SEC Showdown is all Alabama: Top-ranked Tide roll over No. 7 Florida 31-6

By Ralph D. Russo, AP
Saturday, October 2, 2010

No. 1 Alabama overwhelms No. 7 Florida 31-6

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — When the latest edition of the super heavyweight rivalry between Alabama and Florida was over, the two star coaches met at midfield for a handshake, a pat on the back and a few quick words.

They didn’t need to say much.

Maybe Alabama’s Nick Saban and Florida’s Urban Meyer will meet again this season, but for now there is no question who the King of the Southeastern Conference is.

This game was all Alabama.

Mark Ingram scored two touchdowns, C.J. Mosley returned an interception 35 yards for a touchdown and the top-ranked Crimson Tide dominated the seventh-ranked Gators 31-6 on Saturday night, handing the Gators the second-most lopsided loss of Meyer’s six seasons with Florida.

Round 2 between the last two national champions could come in Atlanta at the SEC title game. Alabama (5-0, 2-0) certainly looked like a title-bound team on this clear and cool night in the Deep South.

In front of 101,821 at a blaring Bryant-Denny Stadium, the Tide rolled to a 24-0 lead in the second quarter, behind Ingram’s two short TD runs and a defense that was buzzing around the ball.

After the Gators (4-1, 2-1) chipped it down to 24-6, Mosley picked off a short pass in the middle of the field from a hurried John Brantley, racing to the end zone for a score that all but wrapped up Alabama’s 19th straight victory with 6:10 left in the third quarter.

“I was very, very pleased with the way we played in the first half,” Saban said. “I thought we played physical, played with toughness, played strong. I was really encouraged.”

Ingram ran for 47 yards on 12 carries, Greg McElroy threw for 84 yards and receiver Marquis Maze threw a touchdown pass to Michael Williams out of the wildcat.

“We got beat by a good team,” Meyer said. “We just didn’t play very well.”

A rematch of the last two SEC title games, the first regular-season meeting between the Crimson Tide and Florida since 2006 had all the trimmings of a huge game, with a primetime national television audience and a rockin’ crowd loud enough at times to match the jet fly over before kickoff.

The stakes, however, were far from do or die. As well as Alabama played, and the defending national champions looked every bit like the No. 1 team in the country, there’s plenty of SEC games left.

As for the Gators, well, they can hope for another shot at ‘Bama in December, but right now the gap between the SEC’s top two programs looks wide enough to park a couple of doublewide trailers.

Remember, the last time the Tide and Gators got together Alabama rolled to a 32-13 victory in an SEC championship game that left Tim Tebow in tears.

This time Alabama’s defense knocked around Brantley and stymied a Florida offense that seemed to find some answers last week in a 48-14 victory against Kentucky.

Against Dont’a Hightower, Courtney Upshaw and the Tide, and with leading rusher Jeff Demps playing on a sore foot, the Gators couldn’t get into the end zone and committed four turnovers.

Brantley passed for 202 yards with two interceptions.

“We just went out and executed plays and we basically had fun,” said Upshaw, who had four tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

Freshman Trey Burton, the Gators’ new short-yardage specialist who scored a record six touchdowns last week, showed he’s no Tebow when he tried to run one of the Heisman winner’s trademark plays.

Alabama drove to a field goal on its opening drive and Florida came right back to march inside the Tide 10.

On fourth-and-goal from the 2, Burton tried a jump pass over the line but Alabama sniffed it out and Nico Johnson picked it off in the end zone.

“That was a huge play in the game,” Saban said.

Right before the play, Tide defensive coordinator Kirby Smart was on the sideline yelling and waving to his players, apparently warning of the Tebow special.

“It was an aggressive call,” Meyer said. “I’d do it again.”

The decision to pass up the short field goal try looked even worse when Alabama came flying down the field again.

Ingram capped an 80-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown run and it was 10-0 Tide less than a minute into the second quarter.

Ingram’s 1-yard dive made it 17-0 and Florida couldn’t stop the flood.

Alabama’s defense was swarming. Dre Fitzpatrick picked off Brantley’s pass in Gator territory and two plays after that, Maze faked a handoff and hit a wide-open Williams for a 19-yard score. Just like that — Alabama 24, Florida 0.

“We can’t take a permanent step back,” Burton said. “We’ve got to finish the season strong.”

The last time the Gators didn’t score a touchdown? In 2005, Meyer’s first season as coach in Gainesville, the Gators lost 31-3 — their worst loss under Meyer — in the exact same place to Mike Shula’s Tide.

Florida has come a long way since then, winning two national titles.

Of course, the Tide has too — passing the Gators in the process.

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