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Alabama Falls to Florida in SEC Championship Game, 31-20

ROLLTIDEDOTCOM Freshman receiver Julio Jones had five catches for 124 yards.
Freshman receiver Julio Jones had five catches for 124 yards.

Dec. 6, 2008

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ATLANTA, Ga. - No. 1 Alabama gained 323 yards in total offense Saturday, getting a pair of rushing touchdowns and 147 yards on the ground, but No. 2 Florida outlasted the Crimson Tide 31-20 in the SEC Championship game in Atlanta's Georgia Dome.

Saturday's game was Alabama's sixth appearance in the SEC's championship game, with all six games coming against the Gators. The loss to Florida snaps Alabama's 13-game winning streak and gives the Tide its first loss of the season, putting Alabama's record at 12-1 (8-0 SEC). Florida's win puts the Gators at 12-1 (7-1 SEC).

"I'm very proud of what our football team was able to accomplish this year," said Alabama coach Nick Saban. "The only team that plays in a real BCS conference that went 12-0, which is very difficult to do, and I'm very proud of the way our players played, with consistency all year, the way they competed."

Saturday's game marked the first time in SEC history that the nation's No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams faced each other in-conference. In total, the Tide and the Gators racked up 681 yards of total offense and six touchdowns in a game that featured four lead changes.

After Florida got on the board early in the first quarter, driving the ball 59 yards in nine plays to take a 7-0 lead, Alabama immediately answered with a 64-yard pass from John Parker Wilson to Julio Jones and a 20-yard touchdown run by Coffee on the following play to tie the score at seven. The Tide would take a 10-7 lead over the Gators on a 30-yard Leigh Tiffin field at the end of the first quarter.

Florida responded in the second quarter with 10 unanswered points, getting a 19-yard field goal and 5-yard touchdown pass to take a 17-10 lead to the half.

Alabama dominated the third quarter, recording 10 first downs and 156 total yards while getting 10 points of its own to reclaim the lead going to the fourth. A 15-play, 91-yard drive capped by a 3-yard Mark Ingram run tied the game at 17 and a 27-yard Tiffin kick later in the quarter put the Tide back on top 20-17 heading to the fourth.

Florida rolled up 116 yards of offense and a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter to put the game away.

"You know, we didn't get the result that we hoped for today," Saban said. "I'm very, very proud of the way our guys competed in the game and the way they've played all year. We kind of ran out of gas in the fourth quarter a little bit in what was a very tough, physical game. I think both teams played extremely well in this game. There weren't a lot of penalties."

Wilson finished the game 12-of-25 for 187 yards with an interception. Jones led Alabama's receivers with five catches for 124 yards. Coffee led the Alabama rushing attack with 21 carries for 112 yards, giving him 1,347 rushing yards on the season, the fourth-highest single-season rushing total in Alabama history.

The Tide was led on defense by Rolando McClain and Rashad Johnson, who each recorded nine tackles. Despite the loss, Alabama's 12-win regular season and high Bowl Championship Series ranking will send the Tide to a January BCS bowl.

"I want our players not to hang their head," Saban said. "They've got a lot to be proud of in terms of what they accomplished, but it's going to be about what we did. When we sit down and watch the film, we're going to see the mistakes that we made and what we didn't do correctly and how that affected the outcome of the game. It's all about execution. When you play great teams the premium is on execution, and Florida is a great team, and we absolutely wish them the best of luck in representing our league and hope they win the National Championship."