University of Florida

Florida Gators have no answer for Alabama’s Amari Cooper

Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper (9) catches a pass as Florida defensive back Vernon Hargreaves, III (1) falls down during the second half of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014, in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper (9) catches a pass as Florida defensive back Vernon Hargreaves, III (1) falls down during the second half of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. AP

On just about every Alabama pass play, Florida knew exactly where the football was going — and it still didn’t matter.

All-American wide receiver and Miami Northwestern standout Amari Cooper torched UF’s beleaguered secondary, including winning the headline showdown with All-American cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III.

Cooper was an unstoppable beast, finishing the game with 10 catches for 201 yards and three touchdowns.

“He’s a great player,” UF safety Keanu Neal said. “We could’ve stopped him but it was just a lack of communication on our part.”

Communication was the buzzword in the locker room, but Florida’s secondary was abysmal.

Cooper — now Alabama’s all-time leader in receiving touchdowns — victimized Florida’s press-man, zone and bracket coverage, scoring a wide open 79-yard touchdown on a busted assignment by Neal.

Late in the third quarter, the Heisman candidate bossed Hargreaves on a quick fade, his second touchdown of the afternoon.

“They moved him around a little bit more than they had before,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said. “But we’ve just got to cover a little better. A lot of man situations we matched him but in a lot of zone situations we didn’t.”

Said Alabama coach Nick Saban: “Cooper was very impressive today. He put on a good show for everybody.”

Meanwhile, Florida’s Demarcus Robinson — who entered the game second nationally in receiving yards behind Cooper — had just two receptions for 14 yards.

Dropping Like Flies

Starting right guard Trenton Brown left the game early in the second quarter with a high ankle sprain and left the stadiums on crutches.

“Trenton should be okay,” Muschamp said. “His X-rays were fine, we hope to get him back after the bye week.”

Backup tailback Mark Herndon injured his right knee on kickoff coverage and did not return.

Meanwhile, Hargreaves, star defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., starting left tackle Chaz Green, linebacker Jarrad Davis and defensive tackle Leon Orr all limped off the field at various moments.

Muschamp cited fatigue and cramping, as well as a few stingers.

“There’s nothing serious there,” he said.

Green went down on Florida’s opening drive, leaving the Gators with two freshmen tackles (David Sharpe, Roderick Johnson) for a brief series.

Legends Honored

Alabama honored its 1964 national title team, as a number of football legends were in attendance for the 50th anniversary celebration.

Three of Bear Bryant’s famous assistants — Gene Stallings, former Miami and Florida Atlantic head coach Howard Schnellenberger and longtime Florida State defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews — were greeted with huge ovations, as was Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath.

ETC.

▪ Gators legend Tim Tebow roamed UF’s sidelines for the second consecutive week, announcing live from Alabama’s campus earlier in the day on the SEC Network’s “SEC Live” pregame show.

▪ Florida punter Kyle Christy was brilliant again, averaging 52.7 yards on seven punts and downing three kicks inside the 20-yard line.

▪ The Gators suffered their first regular-season loss under Muschamp while scoring at least 21 points (20-1).

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