Reflecting in the Past: Top 10 Games That Changed Alabama Football As We Know It
In 2009, Alabama won its first national championship since 1992. This probably would never happened if not for the magical coaching style of Nick Saban. Many games led to the decision to fire Mike Shula.
There were also several games during Nick Saban's first season that changed Alabama as we know it today. All the upsets and losses during Mike Shula's run as head coach and the first year of Nick Saban broke the hearts of Alabama fans. What we did not know is these games would lead to corrections and championships in the near future.
No. 10: Alabama Vs. Vanderbilt 2006,13-10
After an impressive 10-2 season in 2005 (with those wins being vacated after NCAA investigation), Mike Shula did not look too impressive after the second game of the season in 2006. Even though this game was later vacated like many others, this was the first game that showed Mal Moore that Mike Shula's coaching skills had not changed that much.
With all due respect to Vanderbilt, they are a lowly SEC team. Winning by three points to one of the lower teams in the SEC in Bryant-Denny Stadium is not a good thing, especially with expectations as high as they were. This is arguably the first game that led to the firing of Mike Shula even though Alabama won.
Alabama fan's expectations are too high to only beat Vanderbilt by three points. What Tide fans did not know is by the end of the 2006 season, this would be considered one of the best wins sadly.
No. 9: Alabama Vs. Florida 2006, 13-28
After an impressive 31-3 win in 2005 against the Gators, Alabama showed the Mike Shula side of themselves by losing in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, 28-13. After leading at halftime 10-7, Alabama blew the lead by only scoring one more field goal the rest of the game.
Even though the 2006 Florida Gators would go on to win the BCS National Championship, there were very poor play calls by Alabama the whole game. This can not all be blamed on Mike Shula. It was also poor execution by the players and the rest of the coaching staff. This game arguably would have saved Mike Shula's career.
Shula would have only needed one big win in the 2006 season to save him and he could not pull it off. As the season progressed, rumors increased about Mike Shula's firing, even though Alabama fans would later find out a big win would have been vacated.
No. 8: Alabama Vs. Ole Miss 2006, 26-23 F/OT
Sophomore quarterback John Parker Wilson hooked up with future Baltimore Ravens fullback Le'Ron McClain in the end zone for a touchdown. McClain celebrated by throwing his helmet off and celebrating with teammates. So why was this touchdown so important? Well this touchdown won the game for Alabama in overtime.
A overtime game is always exciting, but less so if you are not playing a major opponent. If Alabama would have been playing Ohio State or USC, this would have been very exciting. With all due respect to Ole Miss, they were not that kind of opponent. I blame that mostly on Ed Orgeron.
Sadly what neither one of these coaches knew was they would soon be fired. This was a sloppy game on both sides of the ball. This overtime win made Mal Moore and Robert Witt start thinking about the future, one that did not have Mike Shula in it.
No. 7: Alabama Vs. Tennessee 2006, 13-16
On the third Saturday in October, this rivalry was played in Knoxville, with the results being much closer than originally thought. Mike Shula needed that one big win to save his career as a head coach and he almost did it. Like Florida, Alabama put out a good fight, but in the end there was no Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer for the Tide fans.
Tennessee made it higher on the list than Florida because Florida was a much tougher opponent. You can argue all you want but Florida did win the 2006 national championship.
Despite winning at the end of the third quarter 13-6, the Vols fought back in the fourth quarter to win 16-13. This showed another negative about Mike Shula, very poor coaching in the fourth quarter when it mattered most, especially against Alabama's second biggest rival on its schedule.
No. 6: Alabama Vs. Auburn 2007, 10-17
In 2007, Mike Shula was finally gone. Alabama fans were ready to finally beat Auburn even though it was Nick Saban's first season as the head coach. Nick Saban and the rest of his coaching staff put up a good fight, but Alabama was unable to get it done.
This game changed Alabama simply because losing six times in a row to hated in-state rival Auburn was unacceptable. Alabama fans had to hear jokes such as "Tommy Tuberville has to grow a sixth finger on his right hand." This got fans, coaching staff, and players fired and they were not going to take it anymore. That is why the very next year and year after that, they proved they were tired of it.
