GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The air had long since come out of Florida’s defense Saturday night, and the guy most responsible for the damage was wearing an approving smile.
Alabama junior running back Trent Richardson took turns bludgeoning the Gators and slicing and dicing them on his way to a career-high 181 rushing yards and two touchdowns in the Crimson Tide’s 38-10 romp in the Swamp.
Afterward, he could not quit talking about the guys who paved the way to 226 rushing yards for the Crimson Tide against a Gators’ defense that was allowing just 56.5 yards per game on the ground coming into the game.
“I felt like I was running behind a legendary offensive line. They’re living legends right now,” Richardson gushed.
If they keep this up, it’s going to be hard to argue that assessment, at least in the realm of Alabama football.
But Richardson is not too shabby himself.
He runs the football the way Eddie Van Halen plays the guitar: full-speed, knocking heads along the way and with an artistry that nobody else can exactly duplicate.
He sees creases that seemingly aren’t there, and he has exquisite footwork for a 225-pound guy who can bench-press more than twice his weight.
And if there isn’t much of a hole, he’s the one that delivers the blow.
“He never gets tackled by arm tackles … ever,” Alabama senior center William Vlachos said. “That’s the luxury of having backs like that, and we’ve had them ever since I’ve been here. It makes your job as an offensive lineman a lot easier.”
The final score said plenty Saturday in this battle of unbeatens, but the way the Crimson Tide seized control with its running game after the quick touchdown by the Gators to start the game was vintage old-school Alabama football.
“Our goal is that we want to wear people down,” said Barrett Jones, who’s made the successful transition to left tackle after earning All-SEC honors at right guard last season for the Tide.
“You might be able to hang with us in the first half. But come the third and fourth quarter, we’re going to keep pounding, and that’s what happened tonight.”
But Alabama came right back down the field. And even though the Tide only got a field goal on that drive, the message had been sent.
“We set the tempo tonight on offense, and that’s what we needed to do,” said Richardson, who’s rushed for more than 100 yards in each of his past four games and is averaging 158 yards in his last three contests. “The defense fed off of us.”
The Crimson Tide (5-0, 2-0) wound up scoring 35 unanswered points after the Gators took a 10-3 lead.
The way they did it was what was so impressive. They methodically pounded Florida, and while Richardson had been getting 5 yards here and 8 yards there for much of the night, he popped the big one to close the deal. He made a cut behind superb blocking up front and raced 36 yards for a touchdown.
“He’s a great player. It takes more than one person to bring him down,” Florida senior defensive tackle Jaye Howard said.
Even then, it’s not a sure thing.
“He’s an unbelievable football player, and the passion he plays with every time he touches the ball is something that elevates everybody’s game on offense,” Vlachos said. “You want to block for him.
“Our job up front ain’t always fun. But when you see a guy working like that, it makes you want to give it all you’ve got.”
Richardson called it a night by the midway point of the fourth quarter, and by that time, the only question was whether there were more Florida fans in the stadium or more of them spreading out across campus and heading to their cars.
“That’s probably the best feeling as an offensive lineman,” Jones said. “We know we’re running the ball. They know we’re running the ball. Everybody in the stadium knows you’re running the ball, and you still run the ball … and they can’t stop it.”
It’s a scene the Crimson Tide wouldn’t mind repeating more than a few times this season.
“I think we finally created our identity,” Vlachos said. “It’s coming together for us [on offense], but we’ve got to continue to work.”
Never a problem with this group.