Posted on September 3, 2017, by Travis Pulver
Alabama knew what it was doing when it scheduled Florida State to open the 2017 season. They wanted to show the world that they were still the Alabama fans have come to know and love, a dominant force that can never be overlooked. To be fair, Florida State knew what it was doing by scheduling Alabama. There is no better way to become the big dog than to knock off the biggest dog, the Crimson Tide.
In the first half of Saturday night’s game between No. 1 Alabama and No. 3 Florida State, it looked like the Seminoles were going to give the mighty Tide a run for their money. Both defenses played well, and the offenses were not bad. Alabama got on the board first with a 35-yard field goal. But then Florida State got in the end zone first on a three-yard pass from Deondre Francois to Auden Tate.
Alabama countered Florida State’s touchdown with one of their own. But then the defense for each team took over for the rest of the quarter. Neither offense could move the ball and Alabama went into the half with a 10-7 lead.
At that point, it was still anyone’s game. Both teams needed something to happen to give them an edge. They needed someone to make a big play or for the other team to make a mistake. Alabama ended up getting both thanks to a very familiar formula—stellar special teams and a dominant defense.
The first break/big play Alabama got came late in the third quarter when they blocked a Florida State punt deep in Seminoles territory. But the Florida State defense was able to hold Alabama to a field goal. But then the straw that broke the camel’s back came on the ensuing kickoff.
FSU return man Keith Gavin fumbled the ball, Alabama recovered, and one-play later Damien Harris powered his way into the end zone from 11 yards out. A two-point conversion gave Alabama a 21-7 lead.
The Seminoles were not out of it yet, but if they were going to have a chance, they had to start making progress on offense. Instead, Deondre Francois threw interceptions on Florida State’s next two drives and was injured late in the fourth quarter. The team never announced the severity of the injury, but he was carted off the field (and that’s never a good sign).
He was eventually seen coming out of the team’s medical tent with a massive brace on his leg.
“I saw him and I hugged him, and told him I’m sorry he’s hurt,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said (ESPN). “We’ll get the diagnosis. I love him, and we’ll figure out what we’ve got to do from here.”
Alabama tacked on another field goal in the fourth quarter to make the final score 24-7, Alabama.
Florida State had high hopes for Francois heading into the game, but he ended up struggling (19-33 for 210 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions). It didn’t help that the running game provided almost no help (40 total yards on 27 carries).
There was little doubt that Alabama would not be able to replace all the defenders they lost to the NFL. Sure enough, they did. There were some questions about the offense with a new coordinator at the helm. But it ended up looking like every other Nick Saban offense. They rarely passed (Jalen Hurts was 10-18 for 96 yards and a touchdown). Between Damien Harris, Hurts, Bo Scarbrough, and Najee Harris they ran for 173 yards.
Alabama didn’t end up generating a ton of offense (269 yards), but thanks to stellar special teams and defensive play, they didn’t need to.
“[Alabama] deserved to win the football game,” Fisher said (ESPN). “They made the plays. They got the momentum changed in the second half.”
Florida State will hope to get back on the right side of the scoreboard when they play the Louisiana Monroe Warhawks at home next Saturday (7 PM ET kickoff). Alabama will try to roll on against Fresno State when they come to town next weekend (3:30 PM ET kickoff).