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Instant Analysis: Gators’ comeback falls short in instant classic

December 20, 2020
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In many ways, the 2020 season has been a breakthrough campaign for Dan Mullen. He beat Georgia for the first time, shattered school offensive records alongside a Heisman-caliber quarterback, and won the SEC East for the first time.

The No. 7 Gators had a chance to accomplish their biggest feat yet on Saturday night – winning the SEC Championship for the first time since 2008. Instead, Alabama (11-0) held off a ferocious second-half rally to defeat the Gators 52-46 to win its 28th SEC title.

Here is our Instant Analysis.

It Was Over When: After Nay’Quan Wright’s 3-yard rushing touchdown cut the Crimson Tide’s lead to 35-31 late in the third quarter, Alabama responded right back. They went 75 yards on 10 plays, converting a pair of third downs along the way. Running back Najee Harris scored from a yard out to make it a two-score game again.

On Florida’s next possession, Will Anderson beat UF right tackle Jean Delance and forced Kyle Trask to fumble. Tim Smith recovered. Will Reichard added a 20-yard field goal to extend the lead to 45-31.

Alabama held on from there.

He Stole the Show: Harris ran for 178 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries. He also caught five passes for 67 yards and three scores. His five total touchdowns set a new SEC Championship Game record.

Florida’s defense was in a good position to tackle him short of first downs and touchdowns on numerous occasions, but Harris’ power and electric spin move proved to be too much for them to handle.

Oh What A Play: With the score tied at seven, Alabama faced a third-and-2 at the Gators’ 22-yard line. Defensive back Trey Dean intercepted Mac Jones and returned it past the 30. However, receiver John Metchie delivered a wicked blow and jarred the ball loose. Alabama’s DeVonta Smith recovered at the 31. Smith scored on a deep crossing route on the next play.

It was at least a seven-point swing that ended up being critical in the end.

This Stat Mattered Most: Rarely is time-of-possession an important statistic, but it was in this one. Alabama held the ball for 34:21 and ran 83 plays compared to the Gators’ 66. Florida and Alabama were almost even in yards per play, so having the ball longer was an important factor. The Crimson Tide were able to run the ball extremely well and go on some long drives to wear the Gators down.

This Matchup Proved Key: Both offenses enjoyed tremendous success through the air. However, the difference was Alabama’s ability to run the ball and dominate time-of-possession with its offensive line. Alabama averaged 4.7 yards per carry, compared to just 2.1 for Florida. As has been the case numerous times the past few seasons, the trenches proved to be UF’s demise.

Up Next: The Gators (8-3) will learn their bowl assignment on Sunday. A New Year’s Six bowl remains a good possibility. They’ll look to end the season on a high note and avoid the program’s first three-game losing streak since losing five in a row in 2017.

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Instant Analysis: Gators’ comeback falls short in instant classic

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