As it is written in the school's fight song, "For 'Bama's pluck and grit have writ her name in Crimson flame!"
Somehow, some way, they pulled it off. Facing the most difficult and intimidating of challenges, Alabama rallied in the final minute-and-a-half to defeat the LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge 21-17 Saturday night. They did it with a heavy dose of that old pluck and grit.
The Tide played quite poorly at times. Assignments were missed. They looked confused, beaten, tired, worn down and surprised at the intensity and determination that LSU brought to the battle.
Sure, there were some players who performed poorly and probably deserve appropriately poor reviews. There were key players who had never been thrown into a ring of fire like this before. Eyeballs were bulging. Pressure was mounting. Confidence was at times shattered. Heart was in question.
When the game was on the line, though, the boys played like men. The scared and scarred played like champions. Just when it appeared that conference and national titles were destined to wait for another year and when the invincible became human, the Tide rose.
In light of this amazing and improbable turn of events late Saturday night, I find myself remembering the words of "Yea Alabama". I find myself realizing now more than ever what those beautiful words mean.
LSU came into this game with something to prove. It had been dismissed and forgotten as a national power.
Quarterback Zach Mettenberger had proved himself to be inefficient and incapable of greatness. The defense had played far below the level it did in 2011. For crying out loud, they barely beat Auburn.
But when the lights were turned on and the cameras were rolling, LSU played like champions as well. LSU fought. LSU commanded and earned its respect. LSU beat Alabama up and down the field with ferocity and consistency for the vast majority of the game.
Up 14-3 at halftime, most of the Alabama family felt quite comfortable. They felt unbeatable. They were relaxed and at peace.
When LSU went up 17-14 early in the fourth quarter, everything changed. For the first time since last November, Alabama was on the ropes.
Nothing Nick Saban tried was working. The offense could not move the ball, and the AJ McCarron we had become accustomed to watching every Saturday was absent. The blitzes dialed up by Kirby Smart were ineffective and getting blown up at every turn. Alabama was simply getting outplayed.
With under three minutes to play, LSU was one more first down away from putting the game on ice and Alabama's dreams on layaway. After a pair of tackles by Damion Square and another by Jesse Williams, the Tigers faced a fourth down and a 45-yard field goal. They missed it.
There was hope.
After going just 1-7 for negative one yard in the entire second half, McCarron saw the hope as well. He connected three times with Kevin Norwood, and suddenly Alabama was at the LSU 28. The rest, as they say, is history.
On a night when the breaks were beating the boys, the Alabama Crimson Tide refused to lose. They refused to quit.
There were some very good individual performances from the Tide.
The offensive line had its best game of the season, punching huge holes in the LSU front line and allowing Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon to gash the Tigers for almost 160 yards with an average of more than seven yards per carry. The inefficiency of the passing game was largely due to incredible coverage provided by the LSU secondary.
Although he struggled for most of the night, McCarron provided the confident leadership when it was most needed.
Norwood caught five passes for 62 yards, three of them on the final drive. Christion Jones had four catches for 40 yards on the night. Yeldon danced through the defense en route to the promised land on his only catch of the game.
The defensive line of Williams, Square and Quinton Dial combined for 18 tackles, three for loss, and a sack.
Nico Johnson had by far his best game of the season with 12 tackles. Adrian Hubbard and Trey DePriest appeared to be in on every play as well, combining for 22 more tackles.
Deion Belue was picked on all night, but managed to hold his own for the most part. Dee Milliner recorded eight tackles of his own, two for loss.
On the most difficult of nights, Alabama stuck with each other. It played as a team. It did not quit. When push came to shove and the Tide had their backs against the wall, they came through like the champions they are.
After the final whistle, emotions were high and tears were freely flowing. They knew. They knew they were champions. They knew that they had earned this victory.
For this, I give the entire team, everyone in the crimson jersey, an "A" for their efforts Saturday night. I give them the crimson-script A that stands for Alabama. It is the "A" that represents champions. It is the "A" that represents winners. It is the "A" that never quits.
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