Saturday’s game between No. 1 Alabama and No. 11 Florida — a 31-29 win by the top-ranked Tide — had it all: offensive fireworks, a near come-from-behind victory for Dan Mullen’s Gators and, to Alabama’s confusion, a malfunctioning game clock in the final minutes.
Alabama was, in a sense, operating blind in its final offensive possession: The clock started malfunctioning on Florida’s previous offensive possession, when the clock continued to run after a Gators touchdown through their 2-point possession.
When the Tide ran their first play of the series — a 3-yard run by Brian Robinson to the Alabama 28 — the clock remained fixed on 3:10 (despite the fact that Florida scored with 3:08 left on the clock). The clock remained inoperable for a good portion of the Tide’s final drive, and it clearly affected first-year starting quarterback Bryce Young; he gestured at the clock after it remained on 3:10, and was forced to rely on the play clock to manage the Tide’s final drive. The officials kept the official time on the field, and presumably communicated to the coaches and teams the time remaining.
The clock ended up working again around the final half-minute of play, at which point Alabama faced fourth down with Florida already burning its remaining two timeouts. Alabama eventually punted the ball, giving the ball to Florida on its 24-yard line with 4 seconds left. Unfortunately for the Gators, quarterback Emory Jones — who completed 18 of 28 passes for 195 yards and rushed for 77 yards — was sacked on the final play of the game by linebacker Jaylen Moody.
Alabama’s final offensive drive wasn’t the only time the unit struggled in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The Swamp was absolutely raucous on Saturday, with the crowd making it exceptionally difficult for the Tide in their first true road game of the year. The Tide committed three procedural penalties — two false starts and a delay of game — as Florida fans drowned the field in sound. It also created some issues with Alabama, snapping the ball on time.
Regardless, Alabama managed to overcome Florida, The Swamp, the game clock and its own mistakes in the narrow victory, the second such against the Gators in as many years. Regardless of the outcome, one thing is certain: Nick Saban is going to get on his team.
It’s only a matter of time.