I don't really know how to go about writing this post, because it's something completely new to me as a blogger. See, I started this blog in October of 2008, shortly after the Gators lost to Ole Miss. Since then, they had reeled off 22 consecutive victories and I have not once had to comment about a loss. But then yesterday happened, and I've been trying to figure out the proper words to describe such a thorough beat down... and I'm fairly confident thorough beat down is an accurate term to describe the game.
As a fan, when your team loses, you try to come up with excuses and scapegoats to try and explain the loss. Some people may try and blame Carlos Dunlap, for his DUI and the suspension and distraction that resulted from it. Others will try and place blame on all of the talk swirling of defensive coordinator Charlie Strong becoming the next head coach at Louisville. Others will find some other excuse to help themselves sleep easier at night following a loss like that. But excuses can only take you so far and explain so much.
But to put it simply, Alabama dominated this game from virtually every facet. They doubled up Florida in terms of time of possession (about 40 minutes to UF's 20). Mark Ingram, by himself, out-rushed the Gators 113-88, and had twice as many rushes (28) as UF as a team (14). It's never good when the best rushing offense in the nation only rushes the ball 14 times, ten of which were with Tim Tebow. It also didn't help that the offense didn't have the ball long enough to establish the rush early on.
I'd bore you all with more stats, but by now, I'm sure we're all familiar with the numbers. It was the most yards allowed by UF under Urban Meyer. It was also the worst game plan of Meyer's tenure. Florida got beat Saturday in the Georgia Dome. They got outplayed. They got out-coached. But most importantly, they got out-hungered.
Nick Saban has his team hungrier for this SEC title than Florida was. Alabama had a bitter taste in its mouth after last year's game, and that team played like that memory was fresh in the players' minds. Yes, Tim Tebow and Brandon Spikes came back for their senior year to win another SEC title and to have a shot at another BCS title, but if you want to win a title, you need to play like a champion. That's just what Alabama did.
Truth be told, I had a bad feeling about the game all week, even before the Dunlap fiasco. This Florida team this year was good. They ran their regular season schedule. But they weren't last season's team. Ted put it best when he tweeted to me last night that in order to repeat, a team has to be better than they were the year before. It's a valid point, and despite a better regular season record, Florida was not better than last year's team. Losing Percy Harvin will do that to a team.
But as disappointing and as devastating as this SEC title game loss was, there's something to be said about this season. A 22-game win streak is nothing to scoff at. Nor is a 12-1 season. But as a friend -- a Gator hater, for what it's worth -- put it into perspective last night: when a 12-1 season and a BCS bowl berth is considered a failure, your team is doing something right.
And he's right. Any other season -- while team's should always strive for a national title -- a Sugar Bowl berth would be great. But not this season. This was supposed to be Florida's year. This is what Tebow and Spikes came back for. This is what this team worked for all year. Yet, it wasn't meant to be.
Instead, Tebow and Spikes will have to settle for a bittersweet Sugar Bowl against Cincinnati to close out their careers, and close out what was a once-promising season. Pasadena was intended to be the final destination for this team, but Alabama re-routed Florida's itinerary on Saturday evening, and now Florida's final destination will be the Big Easy, where it might not be so easy against an undefeated Cincinnati team.