Things looked pretty good for Florida at one point in the 2016 SEC Championship Game. The Gators drove down the field and scored on the opening drive of the game, Austin Appleby finding Antonio Callaway to punch in an offensive touchdown on a defense that did not yield one in the month prior.
Florida’s defense stopped the Crimson Tide on their first offensive series, too. A fired-up Jarrad Davis came off the field after that three-and-out and hurled his helmet at Florida’s #GETTHEBALL whiteboard, appearing to crack it.
It may not have been a mirror, but Florida’s luck against Alabama resembled that of the last seven years from that moment until triple zeroes.
The Crimson Tide responded to their early deficit with 33 first-half points, intercepting Appleby three times and returning one of those picks for six, and scored 21 unanswered points in the second half, cruising to a 54-16 win — Florida’s most lopsided defeat since a 62-24 blowout at the hands of Nebraska in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl.
Apart from Appleby having occasional success through the air — he threw for 261 yards and two touchdowns, and completed 26 of 39 throws — there was nothing much to smile about for the Gators on this day.
- Including sacks, Alabama held the Gators to zero rushing yards.
- Florida gave up two non-offensive touchdowns — and five more on defense.
- One of those touchdowns came on the first blocked punt of Johnny Townsend’s career — though it did produce Florida’s second scoring opportunity, as the Gators blocked the subsequent extra point, and housed it for a two-point safety.
- Florida also called a fake punt after calling a timeout. It went poorly.
- Alabama outgained Florida by more than 100 yards (372 to 261) despite holding the ball for more than 10 fewer minutes (35:08 to 24:52) of game clock.
- Florida failed on fourth and goal early in the second half — then immediately gave up a 98-yard touchdown drive.
- Florida lineman Taven Bryan was ejected from the game after being called for a facemask penalty and unnecessary roughness on a body slam on the same play — and those were only two of the three flags on Florida on that play.
- Florida’s Martez Ivey and Jarrad Davis, each playing hurt, both left the game with injuries.
- The 38-point loss and 54 points allowed were both the worst marks for Florida since the Fiesta Bowl.
All told, it wasn’t that different from what might have been expected from a game between these two teams, given that Alabama won the turnover battle and made no major mistakes. Alabama is simply better than Florida is, right now, and Alabama played like it on this day.
For Florida, the titanic task remains the same: Finding its way to a day when that might not be the case.
For fans, that path certainly seems hard to find.