Alabama Turns Tide On Gators

Sec Championship No. 2 Alabama 32, No. 1 Florida 13

Ingram Helps Secure Berth In National Championship

December 06, 2009|By Jeremy Fowler | Jeremy Fowler , Tribune Newspapers

ATLANTA - - While Florida quarterback Tim Tebow slouched on a sideline bench with tears falling faster than Georgia Dome streamers, Alabama running back Mark Ingram mocked the Florida Gators with a Gator chomp.

The scene was almost surreal. Surely Florida, with its historic 22-game winning streak, wouldn't drown in the sorrows of another team's dominant performance. Besides, Tebow even gave the team a pep talk before the fourth quarter.

In fact, it was too late about 4:10 p.m. Saturday when Alabama started barreling through Florida's defense in a commanding 32-13 performance for the Southeastern Conference title.

Heisman Trophy candidate Ingram ran for three touchdowns to seal the Tide's win over No. 1 and previously undefeated Florida in the SEC title game.

"This is not how we wanted to finish our season," Tebow said.

Three plays after Tebow's fiery speech, Ingram scored his third touchdown of the game to cap an 8-minute, 37-second drive that sucked the life out of a usually dominant Florida defense. Ingram finished with 113 rushing yards and 76 receiving yards.

Alabama is headed to the Bowl Championship Series national-title game with the chance for the school's first championship since 1992. Florida will likely play in the Sugar Bowl.

Cornerback Javier Arenas' interception of Tebow with 11:51 left cemented Florida's demise. Tebow had guided his team 59 yards, but on first-and-goal from the 6, Tebow didn't see Arenas lurking in the middle of the end zone on a pass intended for tight end Aaron Hernandez.

Reeling all offseason because of last year's SEC title-game loss to Florida (12-1), the No. 2 Tide (13-0) was determined to thwart the Gators' effort for a third national title in four years.

"It's a revenge game," said Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy, who scorched the Gators with 239 yards on 12-for-18 passing.

Florida defensive end Carlos Dunlap, arrested on a DUI charge earlier in the week, could do nothing but watch as his team looked lifeless at times.

After Florida had dominated with defense all season, its mettle turned to mush in the face of Alabama's power running game and McElroy's deft passing.

Florida gave up 490 yards of total offense - more than twice the defense's average of 233.1 - while Alabama scored the most points on the Gators since Michigan's 41-35 win in the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 1, 2008.

Florida's streak of six wins over top 10 teams came to an embarrassing halt. The Tide outstripped Florida 119-58 in offensive yards in the first quarter.

Alabama ran the ball 40-plus times and still found the plays for McElroy to flourish while Florida was missing tackles. The Gators had four rushing attempts all game aside from Tebow's (10 rushes, 63 yards). The Gators won all year by running the ball.

Tebow and the Gators showed early resolve with a four-play, 70-yard drive punctuated by a 23-yard David Nelson touchdown catch. Tebow rushed for gains of 23 and 15 yards on the drive.

With field goals of 48 and 32 yards by Caleb Sturgis, Florida cut the lead to 19-13 before the half. But Alabama held true to its 27-1 record under Nick Saban when leading at halftime.

"We actually had a little confidence going into the locker room," Florida coach Urban Meyer said.

The Tide made it 26-13 with 9:53 left in the third with a 17-yard touchdown catch by tight end Colin Peek.

McElroy, unspectacular at times during the regular season, channeled former Tide great Joe Namath all day. When McElroy wasn't displaying his accuracy, he was scrambling for first downs along the sideline or spinning for an 8-yard gain.

An emotional Florida team was left in a dumbfounded state in the post-game locker room.

"For a year and a half we've been training for these moments," Nelson said. "To wait that long and to work for this moment and to not come through, it's heartbreaking."

While Tebow cried from the sideline as the clock ran out,, Ingram did the Gator chomp with teammates.

"Our entire team played great," Saban said. "Greg [McElroy] played great. Mark [Ingram] played great. Julio [Jones] played great. Really, most of the credit goes to our guys up front on the offensive line. This is a great win for our program."

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