Monday huddle: Is a loss to Alabama a crippling one, or a springboard to a special season for the Gators?

Florida outplayed the defending champs in many areas, but not on the scoreboard

Florida running back Dameon Pierce, center, scores a touchdown past the Alabama defense including linebacker Henry To'oTo'o (10) during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux) (John Raoux, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Huddle up! Here’s a look back at this weekend on the gridiron, with three key takeaways from the state’s football scene.

A crushing blow or sign of special things to come for the Gators?

Florida’s game against Alabama on Saturday couldn’t have been more eerily similar to last season’s SEC Championship game.

In both games, the Gators fell behind 21-3 in the first half, found rhythm on offense and couldn’t be stopped to pull within one score in the fourth quarter, and got the ball back for one final time deep in their own territory in the final seconds -- BUT, with no time and too much field in front of them to mount a game-winning drive.

But unlike the loss in the SEC Championship game that ended season goals of a conference championship and playoff appearance, the Gators might have grown up enough to show those things could happen this year.

Florida outgained Alabama in total yards, 440-331, dominated the rushing attack (245 yards to 91 for Alabama) had seven more first downs and held Alabama’s powerful offense to just seven points after the first quarter.

New starting quarterback Emory Jones seemed to come into his own on the big stage also, passing for 195 yards and running for 77 more.

While the Gators don’t want to hear about moral victories, especially since there is no room for error now with a loss, they displayed signs that a special season could still be in store by how they, at times, outplayed the defending champions.

Hot seats warming up for Diaz, Norvell

It might be only three weeks into the season, but both Miami head coach Manny Diaz and Florida State head coach Mike Norvell are already hearing voices of discontent from their fan bases.

In the midst of a third season that usually symbolizes the progress a program has made in a coach’s tenure, Diaz and the Hurricanes fell to 1-2 after a 38-17 loss at home to Michigan State.

Despite playing at home in the heat against a northern opponent and having a more veteran team, it was Michigan State that appeared more organized, poised and in shape by the end of the game.

Norvell gets a little more leeway since he is in only his second season, but all the goodwill of an overtime loss to Notre Dame in the season opener is over.

Following a last-second loss to Jacksonville State, the Seminoles were embarrassed at usually lowly Wake Forest, 35-14, to fall to 0-3 on the season.

If Florida State can’t get wins over bad Louisville and Syracuse teams over the next two weeks, the rumblings against Norvell could get louder.

Tua goes out, Dolphins fall flat against the Bills

This certainly wasn’t the home opener the Dolphins had in mind. Excited for a showdown against division favorite Buffalo, Miami instead saw starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa leave the game with a rib injury in the first five minutes -- and suffered a 35-0 loss to the Bills.

If there was good news, it was that X-rays on Tagovailoa after the game were negative.

Still, this wasn’t the statement Miami hoped to make against the AFC East favorites.

About the Author:

Keith is a member of Graham Media Group's Digital Content Team, which produces content for all the company's news websites.