No. 1 Alabama beats No. 11 Florida to survive scare in The Swamp
The roar of an opposing crowd wasn’t enough to rattle Bryce Young. Making his first road start in front of a raucous sea of blue and orange, the sophomore quarterback displayed his typical poise while helping No. 1 Alabama escape with a 31-29 victory over No. 11 Florida on Saturday.
Young led Alabama (3-0) to touchdowns on its first three possessions as the Crimson Tide looked as though it would burry Florida (2-1) early. However, the Gators roared back in the second half to provide a legitimate upset scare in The Swamp.
A packed crowd of 90,887 inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium belted out Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” to begin the fourth quarter as Florida cut Alabama’s lead to a single possession on a 5-yard touchdown run from quarterback Emory Jones moments earlier.
Alabama responded with a 13-play drive that ultimately ended with a 24-yard field goal from Will Reichard to extend its lead to 31-23 with 9:25 to play. However, the Gators scratched back again as running back Dameon Pierce scored his second touchdown of the game on a 17-yard run. Alabama stuffed the ensuing two-point try to cling on to a 31-29 advantage with 2:59 to play.
Then a bit of craziness ensued.
After Alabama received the ball on the following kickoff, the clock inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium began to malfunction, forcing officials to keep track of time on the field. Due to the complication, Alabama head coach Nick Saban had to inform Young when the clock was running and when it wasn’t as Alabama used the 40-second play clock to keep track of time.
“It certainly didn’t help any,” Saban following the game. “It’s nice to know if the clock is running or the clock is not running.”
While the seconds weren’t able to tick off the scoreboard, Alabama was able the run the clock down to 10 seconds before punting on fourth-and-2 from its own 43-yard line. Florida fielded the punt on its 24-yard line setting up a final chance for the Gators. However, Jones was sacked by Alabama linebacker Jaylen Moody to end the game.
Young finished the game 22 of 35 for 233 yards and three touchdowns. The sophomore was clinical on the Tide’s first three possessions, ending each with a touchdown pass.
Brian Robinson Jr. led Alabama with 75 yards and a touchdown on the ground while also catching a 7-yard score from Young. The fifth-year senior was clutch when it counted, scoring from 3 yards out on a fourth-and-1 in the third quarter before picking up a crucial first down on third-and-2 to help grind out the clock on the Tide’s final possession.
“B-Rob has proved it countless times, not just in games but in practice and the offseason,” Young said. “We have complete trust in our O-line to get the yards we need to. I have trust in all my backs, really. But it’s really a product of the work that not everyone sees on Saturdays. In the offseason, during the week, that’s how you build the trust of the players and coaches.”
Jameson Williams led the Tide with 61 receiving yards on four catches, while John Metchie III recorded a team-high six receptions for 42 yards. Jase McClellan had four catches for 41 yards, including a 7-yard touchdown from Young to put Alabama on the board first. Young’s other touchdown came on a 26-yard pass to tight end Jahleel Billingsley.
Jones struggled to maintain consistency through the air for Florida, completing 17 of 27 passes for 181 yards with an interception. However, the dual-threat quarterback ran for 80 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. Florida piled up 258 yards on the ground as running back Malik Davis led the way with 96 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. Nay’Quan Wright ran for 58 yards while Pierce had 27 yards to go with his two scores.
Florida did not play backup quarterback Anthony Richardson due to a hamstring injury. Richardson came into the matchup as the Gators’ leading rusher with 275 yards and two touchdowns on the ground over his first two games.
After building a 21-3 lead in the first quarter, Alabama allowed Florida back into the game as the Tide’s offense went three-and-out on three straight possessions. Following the game, Saban said the biggest lesson his team learned was the importance of maintaining intensity throughout the game.
“What concerned me most was that we could not sustain our intensity, especially on defense,” Saban said. “We had a lot of mental errors. [Floirda] did a good job. They did a really good job.”
Alabama was once again haunted by penalties as it was flagged 11 times for 75 yards. Entering Saturday, the Tide had been whistled 17 times for 179 yards over its first two games.
Alabama will return home to Bryant-Denny Stadium next week for a matchup against Southern Miss on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. CT.