Croyle throws three TDs, 'Bama improves to 5-0

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) -- Alabama produced everything from long

touchdown passes to a goal line stand in its biggest game in nearly

6 years.

Then, the Crimson Tide players wondered why people seemed so

surprised at their 31-3 rout of No. 5 Florida on Saturday.

"This is exactly where we thought we'd be," quarterback Brodie

Croyle said.

Few others were expecting such a dominant performance from No.

15 Alabama (5-0, 3-0 Southeastern Conference), which proclaimed

itself perhaps the league's team to beat with the victory.

Croyle threw for three TDs, including an 87-yarder to Tyrone

Prothro and a 65-yarder to Keith Brown, and the defense was even

more impressive in shutting down Urban Meyer's offense.

A Meyer-coached team had never been held without a touchdown,

and the Gators (4-1, 2-1) hadn't been kept out of the end zone

since 1992.

"Tell him not to feel so bad, because he played a very good

defense," Tide defensive back Charlie Peprah said.

Alabama, which had lost its last five games against top-five

teams at Bryant-Denny Stadium, got its biggest win since a 34-7

victory over Florida in the 1999 SEC championship game. Tide fans,

who had been hungry for just such a victory, mostly remained in the

stands well after the game's conclusion, celebrating as the players

lingered on the field.

"That's all we talked about all week, that we could make

history," said Croyle, who was 15-for-18 for 286 yards.

The Gators had the league's top defense overall and against the

pass, but left having failed to even slow down Croyle when it


Coming into the game, Croyle hadn't completed a pass longer than

52 yards all season.

"We are a man-coverage team and we were exposed," Meyer said.

"We lost a lot of one-on-one battles. They are a very fast team.

They looked a lot faster than we did today."

Chris Leak, meanwhile, was harassed into a 5-of-16 performance

in the first half and his first two interceptions of the season,

leaving him three passes shy of Danny Wuerffel's school record

streak of 121 without a pick.

It was the Gators' worst defeat since losing 36-7 to LSU in 2002

and ended Meyer's personal 20-game winning streak at Utah and


"Our back was against the wall the whole game," defensive end

Jeremy Mincey said. "They took advantage of that. They're a

talented team but we could have and should have won."

There was one downer for Alabama on its best day under coach

Mike Shula.

Prothro was carted off the field with a splint on his lower left

leg after landing awkwardly trying to catch a fourth-down pass in

the end zone in the fourth quarter. Shula said the do-it-all

receiver broke his leg in two places and was likely out for the


"There were a lot of questions about how we could match up

against a talented team," Shula said. "Hopefully we answered some

of those."

The Gators trailed 24-3 at halftime and couldn't capitalize on

Alabama's one big mistake.

Prothro fumbled away the punt after Alabama's defense pinned

Florida at its own 7 on the opening drive. After the Gators again

failed to gain a yard before punting, Croyle hit Prothro in stride

just across midfield for the long touchdown on the next play.

It was just the beginning. Alabama's defense set up another TD

when Chris Harris intercepted a deflected pass and returned it 14

yards to Florida's 2. The Tide added Croyle's 65-yarder to Keith

Brown midway through the second quarter on a slant pattern.

Meyer said his team "crumbled early" and never recovered.

"There is a big difference between being ready and being

prepared," he said. "And we got beat by a team that was better


Florida's biggest play of the half: Earl Everett's 32-yard run

on a fake punt, with little else working. Freddie Roach upended

DeShawn Wynn at the goal line on fourth down to open the second

quarter and end that threat, the first of several that fell short

of the end zone.

"We knew we had to bow our legs on the goal line and make a

stand," Tide linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. "We couldn't let them

in the end zone. We knew he was going to get the ball."

Leak finished 16 of 37 for 187 yards with a second interception

early in the fourth quarter. His first four series, he couldn't

complete any of his five passes with an interception and a fumble

recovered by a teammate while Alabama applied constant pressure.

Wynn ran for 47 yards on 12 carries.

Prothro caught five passes for 134 yards and added a 15-yard

touchdown in the third. Kenneth Darby rushed 15 times for 101 yards

for the Tide.

Croyle broke Alabama's career record held by Andrew Zow and

current coach Mike Shula's career record of 35 touchdown passes

with his 15-yarder to Prothro in the third quarter.