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Alabama’s DJ Hall grabs the Tide’s first touchdown of the game in the fourth quarter over Florida State defender Tony Carter in Jacksonville, Fla. on Saturday. Florida State won 21-14.
AP photo by Phil Coale
Alabama’s DJ Hall grabs the Tide’s first touchdown of the game in the fourth quarter over Florida State defender Tony Carter in Jacksonville, Fla. on Saturday. Florida State won 21-14.

Tide can’t slow Seminole sub
Saban says FSU outplayed Alabama

By Josh Cooper
jcooper@decaturdaily.com · 340-2460

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The cheers rained down from one side of the stadium as the other was sprinkled in crimson and teal specks.

After Florida State recovered an onside kick with 59 seconds remaining ensuring its victory, the Seminoles’ fans screamed in unison, “Bobby Bowden.”

With a 21-14 win Saturday, an iconic coach got his first win against a team he grew up cheering. He did it with a program he helped build.

On the other side, first-year Alabama coach Nick Saban was looking for answers. Saban, who preaches responding to adversity and having mental toughness, will need to coax his team out of two straight losses.

“They played physical, and they out-toughed us,” Saban said. “This was the first game that I felt the other team played more physical than we were in terms of how to control the line of scrimmage and tackling. I didn’t feel like we got that done in this game”

Saban continually preaches more consistency out of his offense, but the Crimson Tide attack sputtered through three quarters, not scoring a single point, then posting 14 points in the fourth quarter. Seven came after Florida State had put the game essentially out of reach.

“We didn’t want to come here and have any regrets about how we played, but we have some,” Saban said. “I think (Florida State) is a good football team. I think they are an outstanding defensive football team. I didn’t think we played with the kind of poise you need to execute against a team of their caliber.”

Florida State quarterback Xavier Lee, left, feels pressure from Tide linebacker Keith Saunders in the third quarter of FSU’s 21-14 win Saturday.
AP photo by Phil Coale
Florida State quarterback Xavier Lee, left, feels pressure from Tide linebacker Keith Saunders in the third quarter of FSU’s 21-14 win Saturday.
One of the main issues plaguing Alabama was the play of Florida State reserve quarterback Xavier Lee.

Lee replaced ineffective Seminoles starter Drew Weatherford in the second quarter and gave the offense a different look than for which Alabama had prepared.

Lee used his feet to rush for 59 yards and his arm to pass for 224 yards on 12 of 19 attempts. It was his first action of the season.

“He gave us a life. He did what we’ve always wanted him to do,” Bowden said. “Xavier has always been a young man with great potential, and I thought tonight he began to use that potential in a positive way.”

After an ineffective first half for both teams that saw them combine for 167 yards — Alabama had 78 and Florida State had 89 — and zero total points, Lee went to work on Florida State’s first drive of the third quarter.

He hit all five of his passing plays, including a 7-yard touchdown strike to De’Cody Fagg to put the Seminoles ahead 7-0 with the extra point.

“We really didn’t work on (preparing for him) that much,” Tide cornerback Simeon Castille said. “But no matter what happens in the game, you have to adjust, and we have to do a better job of adjusting during the game.”

Both teams were unable to score again until the beginning of the fourth quarter. A protection breakdown near Alabama’s goal line made Wilson run to his left. As he was hit by defensive end Everette Brown, Wilson lost the football, and it was recovered by Florida State defensive tackle Letroy Guion.

On the next play, Florida State’s Antone Smith beat Alabama linebacker Prince Hall around the left corner for a 5-yard touchdown run, putting the Seminoles ahead 14-0 with 9:03 remaining.

The Crimson Tide scored on its next possession, a 13-play, 91-yard drive that culminated in a 7-yard touchdown pass to DJ Hall in the back of the end zone with 5:04 left put the score at 14-7.

But on its next offensive play, Florida State scored on a 70-yard touchdown pass play from Lee to Fagg, who caught a short throw and sprinted down the left sideline for a touchdown.

Alabama scored its final touchdown with 1:06 to play when Wilson threw a 17-yard scoring pass to Keith Brown.

“We’re playing better opponents,” said Wilson, who finished 28-of-53 passing for 240 yards and two touchdowns.

“I don’t think we’re going backwards — I think we need to get back on the right track, and I think we have a good team.”

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