To current students at the Capstone, the description of Alabama football dominance is epitomized through the Alabama Traditions video. As the video flashes clips of college football greatness paired with such words as “dominance,” “grit” and “heart,” one scene in particular speaks to the Alabama Crimson Tide of our generation.
The scene: Rolando McClain’s open field tackle of Florida’s Tim Tebow in the 2009 Southeastern Conference championship game. The word: Redemption.
The Crimson Tide has flourished from the spoils of redemption, whether hard- earned, like their return to the ’09 SEC Championship, or hard-earned but amid controversy, like this tumultuous football season.
Whatever the path, the Alabama Crimson Tide has owned up to their mistakes and set out to right their wrongs. However, unlike the ’09 season, the Tide needed some help from around the nation.
It came. As Oklahoma State, Oregon, Stanford and Boise State fell – ironically, in most cases, on the legs of the kicking game – Alabama began their climb, and fate placed the Tide into the championship game.
With over a month to prepare, redemption was the goal. Nick Saban, then 2-3 against Les Miles, could not withstand another loss. At the time, Saban was 6-1 in “revenge” games at Alabama, the only loss being the Nov. 5 showing against LSU. Another loss to Miles could symbolize that Miles had Saban’s number.
The team could not afford a second loss to LSU in one season. In a season filled with BCS controversy, another loss would humiliate the Tide in the eyes of an already SEC-sickened country. Another loss would only raise the battle cries of the “belittled” Big-12 and Pac-12 teams and fans.
As Trent Richardson burst to the outside and down the sideline for the first touchdown from either team in a combined 90+ minutes of play, redemption was obvious.
Redemption was obvious on the foot of Jeremy Shelley, who tied the bowl record of five field goals in a game and was four inches low on the blocked kick and one foot right from being a perfect seven for seven.
Redemption was obvious through the play calling of exiting offensive coordinator Jim McElwain and the playmaking of a maturing AJ McCarron. The play action rollouts were effective in exposing LSU’s overload of the box, and McElwain and McCarron toyed with Heisman finalist Tyrann Mathieu in his weakest area, coverage.
Redemption was obvious through the play of the young Tide receivers who stepped in to fill the shoes of Marquis Maze. It was obvious through the play of the defense, especially through the pass rush and containment of Jordan Jefferson and the option. Jefferson’s impact in the original matchup was the key to LSU’s success. Given the history of backup/once-starter Jarrett Lee against Alabama, stopping Jefferson was key to Alabama’s success.
Alabama proved they are the best team in the nation. Until the BCS format is altered, it does not matter that they were not conference or even divisional champions. They were redeemed within the BCS system, and to everyone outside of the states of Oregon, Oklahoma and the village of Auburn, they are the champions.
Moving forward, the Crimson Tide has their work cut out for them. Much like the 2010 season, inexperience on defense will be the biggest hurdle for the Tide. LSU will return with the hype of a much better team, and the country will place a target on the Tide’s back to help prevent another SEC national championship.
Hopefully, the Crimson Tide will move past the redemption complex and move on to relishing and maintaining the college football peak in the years to come.
However, come September 8, I hope to see a somewhat-altered Alabama Traditions video half an hour before kickoff. As the clips progress, I want to see the gang-tackling of a helpless Tyrann Mathieu on punt return, with the subtitle “Redemption.”
Tyler Rigdon is a junior majoring in marketing. His column runs bi-weekly on Thursdays.