TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — If losing to Alabama in the SEC title game in December took Florida months to get over, Saturday night reopened old wounds and provided new misery.
The No. 7 Gators were looking to avenge that 32-13 loss in Atlanta and prove this season's team was much better than its critics had claimed.
Florida accomplished neither.
Top-ranked Alabama scored on its opening drive and never looked back, rolling to a 31-6 victory over Florida in front of 101,821 at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
The loss ended Florida's regular-season win streak at 24 and its road win streak at 13.
It was over by halftime for the Gators (4-1, 2-1 SEC). In reality, you could argue it was over after their opening drive, which ended with what will be viewed as an extremely gutsy call or a serious mistake, depending on your perspective.
The Gators reached the Alabama 2 after freshman quarterback Trey Burton just missed scoring when he was brought down inches from the goal line.
Faced with fourth and goal at the 2 (after losing a yard on a previous play), the Gators — who were without primary kicker Caleb Sturgis because of a fractured back — decided to go for all or nothing.
Instead of opting for the field goal, the Gators went for it. But Burton's jump pass to an open Jordan Reed was intercepted in the end zone when linebacker Nico Johnson stepped in front of him.
"It's what we practice: fourth and close on the goal line, and we made a decision to go for it," Florida offensive coordinator Steve Addazio said. "(Reed) couldn't get separation, and it didn't come together. That play is like that. Either it works or it doesn't."
Said coach Urban Meyer: "It was an aggressive call, something that we would probably do again. As a matter of fact, I know we would do it again. … That's kind of the way we play. We're aggressive."
Before that, Florida had scored 15 consecutive times when getting inside an opponents 20.
From there, the rout was on.
Alabama (5-0, 2-0) scored 24 unanswered points.
Despite the 24-3 halftime deficit, Florida had its chances to make a comeback and will most likely be haunted as much by missed opportunities as the loss itself.
UF struggled badly to get any production from its offense, and the lack of a running game made the offense one-dimensional. The Gators had just 79 yards on 31 carries.
Then Florida compounded the problem.
Three times, the Gators made it inside the Alabama 5 but couldn't score a touchdown, resulting in an interception, fumble and field goal. The other trip inside the Alabama 20, during the third quarter, ended with a 21-yard field goal by Chas Henry.
"We moved the ball up and down the field," center Mike Pouncey said. "The problem was we turned the ball over. When you turn the ball over, you don't win ball games like this."
John Brantley, who was 16-of-31 for 202 yards, threw two interceptions that led directly to Alabama touchdowns. He was picked off at the Gators 28 by defensive back Dre Kirkpatrick, and right guard Marcus Gilbert made a touchdown-saving tackle.
But Alabama eventually scored on an 18-yard pass from receiver Marquis Maze to tight end Michael Williams to take a 24-0 lead with 6:09 remaining.
Brantley was intercepted in the third quarter by linebacker C.J. Mosley, who returned it 35 yards for a touchdown and 31-6 lead.
"We just made too many mistakes," Addazio said.
To get over this one, Florida will have to hope for another rematch, which could happen if the teams make it back to the SEC title game.
For now, the Gators have to find a way to get over the loss quickly with LSU on the horizon.
"You know what? We've just got to get better," Brantley said. "We've got to stick together. That's what we did in the second half. We stuck together. We fought together as a team. I think our team knows that.
"We're going to put this one behind us and move on."
Antonya English can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org