The Alabama Crimson Tide entered the SEC Championship matchup against the Florida Gators undefeated at 10-0, ranked No. 1, and a likely College Football Playoff invite no matter the game’s final result. One of the biggest and most bizarre moments of the game came in the first half on a pass completion by Alabama quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate Mac Jones that included two changes of possession on one play. The end result was one of the craziest first downs in college football history.
Alabama vs. Florida in SEC Championship game
The SEC Championship is traditionally the most-watched conference championship game in the nation because it typically features two of the best teams in college football. Often, one of the participants is college football’s most successful program in the poll era, the Alabama Crimson Tide.
The top-ranked and undefeated Tide rolled into Atlanta for the SEC title game to take on a No. 7-ranked Florida Gators team that entered the contest with something to prove after an embarrassing 37-34 loss at home the week before to a below-average LSU squad.
The game began as advertised, with both teams trading touchdowns, Alabama scoring first, only to be answered by the Gators. It showed all signs of being a shootout. And frequently, in shootouts, the team that wins the turnover battle wins the game simply due to more possessions.
The craziest first down in SEC Championship history
After both teams traded scores early in the first quarter, the Alabama offense took over, went 68 yards in six plays, and was on the Florida 23-yard line facing a third-and-2 when one of the craziest plays in SEC Championship history happened.
Alabama’s Mac Jones dropped back to pass, eluded the Florida pressure, and then fired a dart from the 30-yard line to his tight end, Miller Forristall at the 12-yard line. Forristall grabbed the pass for a split second before Gators defender Trey Dean III snatched it from his clutches and headed the other direction.
Dean had running room down the left sideline, sprinted to the 25-yard line, and was looking to his right, when he was unknowingly blasted by a blindside hit from Bama’s receiver-turned-defender John Metchie III, which dislodged the ball. Fellow Tide receiver DeVonta Smith recovered the ball on the 31-yard line. After the multiple changes of possession, the net result of the play was Alabama had lost eight yards but gained a first down.
Bama wins 7th SEC title in 12 years
Following the play, Florida’s Dean stayed on the turf writhing in pain for several minutes. When the national audience returned from a commercial break and action resumed, on the ensuing play, Jones dropped back once again and connected with Smith wide open across the middle for a touchdown. One play he’s recovering a fumble and the next he’s scoring a touchdown.
Alabama scored three more times in the first half and led at halftime 35-17. Florida responded in the second half. The Gators defense held the high-powered Bama offense scoreless in the third quarter while the other Heisman hopeful in the game, Florida quarterback Kyle Trask, guided the Gators on a pair of scoring drives to cut the lead down to 35-31.
In the fourth, Alabama’s offense got back on track and the Tide defense made just enough plays to hold on for the 52-46 victory and a berth in the College Football Playoff. We’ll never know, but things might have ended differently had it not been for one of the craziest plays in SEC Championship game history.