Bryce Young, No. 1 Alabama Survive Upset Bid by No. 11 Florida in SEC Action

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 18, 2021

James Gilbert/Getty Images

Nick Saban continues to have Dan Mullen's number.

Top-ranked Alabama went on the road and earned a 31-29 victory over No. 11 Florida in The Swamp in Gainesville, Florida, on Saturday.

Dameon Pierce found a seam and hit pay dirt on a 17-yard run to bring the Gators to within two points with 3:10 on the clock. Emory Jones and Malik Davis were unable to complete the two-point conversion, which kept Alabama in the lead.

CBS Sports @CBSSports

DAMEON PIERCE SENDS THE SWAMP INTO A FRENZY <a href="https://t.co/Zu7kFzkxLy">pic.twitter.com/Zu7kFzkxLy</a>

After forcing Alabama to punt, Florida had four seconds to complete a miracle. Jones was sacked on the final play.

With the win, Saban improved to 11-0 against Mullen.

The outcome also reaffirms the Crimson Tide's status as the team to beat in the national championship race. They made a big statement in their opener by beating Miami 44-13, but that was undercut somewhat by the Hurricanes struggling to take down Appalachian State and losing to Michigan State.

Overcoming the Gators provides more clarity about an Alabama squad that lost a lot of talent to the NFL after its 2020 title run. The Tide won't dominate the competition in the same way they did a season ago, but they're still positioned to be as good as anyone else in the country.

Notable Performers

Bryce Young, QB, Alabama: 22-of-35 for 240 yards, three touchdowns

Brian Robinson Jr., RB, Alabama: 15 carries 78 yards, one touchdown; one reception, seven yards, one touchdown

Emory Jones, QB, Florida: 18-of-28 for 195 yards, one interception; 18 carries, 76 yards, one touchdown

Malik Davis, RB, Florida: 10 carries, 86 yards, one touchdown

Tide Slow Down after Early Blitz

At the end of the first quarter, Alabama was up 21-3 and a blowout appeared to be in the making at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Bryce Young was 12-of-16 for 138 yards and three touchdowns.

CBS Sports @CBSSports

Bryce Young has three touchdown passes...it's still the first quarter. <a href="https://t.co/6Rs7iujTuj">pic.twitter.com/6Rs7iujTuj</a>

Young was excellent through two weeks, but this was his first big test in hostile territory. As the rest of the first half unfolded, his inexperience may have become a factor as he and the Alabama offense ran aground.

Mike Rodak @mikerodak

That’s five consecutive incompletions by Bryce Young and two straight three-and-outs. Tide RBs have a combined 5 carreis for 41 yards.

Florida opened the second half with a three-yard touchdown run by Pierce to make it a one-score game 21-16. 

Young responded with a 13-play, 75-yard drive that ate 5:47 off the clock. Brian Robinson Jr. gave Alabama some breathing room after he punched it in from three yards out on 4th-and-1.

It was the same story on when the Tide needed to run down the clock after Pierce's late scamper. Young and his teammates also had to deal with clock issues inside the stadium that meant an official on the field was keeping the time.

Rodger Sherman @rodger

For those wondering about the clock issues in the Florida-Bama game, it's simple: Alabama being in a close game has caused a warp in the space-time continuum.

Although the road doesn't get a whole lot easier for Alabama the rest of the way, this might be one of the team's stiffest challenges before a possible SEC title clash. Survive and advance was the modus operandi for a Tide roster that's still finding its footing.

Slow Start Dooms Gators

In the past, mobile quarterbacks have caused problems for Alabama under Saban, with Johnny Manziel the most notable example. After running for 275 yards and two scores in Florida's first two games, it looked like the Gators would have one such threat with Anthony Richardson.

However, Richardson was battling a hamstring injury throughout the week, and his lack of involvement seemingly confirmed how serious the injury was.

Perhaps a healthy Richardson changes the outcome Saturday because Florida found plenty of success on the ground. The Gators finished with 245 rushing yards as the offensive line more than held its own against the Alabama front seven.

Matt Hinton @MattRHinton

Teams don't just run the ball on Alabama like Florida is today. Very rare to run for 200+ yards vs. Bama, and we're still in the 3rd quarter.

Max Olson @max_olson

In the entire Nick Saban era at Alabama, only 8 teams have ever finished with 200+ rushing yards against the Tide. Gators already there.<br><br>Last one to run for 200 and win was 2014 Ohio State. (via <a href="https://twitter.com/collegefb_ref?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@collegefb_ref</a>)

Jones also showed a lot of poise after the home fans voiced their displeasure with the offense's first-half struggles.

John Zenor @jzenor

Seems like Emory Jones has been on fire since all those boos. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/fanstrategy?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#fanstrategy</a>

Yahoo Sports College Football @YahooSportsCFB

Emory Jones getting booed in the first half seems like years ago.

Still, Mullen is left to rue a pair of mistakes that proved costly in retrospect.

Jalyn Armour-Davis' interception in the first quarter gave Alabama a short field for its third touchdown. Chris Howard's missed extra point in the second quarter meant Florida needed a two-point conversion after Pierce's second touchdown run to tie the score. 

What's Next?

Alabama goes out of the SEC to play Southern Miss on Sept. 25 before a pair of difficult conference matchups against No. 17 Ole Miss and No. 7 Texas A&M. Florida will look to notch its first conference win at home against Tennessee next week.


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