36 and…what’s that?…ZERO
Back in August I sat down starring head long into another college football season a bit dismayed. I decided to voice my frustrations on my blog as I usually do. I was searching for a reason to care about the season. A reason to want to yell and scream and cheer for Alabama to play the kind of football I’ve always known they’re capable of. Disgruntled far from articulated it. It just seemed so ridiculous that the group of athletes that suit up in Crimson every week couldn’t also execute their talent in the 60 minutes they’re given. Their potential has been there for years just waiting for them to pick it up and simply DO SOMETHING WITH IT.
Well, a few days after I wrote that blog post I sat down to watch the game against Clemson. I was blown away. These were the guys I knew were there. These were the guys that Nick Saban came back to college football to coach. These were the guys who were buying into the Saban System and showing it. But still I was cautiously optimistic. I still thought it could have been a fluke…a one hit wonder, if you will.
I wasn’t entirely wrong. We moved on to Tulane with whom we had a bit of a problem. We started to click some more against Western Kentucky. And then we just opened up the entire gamut against Arkansas. Then, #3 Georgia loomed large. They planned a blackout in Athens to welcome us. Graciously, we helped them turn on the lights opening the game 31-0 in the first half. Ok. This was starting to really look great.
Now…by beating a couple of teams ranked higher than Alabama at the time of the game and with all the right teams losing at just the right time, Alabama managed to jump to #2 and eventually #1. The fact that we are #1 because other teams lost their rankings by losing to teams other than Alabama is not lost on me. But if they’re just gonna leave that #1 ranking sitting around, some one’s gonna take it.
The problem with that is the #1 ranking comes with this really beautiful red and white circular painting for every one’s back. Most people call it a bulls eye. I call it a dream killer. In walked Kentucky and Ole Miss hoping to knock off the #1 team for the bragging rights that come right along with that. But, Bama survived…barely, but in this game you only have to win by 1 point.
Despite what I was seeing on the field and hearing from the players and Coach Saban, I was still waiting for the other shoe to drop. You see, I’d been here before. I’ve seen a team win nearly every single game heading into homecoming or the final 3rd of the season only to watch the pod people take over their bodies and finish out the season with losses and a trip to the Ricky Bobby Weed Whacker Bowl. A trip to Knoxville didn’t exactly do much to calm my nerves. Despite the fact that Tennessee was having an off season, I never EVER look past the Volunteers. But these Tide football players were having none of the hype or the pressure. I’m sure they heard it all, but whatever they did to sweep that junk under the rug was working.
Homecoming arrived and Arkansas State fell right into our hands, but the season was far from over. The very next week, Bama had to travel to Baton Rouge…a place where Nick Saban is the kind of language that gets a kid’s mouth washed out with soap. It was the most high energy, intense game I think I’ve ever watched. And I’ve watched a lot of sports. We escaped in an overtime victory and thanks to the Louisiana state police, our team made it back to Tuscaloosa safely.
Mississippi State came next along with their 2 game winning streak against us. Sylvester Croom (who resigned this morning) was looking for a way to save his season and his job. But we weren’t having any of that. It may have taken a bit to get going, but the second half of that game really gave me reasons to be proud.
A much needed break came after Mississippi State and before Auburn. 2,569 days had passed since the last time Bama beat Auburn. The cloud that loomed was too much to take. I was gonna need a stiff drink if Auburn managed to make it 7 straight. But the team that showed up at Bryant-Denny Stadium wearing Crimson was determined not to let that happen. 36 points and 4 quarters later Bama has it’s first victory against Auburn in Tuscaloosa, its first shut out over Auburn since 1992, and its largest margin of victory over Auburn since 1962.
Three months ago I begged the Alabama football team to give me a reason to care and be proud. Three months later, Alabama is the #1 team in the nation and headed to Atlanta next weekend to play Florida in the SEC Championship and a chance to play in the National Championship game. Now I’ve heard it all. The media expects a massacre, advantage Florida. It’s supposedly going to be a blood bath and maybe it will. But by all accounts, the Clemson game at the beginning of the season was supposed to be a blood bath, advantage Clemson. All I know is that I asked for Alabama to play their hearts out this season. I never expected the result.
One game from playing for the National Championship. Two games from hoisting that trophy. 120 minutes away from proving that not only was Mal Moore smart to wait for Nick Saban, but that Nick Saban was and is worth every penny of his contract. I hope one day, as tonight’s announcers suggested, Mal Moore writes a book and tells the whole story about acquiring Nick Saban if for no other reason than to give Nick his integrity back.
No matter what happens in the next game or the game after that, I found my care. The players haven’t just won. They’ve won with class and they’ve won because they didn’t give up. I never said they had to win all the games to win me back. They just had to show me they knew what it means to wear that jersey for Alabama. I don’t know what led to the night and day change that made the difference from last season to this one, but whatever the mojo, I have three simple words for you: