Sep 20, 2014 7:44 PM
Blake Sims, No. 3 Alabama top Florida 42-21
The Associated Press
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) Blake Sims threw for 445 yards, the second-best passing performance in Alabama history, and the third-ranked Crimson Tide overcame a sloppy performance to beat Florida 42-21 on Saturday.
The Tide (4-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) committed 11 penalties for 80 yards and four turnovers that turned into 21 points for the Gators (2-1, 1-1), who still couldn't handle the Sims-to-Amari Cooper connection.
Sims threw touchdown passes of 87 yards to Kenyan Drake on the opening play and 79 to Cooper later in the first quarter. Cooper, who came in leading the nation in receptions, caught 10 passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns.
The Tide's turnovers and miscues kept the game close into the fourth quarter. Alabama's 645 total yards was the most the Gators have allowed.
The previous high was Nebraska's 629 yards in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl. Sims was 23-of-33 passing with four touchdowns, and was already up to 335 by halftime. That placed him a yard shy of the Tide's Top 10 passing games.
Derrick Henry gained 111 yards on 20 rushes.
The Gators' offense wasn't much more successful than its defense.
Florida's Jeff Driskel was harassed and ineffective passing. He was 9-of-28 passing for 93 yards and was intercepted twice while the offense produced just 200 yards.
Driskel did run for 59 yards, but it got so bad that Florida legend Emmitt Smith called for the quarterback's benching on Twitter.
Demarcus Robinson, who had 15 catches in an overtime win over Kentucky, was held to two receptions for 14 yards.
Florida failed in its bid for a statement-making performance after a 4-8 season and to perhaps lift coach Will Muschamp, whose mentor Nick Saban was on the opposite sideline, from the hot seat. The Tide's blunders kept the game from being even more lopsided.
It was all Alabama after Driskel's 14-yard touchdown run tied the game at 21-21 early in the third quarter. That came two plays after Neiron Ball got his left hand on a Sims throw at the line and Antonio Morrison scooped it up for a 20-yard return. All three of the Gators' touchdowns came after turnovers.
Alabama answered with 16-play drive into the lead sustained despite two penalties and a sack. Henry dodged a couple of defenders for a 29-yard catch on third-and-23 and scored on a 3-yard run on the next play with 5:27 left in the third quarter.
The Tide did get a scare when Sims went to the locker room after getting hurt on a 24-yard run late in the third quarter. He appeared to be clutching his right shoulder on the sideline but played again.
Sims returned shortly after backup Jake Coker hit Cooper for a 4-yard touchdown and received a big ovation as he sprinted across the field to the sideline and congratulated Coker with Alabama having just extended its lead to 35-21.
Saban said Sims had a bruised right shoulder.