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September 30, 2006

Game notes: Rushing woes continue for Tide

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Box score | Florida 28, Alabama 13 | Florida QBs answer the call

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Alabama's running game struggled through the first four games, and it didn't figure to get much better against the Florida.

It didn't.

The Crimson Tide, which was averaging 149 rushing yards per game, was held to 83 on 30 attempts - an average of fewer than 3 yards per carry.

Alabama tailback Kenneth Darby had 76 yards – his second-highest total of the season – on 14 carries. However, he gained 42 yards on three carries during drives that produced just three points.

Hoping to compensate for the running game's struggles, Crimson Tide quarterback John Parker Wilson passed 40 times – including 18 on first down – and completed 21 throws for 240 yards. He was intercepted three times.

"I thought we got some good looks because of the way we were throwing the football," Alabama coach Mike Shula said. "We felt good about our matchups of our receivers and their corners, but their corners are good. Even with the one-on-ones our guys still had to make plays."

DJ Hall had six catches for 117 yards and Keith Brown caught four for 36 for Alabama.

"At times they put two on Keith, at times they put two on DJ, so it's tough when they do that," Wilson said. "We ran the ball better today, but we have to make more plays."

Capitalizing on mistakes
Turnovers typically prove the difference in football games, and this game was no different. Florida turned two interceptions into 14 points and stopped an Alabama scoring opportunity with another pick.

The Crimson Tide was at the Florida 34 in the first quarter when Wilson, under pressure from Brandon Siler, threw slightly behind Tim Castille. The ball deflected off Castille's left shoulder to cornerback Ryan Smith.

Smith got another interception at the Alabama 34 in the fourth quarter, which set up a Chris Leak touchdown pass that staked Florida to a 21-13 lead.

Later in the fourth quarter safety Reggie Nelson returned an interception 70 yards for a clinching touchdown.

Alabama's only touchdown was scored on a 50-yard fumble return by linebacker Prince Hall.

High praise
Florida coach Urban Meyer isn't one to openly campaign for players to receive accolades, but he made an exception for Nelson. The safety had five tackles, an interception and broke up a pass.

"He's a great football player," Meyer said. "You'd have to convince me of free safeties that are playing better than Florida's (jersey) No. 1 right now. He's an All-SEC player, if not more."

Wynn injured
As if the upcoming stretch of LSU, Auburn and Georgia in consecutive weeks wasn't bad enough, the Gators must also worry whether leading rusher DeShawn Wynn will be available.

Wynn, who entered Saturday's game with back-to-back 104-yard outputs against Tennessee and Kentucky, limped off the field early in the third quarter after being tackled by Alabama's Jeremy Clark at the end of a 15-yard run.

Wynn, who appeared to sprain an ankle, did not return to the game and finished with 50 yards on 12 carries.

Toe woes
An extra point and 21-yard and 26-yard field goals don't seem too exciting. For Alabama, they were cause for celebration.

Junior Jamie Christensen, who had been out of action all season with a groin injury, replaced redshirt freshman Leigh Tiffin as Alabama's kicker. Christensen converted an extra point and two of three field-goal attempts, which represented vast progress for the Crimson Tide.

Tiffin, who earlier this season converted a game-winning field goal against Vanderbilt, missed three field goals – including two in the fourth quarter – and an extra point in last week's 24-23 overtime loss to Arkansas.

Christensen did miss once, but that attempt was from 51 yards.

Leak the streak
Florida quarterback Chris Leak isn't known as a running quarterback. In fact, he entered Saturday's game with minus 35 yards rushing (that includes losses from sacks). The longest run of his career was a 32-yard scamper as a freshman.

But that changed with a second quarter quarterback draw in which he darted behind a clearing block from Billy Lasko and dashed 45 yards before Alabama cornerback Lionel Mitchell ran him down at the 3-yard line.

"They were in an all-out blitz and the offensive line did a good job blocking the front seven," Leak said. "I found a crease and tried to take it as far as I could."

Honoring legends
Former Florida greats Emmitt Smith, Steve Spurrier, Danny Wuerffel and Jack Youngblood were honored during a pre-game ceremony in which 18-feet wide and 5-feet high monuments with their names and numbers were unveiled on the North End Zone faηade.

All but Smith attended the ceremony. He was represented by his mother.

With two touchdown passes, Leak moved into sole possession of second place on Florida's career touchdown pass chart with 79. He moved ahead of current Chicago Bears quarterback Rex Grossman, who had 77. … The Gators' 95-yard, 12-play drive for a second quarter touchdown was their longest drive of the season in time consumed, yards gained and number of plays. … Florida wore throw-back uniforms as part of its 100 years of football celebration. The helmets were from 1966 and the jerseys from 1967. … Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson has thrown for more than 200 yards in every game this season. … Tide running back Kenneth Darby recorded 105 all-purpose yards, which gives him 3,049 for his career. He became the 10th player in Alabama history to pass 3,000 all-purpose yards (he is now ninth) in his career. He remains 768 yards shy of the all-time rushing record held by Shaun Alexander.

For more coverage of the Florida Gators, visit GatorBait.net; for more on the Alabama Crimson Tide, visit BamaOnLine.com.

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