Friday, January 18, 2013

J-Speaks: The Crimson Tide Roll Back-to-Back

It takes a lot to win a championship. You have to have the will, commitment, steadiness and confidence to win at a high clip in the regular season and handle the aforementioned task at hand in the postseason to get to that title moment and then you have to seize it. The Alabama Crimson Tide understand that all too well. That is what they faced in 2009 and they got to the door step and came through versus Texas. They got that same chance against their South Eastern Conference (SEC) rival Louisiana State University (LSU) two years ago and won their second Bowl Championship Series (BCS) 21-0. Eleven days ago, the No. 2 ranked Crimson Tide tried to do something that no other college football program has done in the BCS era. Win back-to-back titles. They not only accomplished that, but they made some history both as a school, for their conference and some of the players and the team’s head coach.
In defeating No. 1 ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish (12-1) 42-14, No. 2 ranked Alabama (13-1) became the first team in the BCS era to win back-to-back championships. They won their 15 title overall in school history.
Their title victory was the seven straight for the SEC dating back to 2006 when the University of Florida led by current Ohio State head coach Irvin Meyer and current New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow helped the Gators win the title in 2006 and 2008. In that same time span LSU won college football’s ultimate prize in 2007 and three years later, their conference rivals the Auburn Tigers led by Heisman Trophy winner and Carolina Panthers’ signal caller Cam Newton where to the top of college football’s greatest mountain.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban won not just his 3rd BCS championship in four years at Alabama, but he became just the fourth coach in the Poll era dating back to 1936 to win at least four titles.
He joined Alabama legend of the sidelines Paul “Bear” Bryant who won six titles (1961, 1964-65, 1973, 1978-79); Fighting Irish legend Frank Leahy who won four titles (1940, 1943, 1946-47, 1949) and former University of Southern California (USC) head coach John McKay, who won four titles (1962, 1967, 1972, 1974).
“I’m satisfied with this because of what they were able to accomplish. I’m really proud of this team. This team did a great job from the word go two days after we beat LSU last year in the championship game,” coach Saban, who joined Leahy as the only two coaches to win four championships in an eight-year span, said to ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi after the game.
“They started working and they never were entitled and I’m proud of what they were able to accomplish this year, but two days from now we got to start on next year.”
To reach the level that the University of Alabama has reached does not happen by accident. It was not that long ago that this proud program was an afterthought in the college football world. When Saban came to Alabama, he brought a style of discipline, commitment and attention to detail that turned them from a pretender into the team that they are today.
That plays well together on offense and defense. Possesses a mental toughness and physical toughness and does not beat themselves.
 That is how Alabama led the country in total defense (246.0 yards per contest), rush defense (79.8 yards per contest). In the SEC, the Crimson Tide was No. 1 in scoring defense (10.7 ppg) and they allowed just 79.9 yards on the ground per contest. On the offense side they ranked second in scoring (38.5) and in rush offense (224.62).
Two Mondays ago they ran for 265 yards and held Notre Dame to 32 yards. Offensive Player of the Game junior halfback Eddie Lacy, who back on January 11 along with cornerback Dee Milliner and right tackle D.J. Fluker announced that they were going to enter the 2013 NFL Draft, which will be this April rushed for 140 yards and a touchdown. He also had a receiving score. His understudy freshmen T.J. Yeldon rushed 21 times for 107 yards and a touchdown.
“The offensive line came out and they got great push and opened up big holes and I was able to be successful running the ball,” Lacy said to ESPN’s John Saunders after the game.
The running of Lacy and Yeldon allowed Alabama signal caller junior A.J. McCarron, who became the first QB in the BCS era to win back-to-back national championships, to have to dissect the Notre Dame defense as he went 20 for 28 for 264 yards four touchdowns and no interceptions. This is off last season’s title match where he went 23 for 34 234 yards no touchdowns, but no interceptions and he was named Offensive MVP.
Alabama had 529 total yards to 302 for the Irish. The Crimson Tide was 8 for 13 on third down, while the opposition went 2 for 8.
