Alabama and Florida State open their 2017 seasons with a head-to-head match up in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game, hosted by the brand new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The last time the two teams met was a slug fest back in 2007.
It was Nick Saban’s first year in Tuscaloosa when his Crimson Tide traveled to Jacksonville to take on Florida State. Bobby Bowden’s Seminoles came into the September 29th match up with a record of 2-1, while Saban’s Tide were at 3-1. Additionally, Alabama was ranked 22nd in the nation after knocking off the 16th-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks two weeks prior.
The two teams had a special teams bonanza in the first half, combining for 12 punts and a missed Seminole field goal. The longest drive of the half was a breathtaking 31 yards by Alabama, but inevitably ended in a punt as well.
The second half began with a bang as Florida State drove the ball 67 yards down the field behind the arm of quarterback Xavier Lee. A touchdown pass on 3rd-and-2 at the Alabama 7-yard-line gave the ‘Noles the first points of the game and a seven point lead.
The following Alabama drive stalled out after four plays and the momentum shifted heavily in FSU’s favor as they were again forced to punt. On the first play of the following drive, Lee completed a strike to Gregg Carr for 58 yards to put them back in scoring position once again. Alabama linebacker, Prince Hall, then stole that momentum back after picking off a throw at the 7-yard-line.
Despite making it all the way to the Florida State 25-yard-line on the next drive, the Tide again failed to score and had to punt for the ninth time of the day. After trading a series of back-and-forth punts once again, a John Parker Wilson fumble at his own 5-yard-line set up a 1st-and-goal for the Seminoles’ offense. A five ard run by Antone Smith gave the ‘Noles another score and a 14-point lead with 9:03 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Four minutes, 13 plays, and 91 yards later the Crimson Tide were finally on the board following a 4th-and-goal pass to DJ Hall, cutting the lead to just one score. Unfortunately for the newly hired Saban, his team would not keep the momentum going for long.
On the first play of the following drive, wide receiver De’Cody Fagg turned up field on a successful curl route and burned the Tide’s secondary for 70 yards and another score. This gave the ‘Noles 14-point lead once again, with just under five minutes remaining.
Two drives later, a 17-yard touchdown pass with a minute left cut the lead back down to seven. However, a penalty on the onside kick attempt gave FSU the ball back and a 21-14 victory.
John Parker Wilson was forced to attempt 53 passes in the game, and no Alabama running back was able to rush for more than 36 yards. Quarterback Xavier Lee came off the bench in the second quarter to lead the Seminoles in rushing with 59 yards on 11 rushes, and in passing with 224 yards and two scores.
This year’s match up is sure to look much different, but should be a nail biter all the same. Already one of the most highly anticipated games of the season, everyone will tuned into the primetime match up on September 2nd. Hopefully things go differently this time around for Nick Saban and company.