Recap: Alabama vs. Florida
Tuscaloosa, AL (SportsNetwork.com) - Blake Sims threw for career highs of 445 yards and four touchdowns to help third-ranked Alabama overcome a slew of early mistakes and pull away for a 42-21 win over Florida at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Despite committing four turnovers that led to all 21 Florida points, the Crimson Tide (4-0, 1-0 SEC) remained undefeated behind magnificent performances from Sims and wide receiver Amari Cooper.
Sims completed 23-of-33 passes with one interception in his fourth career start, while Cooper racked up personal bests of 201 yards and three touchdowns on 10 catches.
"The guys were just at the right spot at the right time, and doing what the coaches have taught them," said Sims. "We just believe in our coaches and believe in one another."
Derrick Henry added 111 rushing yards and a touchdown on 20 carries for an Alabama attack that finished with 645 total yards, the most allowed by Florida (2-1, 1-1) in program history.
Jeff Driskel threw a touchdown pass to Valdez Showers and ran for another score, but managed just 93 yards on a 9-of-28 completion rate in the Gators' sixth loss in their last seven SEC games.
"I think our defense did a really good job of getting us the ball back, and we didn't do a good enough job taking advantage of it," Driskel said. "We were in it early, we played hard. We just didn't make it happen today."
Before eventually wearing the Gators down over the final 1 1/2 quarters, Alabama found itself in a dogfight thanks to its carelessness with the football. The Crimson Tide's fourth giveaway of the day, an interception of Sims by Antonio Morrison that the linebacker returned 20 yards to the Crimson Tide 16 on the fourth play of the second half, positioned Driskel for a 14- yard run that forged a 21-21 tie early in the third quarter.
The Crimson Tide responded with a grinding 16-play, 66-yard drive to move back ahead, however, then dominated from then on.
DeAndrew White came up with a clutch 12-yard catch on third down to extend the go-ahead sequence, while Henry weaved through traffic for a 29-yard gain on a screen pass on 3rd-and-23 right before crossing the goal line from three yards out with 5:27 left in the third quarter.
Florida went three-and-out on the ensuing possession, and Alabama made it a 14-point lead by putting together an 8-play, 80-yard march.
Sims briefly exited after landing hard on his shoulder at the end of a 24-yard scramble, but Henry offset the temporary loss by ripping off runs of 25 and 13 yards to put Alabama in the red zone. Shortly afterward, Cooper snared backup quarterback Jake Coker's fade toss in double coverage for a 4-yard score that put the Tide ahead by a 35-21 count late in the third.
Sims returned for Alabama's next drive to throw his fourth TD pass of the game, a 6-yarder to Cooper that completed an 8-play, 60-yard jaunt.
"I'm really proud of the way our guys overcame adversity in this game," said Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban. "I wish we didn't do the bad things but we did them, we hung in there and we played the next play. We eventually got control of the game, which speaks a lot about the competitive nature that the players have."
Alabama's prolific offensive display began with a bang, as Kenyan Drake blew past Morrison in single coverage before making a fingertip grab of Sims' deep throw and sprinting for an 87-yard touchdown on the Tide's initial play from scrimmage.
However, the Crimson Tide turned it over on their next two possessions, with both miscues directly leading to Florida touchdowns.
Drake fumbled on Alabama's second snap of the day, giving the Gators the ball deep in Tide territory and setting up Driskel's 28-yard sideline strike to Showers that tied the contest around 3 1/2 minutes in.
The Gators' defense came up big again on Alabama's next series, as Neiron Ball jarred the ball loose from White and Keanu Neal scooped it up and raced 49 yards down the left side to stake Florida to a 14-7 advantage.
Alabama, which rolled up 291 total yards to the Gators' 74 during the first quarter, pulled back even when a blown Florida coverage led to Sims hitting a wide-open Cooper for a 79-yard touchdown with 4:12 remaining in the opening period.
"He put on a good show for everybody today," said Sims of Cooper.
Florida then had a costly turnover early in the second quarter, as a missed exchange from Driskel and Matt Jones resulted in a fumble that the Tide's Reggie Ragland recovered near midfield. Alabama promptly moved 56 yards in six plays, with Sims ending the drive by firing a 2-yard strike to Jalston Fowler that gave the Crimson Tide a 21-14 lead with 7:19 left in the first half.Game Notes
Cooper's three touchdown grabs gave him 20 for his career, eclipsing Dennis
Homan's previous school record of 18. He has compiled 655 yards on 43 catches
through Alabama's first four games ... Sims recorded the Tide's first 400-yard
passing game since Scott Hunter had 484 against Auburn on Nov. 29, 1969 ...
Florida's 21 points were its most against Alabama in Tuscaloosa since 1951 ...
Gators wideout Demarcus Robinson was held to two catches for 14 yards one week
after a 15-reception, 216-yard outburst in Florida's overtime win over
Kentucky ... Alabama starting safety Nick Perry sat out the first half after
being suspended for an ejection in last week's game against Southern Miss.