By Scott Latta, UA Media Relations
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. For the third straight week, the Alabama offense orchestrated a crucial two-minute drive at the end of the game, this week to pull within 21-14 of Florida State with 1:06 remaining, but an unsuccessful ensuing onside kick gave the Seminoles the ball to run out the clock and seal the seven-point win over the Tide in front of a record crowd Saturday at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium.
After being shut out for three quarters, the Alabama offense came alive in the fourth, with junior quarterback John Parker Wilson orchestrating touchdown drives of 91 and 60 yards to bring the Tide back in the game. Alabama gained 182 of its 329 total yards in the fourth quarter.
After Wilson hit senior Keith Brown on a 17-yard touchdown with just over a minute left, however, an illegal touching penalty on the following onside kick ended Alabama’s chances of its third comeback in a row.
“I have to give Florida State a lot of credit,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “They were physical. They played with toughness. This was the first game I felt the other team was more physical than we were in terms of how we handled the line of scrimmage and the tackling, and I don’t feel we got that done.”
After a scoreless first half, Florida State opened the second half with an eight-play, 67-yard touchdown drive led by junior Xavier Lee, who finished Saturday’s game with 224 passing yards and 59 rushing yards.
After an Alabama fumble gave the Seminoles the ball at the Tide five-yard line, Florida State punched the ball in one play later to extend the lead to 14. Wilson then led the Tide 91 yards in just under four minutes to draw within seven, finding senior DJ Hall in the back of the end zone for the score.
A 70-yard touchdown pass from Lee to De’cody Fagg on the next play put the Seminoles up 21-7 with 4:46 left.
“It’s only good to come back in the game if you come back and win,” Saban said. “I just didn’t think we had the competitive disposition you need to beat good football teams, and Florida State is a good football team.”
Wilson finished the night 28-of-53 for 240 yards and two touchdowns, setting career highs in completions and attempts. Hall caught seven passes for 83 yards and a touchdown, senior Matt Caddell caught five passes for 41 yards, and Brown had three catches for 34 yards and a score.
On the ground, freshman Terry Grant had nine rushes for 36 yards, a season low, and sophomore Glen Coffee had five for 31 yards. Alabama’s average starting field position was inside its own 20 for much of the game, with all but one second-half drive originating inside the Tide’s own red zone.
Conversely, Florida State’s average field position in the first quarter was the 50-yard line and its average for the game was its own 37. The ability of the defense to keep the Seminoles out of the end zone with its back against the wall, junior Rashad Johnson said, kept Alabama in the game.
“It’s something we take pride in,” Johnson said. “No matter what offense gets the ball, we try not to let them in the end zone. We put our backs against the ball and fought our way out of it and did a good job.”
Alabama returns to Tuscaloosa next week to host the Houston Cougars for homecoming. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:07 p.m. and will be broadcast on Pay-Per-View.