The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Alabama … LOST?

Posted on | October 10, 2021 | No Comments

After last night’s heartbreaking loss at Texas A&M, I texted my sons, “Y’all boys have been spoiled by Saban.” Over the past 13 seasons, dating back to 2008, Alabama has lost only 17 games, while recording two undefeated seasons (2009 and 2020) and winning six national championships. Under Saban, the Crimson Tide has won so often that a defeat seems unthinkable; going into Saturday’s A&M game, ’Bama had won 19 consecutive games dating back to a 2019 loss to Auburn.

We must not lose perspective. Only once under Saban has Alabama recorded back-to-back national championships, in the 2011 and 2012 seasons, with A.J. McCarron at quarterback, and a powerful running game led by Trent Richardson (2011) and the one-two combination of Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon in 2012. But what distinguished those teams was defense — the Tide was at or near No. 1 in every defensive category.

It would perhaps be too much to hope that Alabama could repeat that feat of back-to-back national titles, especially after sending so many players from last year’s team to the NFL, including six first-round draft picks — Jaylen Waddle, Patrick Surtain, DeVonta Smith, Mac Jones, Alex Leatherwood and Najee Harris. As folks say, Alabama doesn’t “rebuild,” they reload, but that’s an awful lot of talent to replace in a year and, due to injuries, the Crimson Tide was actually starting a true freshmen on defense Saturday. True, Dallas Turner is a five-star recruit, but it doesn’t change the fact that a year ago he was playing high-school ball.

Being an Alabama fan means there are no excuses for losing, however. We actually expect to win every game — Saban has spoiled us, as I say — and so the occasional defeat is traumatic. I remember the 2015 loss to Ole Miss the way some people remember where they were on 9/11.

Speaking of the 24 points Alabama gave up to A&M in the first half Saturday, Saban said tersely: “There were a lot of issues.”

That’s a succinct understatement. Much of the problem is with the Crimson Tide’s offense, which was inconsistent — at times brilliant, but at other times hapless. My brother Kirby focused his blame on our “midget quarterback” Bryce Young, who is listed on the roster at 6 feet tall, but whom Kirby insists is no taller than 5-foot-10. However tall he is, Young is shorter than Mac Jones (6-3), and as a sophomore, does not yet have the steadiness that Jones showed as a senior in last year’s national championship season. My grievance, however, is that Alabama was throwing the ball too much. Our star running back, Brian Robinson Jr., had 24 carries for 147 yards — more than six yards per carry — and yet the coaches would not commit to the running game as the key to their offense. Call me old-fashioned, if you will, but if the running game’s going good — and 6 yards a carry is very good — why even pass the ball at all? Robinson left, Robinson right, Robinson up the middle — that would have been my game plan, at least until Texas A&M was forced to stack the box against him, and then we’d kill them with the pass.

Details, details. No doubt the coaches and players reviewing video of the game will have many post-game critiques of their decisions, but the season goes forward, and there is no time for regrets. The joy of cheering America’s greatest college football program comes weighted with a burden of sorrow, the death-like pangs of misery whenever Alabama loses. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it really hurts.




 

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