ATLANTA (AP) - Mark Ingram and Greg McElroy sliced up the
fearsome Florida defense and Tim Tebow finally met his match, no
matter how hard he tried to fire up his teammates.
With an emphatic 32-13 chomping of the Gators, the Crimson Tide
again stands atop the Southeastern Conference. More important,
Alabama is just one win away from an even bigger title - its first
national championship since 1992, led by a coach who believes in
"The Process" instead of the houndstooth.
Ingram, making a strong bid to claim the school's first Heisman
Trophy, rushed for 113 yards and three touchdowns. McElroy was 12
of 18 for 239 yards and a touchdown to show he's no weak link and
No. 2 Alabama rekindled memories of Paul "Bear" Bryant with the
convincing victory Saturday.
Alabama (13-0) moves on to Pasadena for the BCS championship
game. Tebow and the Gators (12-1) will likely settle for the Sugar
Bowl, denied a shot at their third national title in four years.
When it was over, there were a range of emotions.
Nick Saban, the no-nonsense, process-oriented coach who needed
only three years to bring Alabama all the way back from a miserable
era, looked totally out of character as he leaped up to bump
shoulders with Ingram on the sideline.
Tebow found himself in an unusual position, too: sitting on the
bench and appearing to wipe away tears as the clock ran out.
The Tide led all the way, establishing its will on the very
first drive. In the second half, Alabama shut 'em down.
Trailing 19-13 at the half, Florida took the third-quarter
kickoff and came up a yard short on Tebow's third-and-7 pass to
Riley Cooper. The Gators didn't know it at the time, but it was
Ingram carried it three straight times before McElory went down
the right sideline to Maze for a 28-yard pass. A silly penalty on
Jermaine Cunningham - he shoved McElroy in the back two steps after
the quarterback threw the ball away - set up a perfect throw and
McElory rolled to his right, stopped suddenly and lofted the
pass in the other direction, the ball dropping right over Colin
Peek as he extended his arms to haul in a 17-yard touchdown.
Ingram finished it off with his third TD early in the fourth,
powering over from the 1 to cap an 88-yard drive - the Tide's
longest of the season.
Tebow, who came back for his senior year in hopes of winning
another title, was 20 of 35 for 247 yards but his last gasp was
picked off in the end zone.
"It's tough. You know it's not how you want to go out," Tebow
said, struggling to contain his emotions. "They were just better
than us today, offense, defense, special teams."
Alabama made up for its 31-20 loss to Florida in last year's SEC
title game, a result that was on their minds every step of the way.
"Everything we did all year long was to beat them, to be better
than them," Ingram said.
Saban led LSU to a share of the 2003 national title and, after a
brief, unhappy stint in the NFL, he returned to take over an
Alabama program that had gone through four coaches in seven
seasons. It didn't take long for Saban to realize just how
passionate the Tide faithful are about their football - more than
90,000 fans turned out for the spring game.
Saban's first year was a struggle (Alabama even lost to
Louisiana-Monroe) but it was clear he had the program back on the
right track. In Year 2, the Tide ripped off 12 straight
regular-season wins before Florida ruined their title hopes,
rallying for a 31-20 victory in the SEC title game.
Turns out, Saban's team was merely putting things off for a
year. Alabama went 12-0 in the regular season again, and this time
not even Tebow and the mighty Gators could stem the Tide.
As the new SEC champions celebrated, "Sweet Home Alabama"
blared over the speakers at the Georgia Dome.
"Roll, Tide, roll!" the fans cheered along.
Florida was short-handed for a game that has seemed preordained
from the very first practice of the season. Carlos Dunlap, the
team's best pass rusher, couldn't play after being arrested on
drunken-driving charges Tuesday. Another key player,
receiver-returner Brandon James, was hobbled in the second half and
At end of third quarter, Alabama celebrated with its
crimson-clad fans, while Tebow called all of his teammates around
him at the 40-yard line, exhorting them to pull off another
fourth-period comeback. That's what the Gators did a year ago,
scoring two TDs in the final 15 minutes to overcome the Tide.
Not this time.
The Tide held the ball for nearly 40 minutes and piled up 490
yards against a defense that was ranked No. 1 in the country,
allowing less than 10 points and about 233 yards per game.