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December 5, 2009

Alabama beats Florida 32-13 for SEC Championship

Mark Ingram and Greg McElroy sliced up the fearsome Florida defense and Tim Tebow finally met his match, no matter how hard he tried to fire up his teammates.

ATLANTA (AP) -- Mark Ingram and Greg McElroy sliced up the fearsome Florida defense and Tim Tebow finally met his match, no matter how hard he tried to fire up his teammates.

With an emphatic 32-13 chomping of the Gators, the Crimson Tide again stands atop the Southeastern Conference. More important, Alabama is just one win away from an even bigger title -- its first national championship since 1992, led by a coach who believes in "The Process" instead of the houndstooth.

Ingram, making a strong bid to claim the school's first Heisman Trophy, rushed for 113 yards and three touchdowns. McElroy was 12 of 18 for 239 yards and a touchdown to show he's no weak link and No. 2 Alabama rekindled memories of Paul "Bear" Bryant with the convincing victory Saturday.

Alabama (13-0) moves on to Pasadena for the BCS championship game. Tebow and the Gators (12-1) will likely settle for the Sugar Bowl, denied a shot at their third national title in four years.

When it was over, there were a range of emotions.

Nick Saban, the no-nonsense, process-oriented coach who needed only three years to bring Alabama all the way back from a miserable era, looked totally out of character as he leaped up to bump shoulders with Ingram on the sideline.

Tebow found himself in an unusual position, too: sitting on the bench and appearing to wipe away tears as the clock ran out.

The Tide led all the way, establishing its will on the very first drive. In the second half, Alabama shut 'em down.

Trailing 19-13 at the half, Florida took the third-quarter kickoff and came up a yard short on Tebow's third-and-7 pass to Riley Cooper. The Gators didn't know it at the time, but it was over.

Ingram carried it three straight times before McElory went down the right sideline to Maze for a 28-yard pass. A silly penalty on Jermaine Cunningham -- he shoved McElroy in the back two steps after the quarterback threw the ball away -- set up a perfect throw and catch.

McElory rolled to his right, stopped suddenly and lofted the pass in the other direction, the ball dropping right over Colin Peek as he extended his arms to haul in a 17-yard touchdown.

Ingram finished it off with his third TD early in the fourth, powering over from the 1 to cap an 88-yard drive — the Tide's longest of the season.

Tebow, who came back for his senior year in hopes of winning another title, was 20 of 35 for 247 yards but his last gasp was picked off in the end zone.

"It's tough. You know it's not how you want to go out," Tebow said, struggling to contain his emotions. "They were just better than us today, offense, defense, special teams."

Alabama made up for its 31-20 loss to Florida in last year's SEC title game, a result that was on their minds every step of the way.

"Everything we did all year long was to beat them, to be better than them," Ingram said.

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