GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida coach Urban Meyer learned all
he needed to know about the Southeastern Conference last season
"You better have a great defense because everybody else does,"
The Gators' D was on display Saturday.
Ryan Smith had two interceptions, Reggie Nelson returned another
pick for a touchdown and the fifth-ranked Gators beat the Crimson
Tide 28-13 to avenge last season's embarrassing loss.
Meyer said his players and coaches thought they had everything
figured out heading into the Alabama game last year. But they were
humbled by the Crimson Tide's speedy and swarming defense. Meyer
tweaked his coaching philosophy following the loss, going to more
conservative play-calling and relying on his defense in close
It worked to perfection in the rematch.
"It's no secret that we have some very good players on defense
right now," Meyer said.
The Gators pressured John Parker Wilson into three turnovers,
converting two of them into fourth-quarter touchdowns and turning a
one-point game into a comfortable win.
"It's the same struggles we've had all year," Wilson said.
"We couldn't get in the end zone. We've got to make more plays.
They threw a lot of stuff at us -- a lot of different stunts and
blitzes. I got knocked around quite a bit, but I thought we did a
pretty good job of picking them up."
Not good enough.
Florida (5-0, 3-0) overcame a 10-7 halftime deficit to beat
Alabama for just the second time in nine tries in Gainesville,
extending its home winning streak to 12 games. The Crimson Tide
(3-2, 1-2) has lost two straight. The Gators, meanwhile, are 3-0 in
the SEC for the first time since Steve Spurrier's final season in
Spurrier was on hand for the start of this one.
The South Carolina coach was inducted into the school's Ring of
Honor along with Emmitt Smith, Danny Wuerffel and Jack Youngblood
prior to kickoff.
The Gators, wearing throwback uniforms to the late 1960s, hardly
looked like the offensive juggernaut Spurrier created in the 1990s.
But the defense kept it close -- and sealed the victory in the end.
"We had a little something out for them because of what
happened last year," Florida linebacker Earl Everett said,
referring to the 31-3 loss in Tuscaloosa a year ago. "We had a
little revenge to get. We wanted to prove we were better than
It showed, especially in the fourth quarter.
Smith, a graduate transfer from Utah, tipped a pass to himself
for his second interception of the game. He fumbled a second later,
but Nelson recovered in Alabama territory.
"That was the biggest play of the game," Smith said of the
recovery. "It was big interception, but if he doesn't recover
that, it's still 14-13 and they're trying to score."
Chris Leak connected with Dallas Baker three plays later for a
21-yard touchdown that pushed the lead to 21-13. Leak finished
14-of-20 for 174 yards with two touchdowns. He also had a
career-best 45-yard run that set up Tim Tebow's 2-yard TD run just
On the possession after Baker's TD catch, Nelson stepped in
front of Wilson's deep pass and returned it 70 yards for a score.
Wilson finished 21-of-40 for 240 yards, nearly half of it to DJ
Hall (6 catches for 117 yards). Wilson threw three interceptions
and was sacked three times.
"Any time you throw three interceptions, it's tough to win,"
Wilson said. "I put it on myself. I've got to bounce back from
that and get ready for next week. We can make a lot of excuses. I
didn't make plays I needed to make."
The Crimson Tide managed just two field goals on offense --
points that would have helped last week at Arkansas but not enough
at Florida. The team's lone touchdown came when Leak fumbled a snap
late in the first quarter, and Prince Hall returned it 50 yards to
give Alabama a 7-0 lead.
Freshman Leigh Tiffin missed three field goals and an extra
point in a double-overtime loss last week. He was on the bench for
this one, replaced by Jamie Christensen.
Christensen hit from 21 and 26 yards, and missed a 51-yarder at
the end of the first half.
Florida, meanwhile, still hasn't made a field goal all season --
a concern heading into a three-game stretch against LSU, Auburn and
Georgia. Chris Hetland missed a 36-yarder that would have tied the
game early in the third.
Luckily for the Gators, the defense made amends.
"I know they're playing with more confidence," Alabama coach
Mike Shula said. "It's a tough loss, difficult to swallow."
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... Chris Leak found Dallas Baker for a 21-yard TD pass with 6:47 remaining in the game. Alabama put up a valiant fight, but the Gators proved why they're No. 5.
Gameball goes to... Leak, who displayed poise when Florida was down and managed the Gators when they led. He finished with two TDs on 14-for-20 passing and 174 yards.
Stat of the game... 57: Highly touted RB Kenneth Darby continued his six-game streak of under 100 yards rushing, finishing with 57 yards on Saturday.