Gators’ latest ‘Bama beatdown comes with a very bad dose of déjà vu

Alabama 38, Florida 10.
On the scoreboard, a blowout is just a blowout, with all its grisly implications. In real time, though, the bloody taste in your mouth can arrive in a variety of textures and flavors, all of which Alabama has its command. Consider last year's win over Florida, when 'Bama seemed to rise up from the earth itself and spew a swarm of locusts onto the Gator sideline shortly after the coin toss. Tonight was a subtler, more patient deconstruction, but ultimately no less overwhelming — and, under the circumstances, no less devastating for the rest of the Florida's season.

If it had been scripted, it would almost be cruel. The Gators' first play from scrimmage, a 65-yard touchdown bomb from John Brantley to Andre Debose, set a completely false tone that was never present in 2010: Florida is aggressive, Florida is taking no prisoners, Florida has come to play. Florida is back. John Brantley actually has an arm. That opening thrust lasted one more possession, a 55-yard drive for a field goal to go ahead 10-3, extending the optimism through the end of the first quarter. Then: Locusts.

So the Gators' first two offensive possessions of the night yielded 119 yards and ten points. On the third possession, Brantley was picked by Courtney Upshaw, who took the ball in for Alabama's first lead, 17-10. Florida's next nine chances with the ball yielded a grand total of 77 yards, seven punts, six three-and-outs, two turnovers, a missed field goal and zero points. Last week, they rushed for 405 yards at Kentucky; this week they rushed for 14. Warp-speed tailbacks Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps combined to run for eight yards, on a long gain of seven.{YSP:MORE}

Florida's one and only rushing first down came on a 31-yard scramble by true freshman Jeff Driskel, who came in to serve as punching bag after Brantley was knocked out with an apparent ankle injury. As a passer, Driskel was 2-of-6 for 14 yards. By the fourth quarter, the initial bravado had been replaced by a pure survival instinct: Let's get out of here with our lone remaining quarterback in one piece, mentally and physically, and keep him that way next week at LSU.

Speaking of which: At LSU? Quite possibly with a true freshman quarterback making his first career start? If tonight was a much-anticipated measuring stick for how far the Gators have come since last year's descent into mediocrity — a question that was answered with thudding clarity: About negative-three points' worth — next Saturday in Baton Rouge shapes up as a test of just how deep the hole goes. That answer, they may not be so eager to find out.

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Matt Hinton is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

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