The No. 11 Florida Gators took on the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide and fought until the end in an incredibly close final, ultimately falling 31-29. The two-point margin gives Florida its first loss in SEC play but still allows them to feel motivated for the remainder of the season.
While Florida isn't going to go undefeated this year, a close loss against Alabama isn't the end of the world. The team looked plenty competitive, showed fight and is certainly motivated for the future. Similar to the team's loss in the SEC Championship game last season, Florida looked like a team that belong - something observers were unsure of prior to the contest.
On the day, Florida allowed just 10 points to Alabama across the final three quarters of the game. The team blanketed the Crimson Tide in the second quarter, not allowing a single point, and showed just how quickly the team can respond to some early-game adversity.
For Florida head coach Dan Mullen, that much was promising and it gives him and his team some motivation moving forward. With the margin of error so small in championship-like matchups like the one Florida was in, it makes sense why the errors the Gators had early on would prevent a victory later.
There are no moral victories in football, but you can use positive momentum to push a team forward, taking away what you did right to continue improving, something Mullen is happy about.
"I like the attitude of this team," Mullen said shortly following the game on Saturday.
"I like the effort this team has. I think it’s going to be really interesting to see our response in practice this week, I really do. Because I never doubted the effort that our team was going to give or the attitude our guys had. Our guys expected to win the game today coming into it."
Mullen is right, the Gators football team clearly played as if it was expected to win. Even while down 21-9 at halftime, and 21-3 following the first quarter of action, there was never a time when Florida appeared disinterested or not motivated. In fact, it appeared like the opposite as the team mounted a comeback coming out of halftime.
Under the direction of Florida quarterback Emory Jones, the Gators led three straight scoring drives near the end of the contest. The team played inspired football, something that can help the program as it moves forward in its season.
Now, the Gators must hope to continue the positive momentum and bring it to life yet again in another SEC matchup next week against Tennessee.
"I hope our guys and coaches, everybody we have to point those out and embrace that at practice this week," Mullen said. "We have to come together as a team that way and that positive energy of eliminating every little error at practice within our preparation and have it show out in our performance next week against Tennessee.”
On the day, Florida out-played the Crimson Tide in yardage with 439 yards to their 324. The Gators' run game completely eclipsed Alabama's, with Florida netting 258 yards on the ground, and Alabama netting just 91. Even in first downs, Florida would have 26, while Alabama had just 19.
Time of possession also went to Florida, with the home team having the football for 31:55, Alabama 28:05. Ultimately, the game would come down to one or two plays, something that Mullen understands is how a championship-level game is played.
The Gators turned the football over once, an interception that was thrown by Jones, while the team also missed an extra point. Take into account the team went for a two-point conversion late and failed, there's your game.
Don't get it twisted, Florida still has plenty of work to do in order to hope for a rematch in the SEC Championship game later this season, but the positives can't and shouldn't be denied as it attempts to move forward a better team.
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