GAINESVILLE, Fla. | For a frenzied first quarter, it appeared that the University of Alabama football team was in for the fight of the year at Florida Field. Then the storm subsided and Alabama's edge took over.
The Crimson Tide simply had a decided physical advantage and used it to batter the Florida Gators, 38-10, in front of the second-largest crowd in UF history (90,888).
Alabama's offense -- particularly the powerful Trent Richardson, who gained 181 yards and scored twice -- simply overwhelmed Florida in the second half. Meanwhile, the Gators, who had lost starting quarterback Jeff Brantley in the first half, had no offensive options in the second half. The No. 12 Gators had just 222 total yards, including just 46 in the second half.
"Defensively, we didn't do a very good job at the beginning of this game," said Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban. "But we settled down after that and played better."
"We got beat by a better team tonight said UF coach Will Muschamp. "You can't afford to make some of the costly mistakes we made. Trent Richardson is a good back and we need to clean up some tackles."
At the outset, Florida took a frenzied atmosphere and pushed into chaos as Brantley hit Andre Debose well behind UA cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick for a 65-yard score on the first play from scrimmage. Alabama answered with a solid drive, but stalled and settled for a short Jeremy Shelley field goal, cutting the lead to 7-3 with 5:19 to go in the first half.
Florida again used big-passing fireworks on the next drive, but after a near-miss fade throw by Brantley, ended up with a 21-yard field goal by Caleb Sturgis. And the door of opportunity began to close for UF.
Marquis Maze's 70-yard kickoff return supplied a quick answer and Trent Richardson did most of the heavy lifting on the rest of a 29-yard drive. Richardson's six-yard scoring run knotted the score at 10-10 with 52 seconds left in a hectic first quarter.
Just two minutes into the second quarter, momentum swung completely as Courtney Upshaw intercepted a Brantley screen pass and returned it 45 yards for a touchdown. As the Gator offense lost power, UA took over for another 61-yard drive, capped by AJ McCarron's 1-yard sneak.
The final Florida drove of the half did lead to a scoring threat, but ended badly as Brantley, the Gator starter at quarterback, suffered a knee injury and did not return.
Richardson and Lacy both added touchdown returns in the second half as UA inexorably pulled away to four-touchdown win, the first Tide triumph at Florida Field since 1999.
It was Florida's worst home loss since a 36-7 defeat in 2002 against LSU, also coached by Saban.
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com