“We take great pride. We have team goals every time on defense and we do our best week in and week out to complete those goals so at the end of the day we did what we had to do to get the win,”  junior linebacker C.J. Mosley, whose was named Defensive Player of the Game for his eight tackles, five solo, including one for loss, said to Saunders after the game.  
To repeat as champions is not easy. Alabama understand this better than anyone, especially playing in the SEC where each week, they play against a great team. What has helped them is the fact they are a team that plays at a level where they have not reach a level of greatness and even when they do, they understand the amount of hard work from the players to the coaching staff, to the tremendous amount of support that they get from the students to the fans in the community.
Saban said to Saunders during the presentation of the coach’s trophy after the victory that the team is where they are today because of the school’s president, chancellor, athletic director and all the supportive fans. At the end of the day though, it is up to the players to take the coaching and to be discipline individually and collectively to take care of the task at hand on the field and to represent themselves, their families and the University itself off the field.
McCarron echoed that culture of work to ESPN’s Heather Cox after the game when he said how his success is due to his teammates and especially his coaches who put together an amazing offensive game plan for Notre Dame’s strong defense. He also said that there was never any talk about repeating or the word dynasty. That it was all about taking it one game at a time.
“Everybody’s got their own opinion. You can label us what you want.  I just felt this team worked hard to get to the point were at. It was a total team effort and I couldn’t be more proud of my guys,” McCarron said to Cox after the game.
Saban echoed that same feeling about the success that Alabama has had when he said to Saunders that, “We have a tremendous amount of positive energy and enthusiasm with the supporters that we have. We had a lot of great football players who have worked really hard and we have a great coaching staff who has done a great job in developing our players. So because we have a great team, we’ve been able to have a significant amount of success.”
While they did not win their first championship since 1988, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish had an incredible season.
While their top ranked defense was not up to pair on the big stage giving up a school bowl record 42 points in the title game, their defense was the best in the country surrendering just 10.3 points per contest. They finished 6th in total defense giving up just 286.8 yards a game.
The team’s QB freshmen Everett Golson finished the regular year with 2,135 yards passing and 11 touchdowns while rushing for 305 yards and five scores. In the title game he went 21 for 36 for 270 yards, TD and an interception. He also ran for a score
 Senior linebacker and Heisman Trophy finalist Manti Te’o finished the regular campaign with 103 tackles, which was his third consecutive season with 100-plus stops and he finished his career with 427 tackles. In the championship game Te’o had 10 tackles, but none for loss.
Senior offensive guard Mike Golic, Jr., who is the son of ESPN NFL Analyst Mike Golic and co-host of Mike and Mike in the Morning on ESPN 2 weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and ESPN Radio helped the team average over 200 yards rushing and passing per game.
John Mackey Award winner senior tight end Tyler Eifert had 44 catches for 624 yards and four touchdowns.
“We want to thank our senior for what they’ve done bringing this football program back to the top echelon. Now we saw what everybody else has to do,” head coach Brian Kelly, whose team is now 0-4 all-time in BCS bowl games losing by 14 plus points, said to Cox after the game.
“Now that they have helped this program develop to where it is now, we’ve got one more step. We saw that tonight that were not there yet. Alabama showed us that the way they played the game. It’s up to everybody else that’s coming back to take the next step. They’ve left us in great shape and now we’ve got to take the next step.”  
This BCS Championship showcased two storied football programs going in different directions with Alabama rising with its third BCS title and Notre Dame still looking for its first championship since 1988 when they were coached by current ESPN College Football Analyst Lou Holtz. What will happen next year and the years that follow is anybody’s guess. It looks like Alabama will be around for a while as they have the best coach in the game in Saban and with another great recruiting class coming in Notre Dame can only hope it can reach the mountain top of college football soon.   
Information, statistics and quotations are courtesy of 1/7/13 BCS National Championship between Alabama and Notre Dame with Brent Musburger, Kirk Herbstreit, Heather Cox and Tom Rinaldi; ESPN Bottom Line news crawl;;;;

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