How Alabama's offense fared on crucial short-yardage plays against Florida
Alabama’s offensive line still looks a long way off from last year’s Joe Moore Award-winning unit. Saturday’s 31-29 victory at Florida wasn’t a banner day for the Crimson Tide’s big uglies as Alabama ran for just 91 yards, its lowest rushing total since the 2019 game against South Carolina.
When asked to assess his offensive line’s play against Florida, Nick Saban said the unit did a “good job” while stating that he would have liked to see more consistency in the running game. Alabama averaged just 3.4 yards per carry and managed just five rushes of more than 5 yards on the afternoon.
Still, when push came to shove — literally — the Tide’s front was generally able to come through when it mattered most. Here’s a look at how Alabama’s offense performed on crucial short-yardage situations over the weekend.
5:34, Q1 | Third-and-1 from the Alabama 48
The play: Bryce Young took a snap out of the shotgun and motioned to run right before dumping a ball off to running back Jase McClellan who was wide open in the flats for an 18-yard gain.
The significance: After scoring a touchdown on its first possession, Alabama allowed Florida to march down the field for a field goal on the ensuing drive. McClellan’s 18-yard reception extended Alabama’s second possession and ultimately set up a 26-yard touchdown pass from Young to tight end Jahleel Billingsley two plays later to put Alabama up 14-3.
Key block: This play had more to do with a breakdown in Florida’s defense than it did with Alabama’s offensive line. Gators Star Tre’Vez Johnson decided to come after Young which left McClellan open for the big gain.
8:53, Q3 | Third-and-3 from the Alabama 32
The play: Young took a snap out of the shotgun and handed it off to Robinson who stutter-stepped before finding a hole to his left cleared by center Darrian Dalcourt. From there the running back rumbled for a gain of 11 yards.
The significance: Alabama’s offense suffered three straight three-and-outs in the second quarter and was on the verge of another to start the second half. Robinson’s first down snapped that streak, extending the drive which eventually went for a touchdown.
Key block: The entire left side of Alabama’s offensive line did a nice job on this play. Left tackle Evan Neal and left guard Javion Cohen cleared their men to the outside while Dalcourt made a crucial block to open the lane. Florida defensive lineman Daquan Newkirk was able to spin away from Cohen but was unable to reposition himself in time to stop Robinson, who burst past him for the first down.
4:37, Q3 | Fourth-and-1 from the Florida 3
The play: After replay showed that McClellan was inches short of the first down on a third-down reception from Young, Alabama elected to go for it on fourth down instead of attempting a field goal. The Tide hurried out of the huddle in a jumbo set that saw Billingsley, Kendall Randolph and Chris Owens all line up to the left of Neal. With Florida expecting a run up the middle, Young handed the ball off to Robinson who cruised into the end zone untouched.
The significance: Florida had just scored in a similar fashion on the previous drive as running back Dameon Pierce also found the end zone on a fourth-and-1 to cut Alabama’s lead to 21-16. Robinson’s touchdown increased the Tide’s advantage back to double digits while also taking some of the air out of a raucous Florida crowd.
Key block: This one was too easy for Alabama. Expecting a run up the middle, the Gators were left exposed on the left side. Billingsley knocked back Florida cornerback Trey Dean III while Randolph handled his man with similar ease, allowing Robinson to walk in for the score.
11:24, Q4 | Third-and-3 from the Alabama 12
The play: Similar to his third-down completion to McClellan on Alabama’s second possession, Young took a snap out of the shotgun before rolling to his right on a misdirection play. With Robinson covered out of the backfield, Young juked out Florida linebacker Mohamoud Diabate before shoveling the ball to tight end Cameron Latu who broke past Gators linebacker Amari Burney for a 10-yard gain to the 2-yard line.
The significance: At the time, it appeared as though the first down would set up a touchdown, allowing Alabama to once again put itself up by two possessions. However, Florida’s defense had different plans.
Key block: Alabama’s line pushed to the left as Young rolled out to his right. In the end, it was the quarterback’s athletic ability that allowed the play to happen.
10:50, Q4 | First-and-goal from the Florida 2
The play: Following Latu’s first down, Alabama looked to punch the ball into the end zone as Young handed off to Robinson out of the goal-line formation. However, the back was quickly gobbled up by Diabate and defensive lineman Gervon Dexter at the 1-yard line.
The significance: Florida needed to keep Alabama out of the end zone in order to prevent the Tide from putting the game out of reach with a two-possession lead.
Missed block: Right guard Emil Ekiyor Jr. was blown up at the line by Dexter who was then able to stuff Robinson before he reached the end zone.
10:11, Q4 | Second-and-goal from the Florida 1
The play: Rolling out to his right from under center, Young play-faked to Robinson before continuing his run out to the perimeter. It appeared as though the quarterback had the room to make a dash for the end zone. However, he elected to throw the ball instead. His pass was tipped before falling into the hands of Latu, who was unable to keep his feet in bounds in the corner of the end zone.
The significance: The incompletion set up a pressure-packed third-down attempt while providing more momentum for a Florida defense looking to make a goal-line stand.
Key block: After Young play-faked to Robinson, the back performed a nice cut block on Florida defensive lineman Zachary Carter, giving his quarterback time to roll out.
10:05, Q4 | Third-and-goal from the Florida 1
The play: Using the same jumbo set that sprung Robinson for a touchdown in the third quarter, Alabama tried a similar play as Young handed the ball off to McClellan. However, this time Florida was ready for the run to the left as McClellan was stuffed at the line of scrimmage.
The significance: The stop once again kept Alabama out of the end zone while igniting the Florida crowd. The Tide lined up to go for it on fourth down but ultimately settled for a field goal after Ekiyor was flagged for a false start.
Missed block: Owens was beaten off the line which appeared to prompt fullback Robbie Ouzts to block inside instead of picking up Burney who provided the stop on McClellan.
Late fourth quarter | Third-and-2 from the Alabama 33
The play: Lining up with two tight ends to the left of the line, Alabama handed the ball off to Robinson who burst through a hole between Ekiyor and Owens on the right side for the first down.
The significance: While the clock inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium was malfunctioning, the first down allowed Alabama to extend its final possession and eat up precious time. The Tide ultimately punted the ball to Florida with four seconds remaining, giving the Gators time for just one play to go for the win. From there, Florida quarterback Emory Jones was brought down by Alabama linebacker Jaylen Moody to end the game.
Key block: Ekiyor made an athletic play, stepping to his right to allow Carter to his left before clearing the defender out of the way to open a hole for Robinson. Owens also did a nice job of clearing off outside linebacker Jeremiah Moon on the edge, while Dalcout held off Gervon long enough for Robinson to reach the first-down marker.