterback situation next year? I feel we need to have a good one or it’s just going to be more of the same. Any ideas?

  12. Sydney Croud says:

    I think the injuries killed us this year. We were missing many of our top players at the end so we couldn’t expect to be able to compete. Plus, while I think our QB gave his best effort, we need someone better, and hopefully they are already on the team, no more transfers please. As far as recruiting, it’s great to have 5 star players, but with good coaching, we can out perform expectations and the recruiting will come, like FSU did after Bowden. Having more depth is the key, so injuries don’t kill us and we are definitely moving in that direction. A few of the backups played really well.
    I realize it has been a disappointing year but I am still positive and we should support the coaching staff and the players. Next year will be the make or break for Coach Mac, and I am going to support him until at least game four.

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