(2) Alabama rolls over (1) Florida, 32-13
- David Jones, Florida Today
December 06, 2009

  Coach Nick Saban
Alabama coach Nick Saban is hugged by Alabama defensive lineman Terrence Cody (62) as the trophy is presented Saturday at the SEC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
Photo - The Birmingham News
ATLANTA, GA. Nick Saban waited until after last year's bowl season was over when he called his team together to talk about Florida. The Gators had polished off the Tide in the SEC title game on the way to the 2008 national championship.

He talked about excellence. He talked about pushing harder. He talked about beating the Gators. Ten months or so later, Alabama got its revenge with a 32-13 win against the top-ranked Gators in Saturday's SEC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome.

"This team wanted to prove they could do something special," Saban said after Alabama's dominating effort. "And they wanted to be as good as they could possibly be. And that's how they worked. And that was the buy-in."

The Crimson Tide finished with 490 yards total offense, the most given up by UF since Michigan had 524 yards in a 41-35 win against the Gators in the Capital One Bowl after the 2007 season. Quarterback Greg McElroy (12 of 18 for 239 yards and one TD) and Heisman Trophy candidate Mark Ingram (28 carries, 115 yards, three touchdowns) led the way.

It's the Tide's first SEC title since 1999. The win lifted Alabama (13-0) into the BCS national title game. The Crimson Tide last won a national crown in the 1992 season.

McElroy held up two fingers after the win.

"The two fingers signifies 22, this is our 22nd SEC championship for the University of Alabama," he explained. "It's something that's important. It's a big reason why a lot of people come here, is to play for the tradition."

Florida (12-1) came in with the No. 1 ranking and hoping to repeat as national champions.

"This is not how we wanted to finish our season in the SEC, and you know, there were a lot of goals we won't be able to accomplish," said Gators quarterback Tim Tebow, who completed 20 of 35 passes for 247 yards and one touchdown while running for 63 yards on 10 attempts.

The loss snapped the nation's longest winning streak at 22 games, which was also fourth-longest in SEC history. The Gators are expected to play against Cincinnati, the Big East champion, in the Jan. 1 Sugar Bowl. Meyer is a former Bearcat defensive back.

"The Sugar Bowl is pretty good," Gators linebacker Ryan Stamper said. "But the BCS bowl was our goal, to play for the national championship."

It was Florida's worst loss since a 31-3 defeat to Alabama in Meyer's first season as the Gators' head coach in 2005. The Gators fell behind by nine points three different times in the first half. It was just the third game this season in which they trailed and the largest margin.

Despite being clearly out played, UF trailed just 19-13 at the half.

"You felt like you could still come back," Meyer said. "If we would have got something going right away in the third quarter, and we obviously didn't, so that was a huge momentum shift."

Alabama, which came into the game 27-1 under Saban when leading at the half, held Florida on the first possession of the third quarter and drove for another touchdown, this one a 17-yard pass from McElroy to tight end Colin Peek.

Ingram got the Tide's final touchdown on a 1-yard run early in the fourth quarter. Tebow immediately guided Florida down the field to keep fading hopes alive but Javier Arenas's interception in the end zone pretty much spelled the end for the Gators.

Perhaps the most stunning part of the game was the inconsistent play of the Gators' defense. Florida came into the contest leading the nation in scoring defense (9.8) but missed one big tackle after another as Ingram and Trent Richardson (11 carries, 80 yards) were dominating.

"They played outside themselves," Florida safety Joe Haden said. "They played great today."

The Crimson Tide rolled up 251 yards rushing on the ground. Florida was allowing opponents only 89.9 yards an outing. Alabama converted 11 of 15 third downs and had the ball for more than 39 minutes. The Gators had the ball for just over 20 minutes and had 22 fewer offensive plays.

"That team was the better team today," linebacker Brandon Spikes said. "They made the plays they needed to make. They made better plays than us."