The only bad thing about going through a season almost completely unchallenged is that you never really know how your team will respond when they are faced with adversity.On Saturday against LSU, the Alabama Crimson Tide definitely had their back against the wall, but showed a lot of poise in crunch time to bring home this crucial overtime victory.
Of course, the game didn’t start out like it was going to be a nail-biter, but like so many past Bama games, early mistakes almost came back to bite us.It all started on the first drive, where we took the opening kickoff, and marched impressively down the field.John Parker Wilson had a fantastic scramble to the right sideline, and hit Earl Alexander who had slipped behind the coverage.Unfortunately, Alexander tried to extend the ball over the goal-line, and ended up fumbling through the end zone, costing us 7 points.However, our defense forced an interception on LSU’s next drive, so we got the ball back in great field position, and finally scored to make the score 7-0.However, we had another mental error when John Parker Wilson mistook the 6:00 mark in the first quarter for the end of the game, and decided to run victory laps around Death Valley while making the cell phone symbol with his right hand. After about 10 minutes of Wilson “gettin’ his cell phone on,” the refs finally threw a flag, forcing us to kick off from the 15-yard line.Almost instantly, we were down 14-7, and the rest of the game was nip and tuck all the way.
Things really looked bleak late in the second quarter.We were down 14-7, LSU’s offense was moving the ball very well, and our offense, led by Cellboy, was getting manhandled.LSU had the ball with about 4 minutes left in the half, and I was afraid that any points before halftime would make a comeback very tough.That’s when the turning point of the game occurred.Jarrett Lee, LSU’s freshman QB, had a receiver open on a deep crossing route.However, he overthrew his receiver, and Rashad Johnson was able to pick off the errant pass and return the interception for a desperately needed TD.As a result, we went into halftime tied 14-14, and I felt a lot more hopeful than I did about five minutes earlier.
The second half started out well for us.After stopping them on two consecutive three-and-outs, we put together our best drive of the game, and 69-yard TD drive highlighted by a 23-yard screen pass to Glen Coffee called against an LSU blitz.The drive also featured a 19-yard pass to Julio Jones, who quite simply refused to be tackled for the majority of the game.You won’t hear too much about Julio in this game, mainly because he didn’t score, and much of the game was dominated by defense.However, make no mistake about it, his unbelievably tough running after the catch played a crucial role in this win.More on him later…
We spent the rest of the half stalling on drives, narrowly missing on long passes, and hanging on with our defense.However, LSU put together a 6 minute drive to tie the game with about 6 minutes left, and with the way our offense was playing, I was very worried that they would get the ball back with the score tied, and we’d have to rely on our defense to make a stop.Ultimately, that’s what happened, but not how I expected it.We actually put together a pretty courageous drive down to the LSU 32.On third and 8, Wilson scrambled around the right end, and scored what appeared to be a go-ahead TD.Wilson was preparing his cell-phone dance when we saw that a flag had been thrown, and the TD was called back due to holding on Andre Smith.We had to punt, and LSU had the ball with the score tied and three minutes left to play, my worst nightmare!However, our defense forced a three and out, and Arenas made a spectacular punt return to the LSU 41 with just under 2 minutes left.We then had a magnificent drive down to the LSU 12, where we had a chance for a game-winning field goalUnfortunately, Leigh Tiffin, who really needs to step up his game NOW, shanked his kick into the line, and we went into overtime.
As you all know, I hate college football overtime, because the team that wins the toss has such a huge advantage.Fortunately for us, we won the toss, enabling us to go on defense first.Helped by a stupid second down call by the LSU coaching staff, we forced LSU into a third and long, and when Jarrett Lee forced his pass into double coverage, and Rashad Johnson made his third pick of the day.At this point, we only need to score to win.Most coaches (I’m looking at you, Shula) would play conservatively and attempt a field goal.However, Saban accurately assessed the situation, and went for the jugular.On our first play, we ran a back shoulder fade to Julio on the left sideline.The play was executed perfectly.Captain Cell-phone made a perfect pass, and Julio made a tremendous catch.Julio then kept his balance, and took the ball all the way to the 1-yard line.Two plays later, Wilson snuck the ball into the end zone, and we came away with a 27-21 victory.
This game was vital.Not only do we get to keep our Number 1 ranking, but most importantly, we clinch our spot in the SEC Championship Game, our first appearance since 1999.Of course, we have to face a buzz-saw in the Florida Gators, but we’ll worry about them later.Also, quite frankly, it was important for us to beat LSU.LSU and Auburn have owned us over the last several years, and if we’re going to become the program we want to be, we have to beat them.We came close last year, but we really needed to break through, and that’s exactly what we did on Saturday in Baton Rouge.
Mississippi State is next.We really should beat them handily, but they are solid on defense, so if our offense is out of rhythm, it could be tough.However, since they’ve beaten us the last two years, I expect us to stay focused and improve our record to 11-0.
Check back next week as I review what should be another great victory for the Tide.Until then, as always, feel free to send me any questions or comments.