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Tide Wash Away No. 3 Gators


It was the kind of victory that can make a season and save a career. Just ask No. 21 Alabama and its embattled coach, Mike DuBose.

The Crimson Tide snapped No. 3 Florida's 30-game winning streak at The Swamp on Saturday when Chris Kemp got a second chance on an extra-point attempt in overtime and drilled it for a 40-39 win.

In an effort that would have shocked the late Bear Bryant as much as it would have pleased him, the Crimson Tide (4-1, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) controlled the ball for 41:22, racked up 447 yards in offense and matched Steve Spurrier's Gators score for score.

By overcoming Florida (4-1, 2-1), the Tide sent the message that, indeed, Bama is back, despite the tumult that had engulfed the program this season.

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Game summary

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  • "I am so proud of this coaching staff and this football team for staying together, for believing in each other," DuBose said. "We believed in the team concept when there were lots of times where they could have split and splintered."

    Kemp got his second chance after Florida's Bennie Alexander jumped offsides on the conversion attempt following Shaun Alexander's 25-yard touchdown run his fourth score of the day on the first play of Alabama's overtime possession.

    Kemp nailed the second kick, providing the difference, just moments after Florida kicker Jeff Chandler's conversion attempt went wide right.

    "I've always thought about being in the situation to be relaxed and put the crowd out of my mind, and just hit it," Kemp said.

    When he did, Alabama players ran to the 35-yard line, where the Gator logo is painted on the field, jumping and dancing as the Gators shuffled off in shock.

    Reporters and Alabama state troopers swarmed DuBose as he headed to the locker room, victorious and apparently secure again in a job that seemed all but lost just two weeks ago.

    His admission that he lied about a personal relationship with a school employee was as frustrating and embarrassing to the Tide faithful athe 14-13 career record he brought into this week's game.

    Possibly lost in the disgust was the fact that DuBose was slowly rebuilding the talent pool in a program that suffered NCAA-imposed scholarship reductions in the mid-1990s.

    That talent was on full display in the most hostile of venues, a place where Florida hadn't lost since 1994, when Terry Bowden and Auburn beat the Gators 36-33.

    Immediately, Alabama started looking forward, not a bad idea considering a recent past that also included the resignation of athletic director Bob Bockrath.

    "How we handle this win will be a defining moment for this football team," DuBose said. "How we move forward will be the tale of how much we've learned and how much we've grown and where our program is."

    The Gators went on offense first in overtime and scored when Doug Johnson hit Reche Caldwell for a 6-yard touchdown. Chandler jogged on for the kick, but missed, marking the second time in a year Florida has missed a key chip shot in overtime.

    Chandler took over the kicking job last year when Collins Cooper missed a short field goal in a 20-17 overtime loss to Tennessee.

    "I felt bad," Chandler said. "I let a lot of guys down. I tried to make them forget about what happened last year. But this is worse than last year."

    Like that loss, this one severely hinders Florida's shot at a national title, although the SEC title still seems within reach. Florida still owns the tiebreaker over Tennessee and could play in the SEC title game in Atlanta against Alabama, possibly by winning the rest of its conference games.

    "If we can force some punts, stop some third downs and take care of the ball better on offense, we can still get to Atlanta," Spurrier said.

    Indeed, it was more than a missed extra point that did in Florida.

    The Crimson Tide scored 17 points off three Gators turnovers, including a touchdown after the most critical mistake of the game.

    After Florida took a 33-26 lead on Johnson's 14-yard touchdown pass to Darrell Jackson late in the fourth quarter, the Gators forced a punt. But Jackson muffed the catch and the Tide's Marvin Brown won a battle at the bottom of the pile to give Alabama the ball at the Florida 22.

    On fourth-and-2, Alexander burst through the Florida line for a 13-yard score to extend a wild evening of football.

    Alexander furthered his Heisman Trophy candidacy, finishing with 106 yards rushing, 94 yards receiving and the four touchdowns. Quarterback Andrew Zow threw for 336 yards and two scores. Receiver Freddie Milons caught 10 passes for 119 yards to become the first Alabama receiver to surpass 100 yards in consecutive games since Ozzie Newsome in 1977.

    As usual, Florida put up big numbers 449 yards but the one it couldn't overcome was just 18:38 in time of possession. Mixing ball control with its new, wide-open style, Alabama ran 81 plays to just 5 for the Gators.

    The exhausted Florida defense was no match for Alabama as the game wore on and Zow moved his team as effortlessly as did Johnson, who finished 22-for-31 for 309 yards and four touchdowns.

    Well after the game was over, a handful of Alabama players came back to the field and celebrated with the Crimson Tide marching band, which played its fight song "Go, go, go Alabama" long and loud in the nearly empty Swamp.

    "They're still hollering out there and we're in here crying," Spurrier said, "and that's the way sports is."

    ©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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