Florida falters in Tebow’s last shot at title
ATLANTA (AP) Mark Ingram and Greg
McElroy sliced up the fearsome Florida defense and Tim Tebow finally
met his match, no matter how hard he tried to fire up his teammates.
With an emphatic 32-13 chomping of
the Gators, the Crimson Tide again stands atop the Southeastern
Conference. More important, Alabama is just one win away from an even
bigger title – its first national championship since 1992, led by a
coach who believes in “The Process” instead of the houndstooth.
Ingram, making a strong bid to claim
the school’s first Heisman Trophy, rushed for 113 yards and three
touchdowns. McElroy was 12 of 18 for 239 yards and a touchdown to show
he’s no weak link and No. 2 Alabama rekindled memories of Paul “Bear”
Bryant with the convincing victory Saturday.
Alabama (13-0) moves on to Pasadena
for the BCS championship game. Tebow and the Gators (12-1) will likely
settle for the Sugar Bowl, denied a shot at their third national title
in four years.
When it was over, there were a range of emotions.
Nick Saban, the no-nonsense,
process-oriented coach who needed only three years to bring Alabama all
the way back from a miserable era, looked totally out of character as
he leaped up to bump shoulders with Ingram on the sideline.
Tebow found himself in an unusual position, too: sitting on the bench and appearing to wipe away tears as the clock ran out.
The Tide led all the way, establishing its will on the very first drive. In the second half, Alabama shut ’em down.
Trailing 19-13 at the half, Florida
took the third-quarter kickoff and came up a yard short on Tebow’s
third-and-7 pass to Riley Cooper. The Gators didn’t know it at the
time, but it was over.
Ingram carried it three straight
times before McElory went down the right sideline to Maze for a 28-yard
pass. A silly penalty on Jermaine Cunningham – he shoved McElroy in the
back two steps after the quarterback threw the ball away – set up a
perfect throw and catch.
McElory rolled to his right, stopped
suddenly and lofted the pass in the other direction, the ball dropping
right over Colin Peek as he extended his arms to haul in a 17-yard
Ingram finished it off with his
third TD early in the fourth, powering over from the 1 to cap an
88-yard drive – the Tide’s longest of the season.
Tebow, who came back for his senior
year in hopes of winning another title, was 20 of 35 for 247 yards but
his last gasp was picked off in the end zone.
“It’s tough. You know it’s not how
you want to go out,” Tebow said, struggling to contain his emotions.
“They were just better than us today, offense, defense, special teams.”
Alabama made up for its 31-20 loss
to Florida in last year’s SEC title game, a result that was on their
minds every step of the way.
“Everything we did all year long was to beat them, to be better than them,” Ingram said.
Saban led LSU to a share of the 2003
national title and, after a brief, unhappy stint in the NFL, he
returned to take over an Alabama program that had gone through four
coaches in seven seasons. It didn’t take long for Saban to realize just
how passionate the Tide faithful are about their football – more than
90,000 fans turned out for the spring game.
Saban’s first year was a struggle
(Alabama even lost to Louisiana-Monroe) but it was clear he had the
program back on the right track. In Year 2, the Tide ripped off 12
straight regular-season wins before Florida ruined their title hopes,
rallying for a 31-20 victory in the SEC title game.
Turns out, Saban’s team was merely
putting things off for a year. Alabama went 12-0 in the regular season
again, and this time not even Tebow and the mighty Gators could stem
As the new SEC champions celebrated, “Sweet Home Alabama” blared over the speakers at the Georgia Dome.
“Roll, Tide, roll!” the fans cheered along.
Florida was short-handed for a game
that has seemed preordained from the very first practice of the season.
Carlos Dunlap, the team’s best pass rusher, couldn’t play after being
arrested on drunken-driving charges Tuesday. Another key player,
receiver-returner Brandon James, was hobbled in the second half and
At end of third quarter, Alabama
celebrated with its crimson-clad fans, while Tebow called all of his
teammates around him at the 40-yard line, exhorting them to pull off
another fourth-period comeback. That’s what the Gators did a year ago,
scoring two TDs in the final 15 minutes to overcome the Tide.
Not this time.
The Tide held the ball for nearly 40
minutes and piled up 490 yards against a defense that was ranked No. 1
in the country, allowing less than 10 points and about 233 yards per