GAINESVILLE, Fla. | It was as tantalizingly sweet to the inhabitants of the Swamp as buzzard meat held within reach of a hungry gator.
The capacity crowd of 90,888 was rocking. Florida held an early lead on Alabama, its offense was humming, the Crimson Tide defense was bumbling and a fierce Gator defense was set to lay siege to a supposed frazzled UA offense.
Only it never happened.
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With the heart of the team flat lining, the Alabama offense brandished a defibrillator and shocked life back into the nation's No. 3 team just in time for the defense to wake up and adjust to a Florida offense that had it reeling in the first seven minutes of the game.
It didn't happen all at once, but with a balanced offensive approach the Crimson Tide wore down the Gators and ground out what has become a trademark victory as junior running back Trent Richardson notched career highs in yardage (181) and carries (29).
Richardson led the charge as the running game pounded out 226 yards on 43 carries. AJ McCarron completed less than half of his passes, but he threw no interceptions and took no sacks, throwing for 140 yards.
After Florida scored on the game's first play from scrimmage, the Alabama offense produced a 12-play, 52-yard drive that featured junior tight end Michael Williams and Richardson.
McCarron found his 6-foot-6 tight end on two of the drive's first three plays. Richardson carried the ball five times on the drive for a total of 35 yards as UA cut into Florida's lead with a field goal.
The Gators responded with a field-goal drive of their own and Alabama once again faced a field-goal deficit. It was the last time the Gators scored.
Richardson tied the game on a 5-yard run behind the left tackle on the subsequent possession to cap a drive jump-started by Marquis Maze's 70-yard kick return. Richardson later added a 36-yard score in the fourth quarter to bring his season total to 11 touchdowns through five games.
Alabama coach Nick Saban said the early offensive production was exactly what the team needed to get back on track.
"I thought the offensive execution set the tone for the game," Saban said. "I've said it before and I'll say it again that there was going to come a day when the defense wasn't playing well and the offense would have to play well and today was that day, especially early in the game."
Richardson led another scoring drive late in the second quarter as Alabama pushed its lead to two touchdowns, giving the defense more room for error, a margin it never needed.
Richardson carried the ball five times on the drive and caught a 22-yard pass to help set up a McCarron 1-yard quarterback sneak that gave Alabama a 24-10 lead.
From there, the Alabama offense went into conservative mode, especially when UF starting quarterback John Brantley went out of the game with a lower leg injury right before the half.
Alabama totaled 177 yards of total offense in the first half and 189 in the second, 102 of which came from rushing yards in the fourth quarter when a domineering UA offensive line overwhelmed a tired UF defense.
Alabama held the ball for almost 10 minutes more than Florida, including a 9:16 to 5:44 advantage in the final quarter.
Reach Aaron Suttles at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0229.
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