|Posted on September 2, 2017 at 11:35 PM|
Article by Dan Tortora
With two of the top-3 ranked teams in the nation squaring off in what was the season-opener for both for the 2017 season, the level of excitement was high and tangible inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia.
Fans shouting the Florida State Seminoles' chant while going up the escalator made 10 people sound like 100.
Alabama Crimson Tide devouts were saying "Roll Tide" as a way of acknowledging their brothers and sisters in football lore as they walked by outside the stadium.
Both supporters' groups were well-represented at this the Chick-fil-a Kickoff Game #1, with the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) on one side with Florida State and the Southeastern Conference (SEC) on the other with Alabama.
As a result, the entire staidum was a maroonish white, blurring lines of Seminoles and Crimson Tide fans, with the teams' signature colors so close to one another's.
Lines remained blurred to begin the game, with neither Alabama, who received first after Florida State deferred to the second half, nor Florida State coming away with any points in their opening drives; the Crimson Tide kicker Andy Pappanastos missed a 42-yard field-goal try while the Seminoles turned the ball over on downs.
Pappanastos would connect, however, on his second attempt of the game, this from 35 yards away, to get Alabama on the board at 3-0, which would be the score that carried to the end of the first quarter.
But less than two minutes into the second quarter, Florida State became the first team of the contest to find the end zone when wide receiver Auden Tate grabbed the ball thrown by quarterback Deondre Francois with two hands, passed the hand of an outstretched defender, for a three-yard touchdown to place the Seminoles ahead of the Crimson Tide for the first time in the game, at 7-3 with 13:41 before the break.
Florida State had little time to celebrate though, with Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts finding wide receiver Calvin Ridley wide open after passing his defender in the open field, catching a rainbow that he took into the pot of gold for a 53-yard reception play to place Alabama back ahead, this time 10-7. This scoring play came just two minutes and 13 seconds after Florida State reached the end zone for the first time.
Then things got relatively quiet in Mercedes-Benz stadium, with each team punting the ball away on three consecutive drives after neither having sent out their punting unit in the first half.
A blocked field-goal attempt by Crimson Tide defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick which was caught by linebacker Rashaan Evans made things interesting, but he eventually would be ruled down as time expired on the first 30 minutes.
In the first half, Alabama amounted just seven more total offensive yards than Florida State, 192 to 185, but how each team attained their yardage was opposite, with Alabama having 101 rushing yards to 24 by Florida State and Florida State gaining 161 yards in the passing game to Alabama's 91.
The Seminoles began the second half with what they had continually down later in the first half: Punting the ball away. This fourth punt of the game for Florida State, and first of the second half, followed Alabama defensive lineman Raekwon Davis getting his first sack of the contest, which put Florida State in a 4th-&-24 situation.
Alabama responded by keeping things quiet as well, punting for the fourth time in a row when they booted away their first drive of the second half.
But the Crimson Tide's sepcial teams showed up late in the third quarter just like they did right before half, blocking the fifth punt attempt of the game by the Seminoles. Running back Damien Harris recovered the ball for the special teams unit on Florida State's six-yard line.
Alabama's offense would fail to get in the end zone from six yards away, however, and would instead send a 25-yard field-goal attempt through the uprights, Pappanastos' second made attempt in three tries, to extend the Crimson Tide's lead to six, 13-7, with 1:54 left in the third quarter.
Speaking of special teams, Florida State's made a huge blunder immediately after, fumbling the kickoff return attempt. Linebacker Dylan Moses caused the fumble and teammate Holcombe recovered it on the Seminoles' 11-yard line.
It would take one play for the Crimson Tide to roll into the end zone, and who better than Harris who had recovered the blocked punt earlier on, as aforementioned. Harris ran the ball into glory territory from 11 yards out for Alabama's second touchdown of the game, and first on the ground.
Hurts followed the touchdown by rolling out right on the two-point conversion and throwing to the right side of the end zone. There waiting for the ball were three Crimson Tide players, and Ridley came up with it, to give the Crimson Tide a two-touchdown advantage, 21-7, with 1:41 remaining in the third quarter.
Florida State responded to having their punt attempt blocked and then fumbling a kick return by throwing an interception, when Francois' pass attempt was grabbed by Alabama cornerback Levi Wallace, giving Alabama the possession that they ended the third quarter and began the fourth quarter with.
Pappanastos would go wide right on his 41-yard field-goal attempt to end that drive, though, giving the Seminoles possession on their own 24 and solidying that no points were scored on the opportunity that came from intercepting Francois.
But just wait...
Francois threw the ball right back to the Crimson Tide on the first play of that drive, with linebacker Mack Wilson reeling it in on the Seminoles' 31-yard line.
Florida State's defense forced a punt following Francois' second interception thrown in a row, and second of the game overall.
If not for the Seminoles' defense, the game would have gotten well out of hand.
Pappanastos connected from 33 yards away with 6:25 to play to elevate Alabama to a 17-point lead, 24-7, ending his night 3-for-5 on field-goal attempts.
After amounting 161 passing yards in the first half, Francois gained only 70 passing yards in the second half, leaving inside 5:45 remaining after getting sacked for the third time in the game, this takedown coming from defensive back Ronnie Harrison. Francois laid on the ground for a few minutes, coming up and being aided off the field, putting almost no pressure whatsoever on his left leg.
True freshman James Blackman came in following Francois' injury and continued the non-scoring offense for the Seminoles.
Along with the passing game differing from the first to the second half for Florida State, their running game never got going, accumulating a mere 25 yards in four quarters, with their leading rusher, running back Jacques Patrick, gaining 17 yards on six carries.
Alabama takes the 24-7 win over Florida State to begin their 2017 season, while the Seminoles instead leave with concern for the running game and for the health of starting quarterback Francois out of this match-up.
What once began as a low-scoring, close contest in front of 76,330 onlookers at Mercedes-Benz Stadium concluded with Alabama looking far more ready for this contest than their counterpart.