Down goes Bama
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The cheers rained down from one side of the stadium as the other was sprinkled in crimson and teal specks. After Florida State recovered an onside kick with 59 seconds remaining ensuring its victory, the Seminoles fans screamed in unison, “Bobby Bowden”.
With a 21-14 win, one iconic coach got his first win against a team he grew up rooting for with a program that he helped build.
On the other sideline, first-year Alabama coach Nick Saban was looking for more answers. Now Saban, who continually preaches responding from adversity and having mental toughness will need to coax his team out of consecutive losses.
“They played physical and they out-toughed us,” Saban said. “This was the first game that I felt the other team played more physical than we were in terms of how to control the line of scrimmage and tackling. I didn’t feel like we got that done in this game”
Last week against Georgia, Alabama needed to work on its execution on third downs. The Crimson Tide finished 6 of 20 against FSU on Saturday.
Saban continually preaches more consistency out of his offense. The Crimson Tide attack sputtered through three quarters, not scoring a single point, then scored 14 points in the fourth quarter.
“We didn’t want to come here and have any regrets about how we played, but we have some,” Saban said. “I think (Florida State) is a good football team. I think they are an outstanding defensive football team. I didn’t think we played with the kind of poise you need to execute against a team of their caliber.”
One of the main issues plaguing Alabama was the play of Florida State quarterback Xavier Lee.
Lee replaced ineffective Seminoles starter Drew Weatherford in the second quarter and gave the Florida State offense a different look than Alabama had prepared for.
Lee used his feet to rush for 59 yards and his arm to pass for 224 yards on 12 of 19 attempts. It was his first action of the season.
“He gave us a life. He did what we’ve always wanted him to do,” Bowden said. “Xavier has always been a young man with great potential and I thought tonight he began to use that potential in a positive way.”
After an ineffective first half for both teams that saw them combine for a total of 167 yards – Alabama had 78 and Florida State had 89 – and zero total points, Lee went to work on Florida State’s first drive of the third quarter.
He hit all five of his passing plays, including a 7-yard touchdown strike to De’Cody Fagg to put the Seminoles ahead 7-0 with the extra point.
“We really didn’t work on (preparing for him) that much,” said Cornerback Simeon Castille. “But no matter what happens in the game, you have to adjust and we have to do a better job of adjusting during the game.”
Both teams were unable to score again until the beginning of the fourth quarter. A protection breakdown around Alabama’s goal line made Wilson run to his left. As he was hit by pursuing Seminoles defensive end Everette Brown, Wilson lost the football and it was recovered by Florida Ste defensive tackle Letroy Guion.
On the next play, Antone Smith beat Prince Hall around the left corner to get into the end zone and put the score at 14-0 with 9:03 remaining.
The Crimson Tide scored on its next possession, a 13 play 91-yard drive that culminated in a 7-yard touchdown pass to DJ Hall in the back of the end zone with 5:04 left put the score at 14-7.
But on its next offensive play, Florida State scored on a 70-yard touchdown pass from Lee to Fagg to essentially seal the win.
“We’re playing better opponents,” said Wilson who finished 28 of 53 for 240 yards and two touchdowns. “I don’t think we’re going backwards, I think we need to get back on the right track and I think we have a good team.”