3:30 PM ET, October 1, 2005
Bryant-Denny Stadium, TUSCALOOSA, AL
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) -- Alabama produced everything from long touchdown passes to a goal line stand in its biggest game in nearly 6 years.
Then, the Crimson Tide players wondered why people seemed so surprised at their 31-3 rout of No. 5 Florida on Saturday.
"This is exactly where we thought we'd be," quarterback Brodie Croyle said.
Few others were expecting such a dominant performance from No. 15 Alabama (5-0, 3-0 Southeastern Conference), which proclaimed itself perhaps the league's team to beat with the victory.
Croyle threw for three TDs, including an 87-yarder to Tyrone Prothro and a 65-yarder to Keith Brown, and the defense was even more impressive in shutting down Urban Meyer's offense.
A Meyer-coached team had never been held without a touchdown, and the Gators (4-1, 2-1) hadn't been kept out of the end zone since 1992.
"Tell him not to feel so bad, because he played a very good defense," Tide defensive back Charlie Peprah said.
Alabama, which had lost its last five games against top-five teams at Bryant-Denny Stadium, got its biggest win since a 34-7 victory over Florida in the 1999 SEC championship game. Tide fans, who had been hungry for just such a victory, mostly remained in the stands well after the game's conclusion, celebrating as the players lingered on the field.
"That's all we talked about all week, that we could make history," said Croyle, who was 15-for-18 for 286 yards.
The Gators had the league's top defense overall and against the pass, but left having failed to even slow down Croyle when it counted.
Coming into the game, Croyle hadn't completed a pass longer than 52 yards all season.
"We are a man-coverage team and we were exposed," Meyer said. "We lost a lot of one-on-one battles. They are a very fast team. They looked a lot faster than we did today."
Chris Leak, meanwhile, was harassed into a 5-of-16 performance in the first half and his first two interceptions of the season, leaving him three passes shy of Danny Wuerffel's school record streak of 121 without a pick.
It was the Gators' worst defeat since losing 36-7 to LSU in 2002 and ended Meyer's personal 20-game winning streak at Utah and Florida.
"Our back was against the wall the whole game," defensive end Jeremy Mincey said. "They took advantage of that. They're a talented team but we could have and should have won."
There was one downer for Alabama on its best day under coach Mike Shula.
Prothro was carted off the field with a splint on his lower left leg after landing awkwardly trying to catch a fourth-down pass in the end zone in the fourth quarter. Shula said the do-it-all receiver broke his leg in two places and was likely out for the season.
"There were a lot of questions about how we could match up against a talented team," Shula said. "Hopefully we answered some of those."
The Gators trailed 24-3 at halftime and couldn't capitalize on Alabama's one big mistake.
Prothro fumbled away the punt after Alabama's defense pinned Florida at its own 7 on the opening drive. After the Gators again failed to gain a yard before punting, Croyle hit Prothro in stride just across midfield for the long touchdown on the next play.
It was just the beginning. Alabama's defense set up another TD when Chris Harris intercepted a deflected pass and returned it 14 yards to Florida's 2. The Tide added Croyle's 65-yarder to Keith Brown midway through the second quarter on a slant pattern.
Meyer said his team "crumbled early" and never recovered.
"There is a big difference between being ready and being prepared," he said. "And we got beat by a team that was better prepared."
Florida's biggest play of the half: Earl Everett's 32-yard run on a fake punt, with little else working. Freddie Roach upended DeShawn Wynn at the goal line on fourth down to open the second quarter and end that threat, the first of several that fell short of the end zone.
"We knew we had to bow our legs on the goal line and make a stand," Tide linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. "We couldn't let them in the end zone. We knew he was going to get the ball."
Leak finished 16 of 37 for 187 yards with a second interception early in the fourth quarter. His first four series, he couldn't complete any of his five passes with an interception and a fumble recovered by a teammate while Alabama applied constant pressure.
Wynn ran for 47 yards on 12 carries.
Prothro caught five passes for 134 yards and added a 15-yard touchdown in the third. Kenneth Darby rushed 15 times for 101 yards for the Tide.
Croyle broke Alabama's career record held by Andrew Zow and current coach Mike Shula's career record of 35 touchdown passes with his 15-yarder to Prothro in the third quarter.
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... Tyrone Prothro took a Brodie Croyle pass and went 88 yards to put the Tide up 7-0. With the way Bama's D played, that was plenty.
Gameball goes to... Croyle. Alabama's signal caller was an efficient 15-of-17 for 287 yards and tossed three touchdown passes.
Stat of the game... 166: The last time the Gators didn't score a TD was 166 games ago against Mississippi State in 1992.
The Fan Pick
27.8% of College Pick'em players picked Alabama to win the game.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||4-16||5-12|
|4th Down Conversions||2-5||0-1|
|TD||11:27||TYRONE PROTHRO 87 YD PASS FROM BRODIE CROYLE (JAMIE CHRISTENSEN KICK)|
Drive info: 1 plays, 87 yards.
|TD||9:45||TIM CASTILLE 1 YD RUN (JAMIE CHRISTENSEN KICK)|
Drive info: 3 plays, 2 yards.
|FG||5:52||JAMIE CHRISTENSEN 22 YD FG|
Drive info: 6 plays, 50 yards.
|FG||7:32||CHRIS HETLAND 37 YD FG|
Drive info: 5 plays, 45 yards.
|TD||7:22||KEITH BROWN 65 YD PASS FROM BRODIE CROYLE (JAMIE CHRISTENSEN KICK)|
Drive info: 1 plays, 65 yards.
|TD||11:59||TYRONE PROTHRO 15 YD PASS FROM BRODIE CROYLE (JAMIE CHRISTENSEN KICK)|
Drive info: 7 plays, 80 yards.