GAINESVILLE, FLA. (AP) - As quarterback John Brantley got helped off the field and into the locker room, the second-largest crowd in the history of Florida Field was nearly silent.
There was concern for Brantley _ and for No. 12 Florida’s season.
Brantley injured his right leg late in the second quarter of Saturday night’s 38-10 loss to No. 3 Alabama. The Crimson Tide (5-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) had control of the game long before Brantley’s injury, but the severity of the setback could be problematic for the Gators the rest of year.
“When we lost John, that took the wind out of our sails,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said.
Muschamp declined to reveal the nature of Brantley’s injury, saying only that it was a lower leg issue.
This much is certain: The Gators (4-1, 2-1) are unprepared to play without him. Backup Jeff Driskel completed 2 of 6 passes for 14 yards and was sacked twice in the second half. The highly touted freshman also fumbled a snap.
And he might have to start next week’s game at top-ranked LSU, which boasts one of the best defenses in the country.
“I’ve got a lot of faith in him,” running back Chris Rainey said. “He’ll be ready to go, ready to take that challenge.”
Nothing about the Gators looked ready Saturday night.
If anything, the outcome showed how far Florida has to go to get back to championship form. It was the program’s worst home loss since falling to LSU 36-7 in 2002 _ the beginning of the Ron Zook era.
“We don’t take any loss as acceptable,” linebacker Jelani Jenkins said. “It’s definitely not up to our standards. We have to get a little better.”
The Gators started the game with a perfect deep ball from Brantley to Andre Debose on the opening play, a 65-yard touchdown pass that energized crowd of 90,888. It ended up being one of few highlights for the Gators, who couldn’t run, couldn’t stop the run and then lost Brantley.
A senior who has started 18 consecutive games, Brantley twisted his knee and ankle on a sack just before halftime. He did not return for the second half.
Brantley completed 11 of 16 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown, most of it coming before Alabama’s defense stiffened.
Courtney Upshaw intercepted Brantley’s outlet pass early in the second quarter and returned it 45 yards for a touchdown that changed the game. Upshaw later sacked Brantley and caused the injury.
Even before then, Alabama had stuffed Florida’s vaunted running game. The Tide made Rainey and Jeff Demps look ordinary.
“The season ain’t over yet,” Rainey said. “Just call it a punch in the mouth and regroup. … All we have to do is play the cards right and we’ll be seeing them again (in the SEC title game).”
The Gators entered the game averaging 259 yards a game on the ground, but they finished with 15 yards _ 4 from Rainey and 4 from Demps.
“We did a really good job of not letting their speed outflank us,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “Those two guys are a handful. Miss a tackle on them and they’re out the door and gone.”
The Tide was much more balanced.
Trent Richardson ran for a career-high 181 yards and two touchdowns, breaking tackles and carrying defenders along the way, and AJ McCarron was efficient and effective. McCarron completed 12 of 25 passes for 140 yards, and had a rushing touchdown.
With Richardson handling the load and McCarron managing the game, Alabama extended its dominance in the series. The Crimson Tide has outscored Florida 101-29 in the last three meetings, all wins.
The latest one was over by halftime, a clear knockout in a game billed as Florida’s speed vs. Alabama’s power. It also denied new Muschamp a victory against his mentor, Saban.
Florida and Alabama each scored on its first two possessions. The game turned, though, on Courtney Upshaw’s interception. As Brantley was being hit, he tried to dump a pass to Trey Burton. It landed in Upshaw’s arms. He rumbled 45 yards in the other direction, with a host of defenders making sure no one caught him from behind.
The Tide forced consecutive three-and-outs after that, then turned to Richardson to put the game away. His 22-yard reception set up a touchdown that made it 24-10, and he added a 36-yard scamper early in the fourth.
Alabama’s defense did the rest, swarming Driskel and holding the Gators to two first downs in the second half.
Driskel might have to face a similar attack next week in Baton Rouge.
“I can’t speak for everyone else, but I’m fine with Driskel,” Jenkins said. “I have a lot of confidence in Driskel and I see what he can do in practice. … The more chances he has with the ball, the more he can make a big play.”
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