No. 1 Alabama Squeaks by No. 16 West Virginia in 16-Team Playoff

Jon Sarver@ IDecember 31, 2009

NORMAN, OK - SEPTEMBER 7:   The Oklahoma Sooners run onto the field for their home opener against the Alablama Crimson Tide on September 7, 2002 at Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma.  Oklahoma defeated Alabama 37-27.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

No. 1 Alabama Squeaks by West Virginia in Tough Playoff Game

Warning: We understand the Bama fans may not be thrilled with a playoff , but you might have shown up in your postseason game last year had your BCS Bowl game meant something (think playoff and think protest !). 

That's the beauty of the GirdIron Gauntlet 16 Team Playoff .  Every game means something and if you lose in the first round you can still be invited to a bowl game.  So, the tradition remains and the former BCS major bowls have even more meaning because they play  a key role in determining a national champion every year. 

The GridIron Gauntlet is  a big win for everyone because all the games mean something!

Now to our game....

Nick Saban was drained after the game.  Alabama had just come from behind to squeak out a narrow victory of what was supposed to be the 16th best team in the nation.  Well, it's the playoffs, and as Texas knows by now, teams are not showing up flat for the GridIron Gauntlet.

If Nick Saban was given the option of a BCS title game or a first round playoff win, it was easy to see why he might pick the former over the later.  Sure, on the old BCS system Alabama would have been seeded against Texas. 

However, the buzz around college football has never been higher and the first-round games on "Super Saturday" have created an unbelievable amount of excitement for a first weekend in December college football game.  And now the Crimson Tide was reliving some of its lost former glory as they staggered into the second round and a matchup in the Sugar Bowl against Ohio State.  Really, could these playoffs be any better!

The Mountaineers shocked the pro Crimson Tide crowd by marching 55 yards after a short Alabama kickoff.  A Jarret Brown to Jock Sanders strike of 36 yards suddenly left the No. 1 team in the country behind 7-0 before most of the sellout crowd of over 93,000 had recovered from the headache of extensive early morning Bama like tailgating.

And unfortunately for Tide fans, who were convinced this first round playoff game would be a walk in the park; that memo was not sent to the Mountaineers.

Alabama received the ensuing kickoff and promptly coughed the ball up on the 25 yard line.  The Mountaineer fans were delirious and the Bama fans were heard crying for a quick change back to the old BCS format, "We can't lose in the first round to an average team like West Virginia, CAN WE!"

Well, after Jarett Brown faked a handoff to Noel Devine and sprinted around a fallen Alabama defensive end for a touchdown, the impossible was happening as West Virginia led 14-0. 

But the reason you have a playoff is it lets the kids play the game instead of the computers, pollsters.  The first year of the GridIron Gauntlet  was off to a great start because the Tide took the next kickoff  and ran it back 101 yards to narrow the score to 14-7. The  Crimson Tide fans were seen  hugging each other and breathing "really deep" as life was once again in their No. 1 team.

West Virginia managed to settle things down the wrong way.  The managed to mess things up with several dumb penalties that finally stalled what might have been a promising drive on the Tide 35 yard line with a fumble.  The first quarter ended 14-7 with the promise of some rocking times to come.

And they did...quickly!

Alabama immediately  started to drive behind Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram who was pretty much "all purpose" in that second quarter with 30 receiving yards  and 20 yards on three rushing attempts.  With the Heisman winner proving the Heisman jinx is just a myth, Alabama was suddenly tied with West Virginia at 14-14.  Suddenly, West Virginia was feeling the heat of the pro Alabama home crowd. 

Nick Saban was heard saying after the game, "We had a great season and it was so cool to have this home game awarded to us for the great season we are having.  I'm just thankful  we honored the fans for sticking with us, if just barely!" 

The Mountaineers next drive stalled at their own 45 yard line which led to a 42-yard punt.  The Tide then started to roll.  Ingram took the handoff from Greg McElroy and swept around the left side for 26 yards.  Next, Trent Richardson rumbled up the middle for 10 yards.  A few plays later the Tide drive stalled but they still found themselves up 17-14 at half time with a 22 yard field goal as time ran out.

On West Virginia's first drive of the second half they  sent notice to the NCAA world that they were a worthy participant.  Behind a very impressive 69 yard drive with several passes and impressive runs by Jarrett Brown they now found themselves ahead once again 20-17 after the extra point was missed.

The scored stayed that way until 30 seconds left in the third quarter as  Mark Ingram powered down the field for 26 yards and  Greg McElroy found Marquis Maze in the end zone for a 22-yard strike to hit pay dirt and the score was now 24-20 entering the last stanza.

The best was yet to come as West Virginia struck quickly on Jarret Brown to Ryan Clark 15 yard touchdown and once again the Alabama fans were heard calling their travel agents and making contingent plans to cancel their bowl reservations.  The score now stood at 27-24. 

After a untimely safety on the Mountaineers next possession narrowed the score to 27-26, the game entered the final 10 minutes with the final score in serious doubt and the fans at the game were in a frenzy trying to decide whether they liked this playoff idea or not! Nick Saban interview after the game credited the intensity of these GridIron Gauntlet 16 Team Playoffs for creating such intriguing matches. 

"West Virginia did not play like a 16 seed today.  This was a great game between two great teams in a terrific atmosphere.  What took us so long to get a playoff?"

With seven minutes left in this very intense game, Alabama added a 26-yard field goal by Leigh Tiffin and the crowd stood in stunned disbelief and the thought of being the first team knocked out of the GridIron Gauntlet 16-Team Playoff as they led just 29-27 with West Virginia driving again to what appeared to be the winning score.

And score they did was 2:30 left as Jeno Smith substituting for Jarret Brown who had just injured himself, plunged for a two yard touchdown to ice the game for the Mountaineers. 

Who knows, if you rely on computers you may have that outcome, but we rely on students, coaches and a little common sense from the College Conference leaders who finally have said yes to this playoff, so no this game is not over Alabama fans.  Just take a breath and keep reading!

Roll the Rudy music and picture this...

The final score was a picture of beauty as Greg McElroy complete a 36-yard touchdown swing pass to Heisman Trophy Winner Mark Ingram who caught the ball in the back field and proved that he was the right Heisman pick by breaking four tackles on the way to the end zone.

The crowd mobbed the field.  The cheerleaders mobbed Ingram and Nick Saban was seen taking an oxygen tank from a stunned student trainer and administering it to himself.  Whew, it had thankfully come to an end.

The game was over!  Alabama had survived!  These playoffs were off to a great start!  If you are interested in changing this mess, check out FanRevolt .net for more information!


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