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Upon Further Review: Alabama 31, Florida 29

The final word on the Crimson Tide's SEC opener, which was Nick Saban's 50th road victory with Alabama.

A lot of the talk after Alabama's 31-29 victory over Florida on Saturday was about the atmosphere, and how difficult is was for the Crimson Tide to play in The Swamp. 

It was even harder than it looked.

The Gator fans were out in force. The paid attendance of 90,887 was the the fifth-largest crowd in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium history and the largest-ever crowd in head coach Dan Mullen’s tenure. 

It was the stadium's largest crowd since Nov. 28, 2015 vs. Florida State, 90,916, which is also the largest crowd to ever see a game played there.

"Crazy atmosphere," sophomore quarterback Bryce Young said. "Those fans were really loud."

However, no one bothered to notice the other side of the equation. 

Think Young's ever played before a crowd like that before? 

You can go right down the Alabama roster and anyone who was in the signing Class of 2020 or 2021 surely had not. Even among those who had experienced that kind of hostile setting before, like at Texas A&M and Auburn in 2019, it had still been two years. 

Alabama's only third-year starters are tackle Evan Neal, linebacker Christian Harris and nose tackle D.J. Dale. 

Remember, last season there were severe attendance restrictions due to the pandemic. The largest crowd the Crimson Tide played before was 23,394 when it visited Tennessee.  

Alabama 2020 Attendance 

  • at Missouri 11,738
  • Texas A&M 19,424
  • at Ole Miss 14,419
  • Georgia 19,424
  • at Tennessee 23,394
  • Mississippi State 19,424
  • Kentucky 19,424
  • Auburn 19,424
  • at LSU 22,349
  • at Arkansas 16,500
  • SEC Championship vs, Florida 16,520
  • Rose Bowl (in Arlington, Texas) 18,373
  • National Championship Game 14,926

This was Young's first true road game as a starter just like it was for a lot of other Crimson Tide players. Two weeks ago at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta, the announced attendance was 71,916, but it was mostly a pro-Alabama venue. 

Keep that in mind when wondering how the Crimson Tide might react to the close win. 

Play of the Game: Considering it represented the difference in the game, it has to be Florida's failed two-point conversion. Linebacker Henry To'oTo'o was ultimately the player who got in the way of running back Malik Davis, with help from linebackers Will Anderson Jr. and Drew Sanders. 

Player of the Game: Even though his 62.9 completion percentage and 147.06 rating were both season lows, Young was 22-for-35 for 233 yards, with three passing touchdowns and no interceptions.

Stat of the Game: Since playing Michigan in the Citrus Bowl at the end of the 2020 season, Alabama defeated Florida twice by a combined eight points. The Crimson Tide won its 15 other games by an average of 31.7 points.

5 Things You Need to Know 

It's a stat-driven list this week, with the primary aim to show just how unusual the victory was for Alabama and Nick Saban.

1] Florida held Alabama to its lowest total yardage in a single game since Nov., 10, 2018 vs. Mississippi State, a span of 34 games. Coming off its usual physical game against LSU, Alabama tallied 305 yards and still won 24-0.

2] The Crimson Tide was out-gained by an opposing offense for the first time since  Nov. 9, 2019, when LSU had a 559-541 edge. Florida out-gained Alabama by a 108-yard margin, 439-333, the most yards since the National Championship Game on Jan. 9. 2017 (135 by Clemson, 511-376).

3] Florida, which came into the game leading the nation in rushing by averaging 381.5 yards, had a 258-91 edge on the ground. Overall, 73.8 percent of the Gators' yards were rushing. 

4] The last time Alabama punted on three-straight drives was on Oct. 17, 2020 against Georgia. This was the first time the Crimson Tide had three three-and-outs in a single game in the last two seasons.

5] Alabama's winning streak against the SEC Eastern Division, which now spans more than a decade (South Carolina, 2010), is up to 32 straight wins. Four of the victories have been against Florida. 

Check out Christopher Walsh's notes column All Things CW on Friday for an additional statistical breakdown of the Crimson Tide.