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Last look: How the Tide stopped a second-half comeback by the Gators

Alabama escaped with a victory in The Swamp on Saturday and now shifts its focus toward Southern Miss.

“Florida is a really good team and had a great plan offensively for us … this is a tough place to play,” said Nick Saban.

Alabama came out hot in the first quarter scoring 21 points with ease. A large part of this was due, once again, to the passing attack.

The Tide showed the college football world again that they can abandon the run game to an extent at times and that they are effective while doing it. Bryce Young attempted a pass on five of their first six plays.

Not exactly the Alabama of old.

Young had a great game throwing for 240 yards and three touchdowns. Those three touchdowns were the first three touchdowns of the game.

On the second drive, Alabama threw the ball on seven of their eight plays from scrimmage and scored yet again. The third drive looked very similar to the first two and was full of passing plays as well.

So why would Alabama quit throwing the ball if that’s what was working? Simply put, Florida kind of figured it out.

The next three possessions Bama had before halftime were all three-and-outs that were laced with failed or short passing attempts. Gators head coach Dan Mullen finally got on his defensive coordinator and players and came up with a scheme that could stop the air clinic from Alabama.

The Gators got the ball to start the second half and scored to make it a five-point game. Alabama and Saban had to figure out what to do next to not let Mullen’s squad overtake them.

The first drive of the half, the Tide had a slightly tweaked game plan and balanced up the offense just a little bit, throwing for only eight of the next 13 plays on the scoring drive. The drive ended with the first rushing touchdown of the day from Brian Robinson, Jr. showing they can get it done either way.

Coach Saban also lit a fire under his team at halftime, citing a lack of intensity from his players as the reason for the comeback. He had been preaching to his team for two weeks the importance of staying focused and finishing a full 60-minute game.

On what he thought was the main reason that Florida started to come back on his team, Saban said, “We have to continue to be able to maintain intensity throughout a game. We got ahead 21-3 when our players played absolutely great football, and then we go three-and-out three times in a row. That got the crowd back into it.”

Saban decided to balance his team out well with a 35:28 pass to run ratio by the end of the game. However, the passing game proved more deadly with a 62% better yardage output.

Alabama did one more crucial thing that helped them hold off the Gators’ roaring comeback: They won the turnover battle. While both teams were solid in keeping the ball in their possessions, Florida still made a mistake when Bama didn’t.

Emory Jones threw one interception all game, and actually seemed to play better after that, but even still it was enough. Alabama was able to hold onto the ball with no turnovers, which is likely the most important piece of the puzzle to how Alabama held off Florida just long enough to get the win.

On the close game, Saban said, “I think there is a lot to learn, and I’m hopeful that our team can learn from this experience. Learn how to improve and how to get better… and play with more consistency and play with more intensity.”

They will get a chance to work on their consistency once again this week as they invite Southern Miss into Bryant-Denny this Saturday at 6:30 p.m. While the Tide won’t get to work on their intensity throughout a game as much, they need to try because the next week is a tough one.

Saban needs to make sure his team stays focused this week as they prepare for Southern Miss as well as Ole Miss who they play the following week. That game will require a full 60 minutes of intensity and effort.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football and college basketball writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.