GAINESVILLE, Fla. – You’ve heard of teams running “Loose on the Palouse” or squads being overserved at the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.” Or even programs practicing some ‘Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate” once in a while.
Saturday night, Alabama showed the college football world what it feels like to survive The Swamp by the skin of its teeth. The Crimson Tide wrestled the Gators to the ground in a 31-29 slugfest in front of 90,887 fans – the largest crowd at Florida Field since Florida State in 2016 and the fifth-largest crowd in stadium history.
“It was great to see The Swamp alive,” said head coach Dan Mullen of the crowd’s role during the game.
Florida fans caused some problems for Alabama, generating enough noise to force the Tide into four false start penalties, a handful of offsides, and a delay of game amongst other things. Alabama head coach Nick Saban was visibly upset at his team’s undisciplined play despite holding the lead for the entire game. Clearly, points don’t rank quite as high as perfect play for the veteran coach.
“I think there’s no place like the swamp…we hope every game will be like tonight,” said Florida senior safety Trey Dean III of the atmosphere.
Florida came out slow in the first half with Alabama jumping out to an early 21-3 lead heading into the second quarter. But then the Tide didn’t strike again until the third quarter as the Gator’s defense held them to 0-3 on third downs in the second quarter. Florida also notched 71 total tackles, several key pass breakups, and sacked Alabama quarterback Bryce Young twice. Young finished the game 22-of-35 for 233 yards and three touchdowns.
One of the things Mullen focused on at halftime was making sure guys were relaxed and focused on just doing their jobs.
“Don’t try to make plays,” Mullen told his guys. “Sometimes you get in big environments and guys want to make big plays – do your job…the plays will come to you.”
It clearly worked as the Gators came out swinging in the second half, outscoring Alabama 14-7 in the third quarter and 6-3 in the fourth. Not to mention, Florida held Alabama to zero points in the second quarter. But the Gators game wasn’t without mistakes – a missed extra point and a botched two-point conversion attempt will likely haunt their dreams.
“I’m not going to get into the specifics,” said Mullen when asked about the failed two-point attempt. “We had a guy line up wrong and a guy go the wrong way.”
Florida quarterback Emory Jones finished 17-27 for 181 yards as well as 19 carries for 80 yards and a touchdown. The Gators were led by wide receiver John Metchie who finished with six catches for 42 yards and both Jase McClellan and Brian Robinson Jr. had touchdowns.
Florida battled hard to mount a comeback but couldn’t ever claim the lead.
“We played hard but we didn’t play hard enough to be victorious,” said Gator running back Nay’quan Wright of their effort tonight.
But maybe next time? Mullen is more optimistic.
“We have the opportunity to be a pretty good football team this year,” said the fourth-year head coach.
Florida remains home to host Tennessee next Saturday while the team to beat, Alabama heads home to host Southern Miss in Tuscaloosa.
When asked about the stigma surrounding playing Alabama, Mullen chalked it up to a lack of confidence teams have in turning the tide.