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

the Tide.

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

couldn’t return.

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