At the time this game affected the fans deeply, but this game actually turned out to be a good thing. This game not only affected the fans but also the players as well and would always roll around in the back of their heads.
No. 5: Alabama Vs. Mississippi State 2007, 12-17
Every game Alabama plays, no matter who it is, you're going to see Nick Saban yell. Besides the Utah game, I have never seen Nick Saban yell more at his players than during this game.
After a John Parker Wilson interception that was returned for 98 yards for a touchdown, Alabama was unable to come back and win. Not only did offensive troubles show, but also defensive troubles. Whether it was the rough passing game or the terrible coverage, Alabama got beat out physically in this game. This game changed Alabama because fans and coaches realized that Nick Saban had a lot of work with to do with the damage done by Mike Shula.
After a impressive win against Tennessee, this game was especially hard on the dedicated, hardcore fanbase of Alabama. Unfortunately this would not be the worst loss for Alabama this season as fans would soon find out.
No. 4: Alabama Vs. Mississippi State 2006, 16-24
At No. 6 in the countdown, I put the Mississippi State upset over Alabama game from 2007. In 2007 it was a bad upset of course because Mississippi State beat us two years in a row and they should have never been able to do that. Alabama fans on the other hand could say that Nick Saban's first season was the reason the Tide lost in 2007.
This upset was worse and more life-changing for Alabama in several ways.
The first way was that this upset was just one more step closer to Mike Shula being fired.
The second reason was that this was one of the biggest upsets ever in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Of course, the third reason was the poor second half coaching. If Alabama would have been able to score just a few more times they would have won this game because the Bulldogs did not score a second half point. The second quarter won the game for Mississippi State, because the Bulldogs scored 17 points.
This was just another reason why Alabama fans wanted Mike Shula out of Tuscaloosa.
No. 3: Alabama Vs. Arkansas 2006, 23-24 F/OT
Even though this was only the fourth game of the 2006 season, it was by far the worst coached by Mike Shula and the rest of his coaching staff.
After leading at halftime, Arkansas fought back to tie the game at 17, which brought the game into overtime. Now if you just happened to forget what I mean by the most poorly coached game, then let me remind you with the painful memories I have left of it. Leigh Tiffin, who was at the time a freshman, missed field goal after field goal along with the extra point in overtime that cost Alabama the game.
To put it in a nice way, there is only one way I can see why Mike Shula kept Leigh Tiffin in. He wanted to keep him in so he could make that famous game-winning field goal which would of course boost his confidence.
This was a idiotic idea for two reasons: It seemed like anybody could have made that last extra point to drive it in double overtime, and it is all good and great that you want to try to give a kicker back his confidence, but if he is a freshman you do not want to ruin his career by having this hang over his head for the rest of his life.
This game changed Alabama because this is really when everyone saw the true coaching side of Mike Shula, and they did not want to see it anymore.
No. 2: Alabama Vs. Louisiana Monroe 2007, 14-21
Now this is arguably the biggest upset ever witnessed in Bryant-Denny Stadium. First year head coach Nick Saban motivated his guys just like he would have any other game. The players still did not see it as any other game. They walked in and thought they were going to beat this small Sun Belt team. As we all know and remember that was not the case.
This game changed Alabama simply because it had to make you think positive. Now let me elaborate on that last statement. Think about what all Alabama fans had to go through in the Mike Shula era. This completely made fans go down on themselves, but it was also a good thing.
It would not be until now that people would realize that, but that game changed Alabama significally. This game showed no matter who we were playing, you had to go after it and win no matter what. It also made them realize that it takes time and patience to be champions, and we as fans now know that.
Nick Saban lost against UAB in his first season at LSU, but he won a national championship there. Things take time and patience and this game certainly helped Alabama as weird as that may sound.
No. 1: Alabama Vs. Auburn 2006, 15-22
I can not tell you how many times I heard the term "Fear the thumb" from an Auburn fan. Auburn entered Bryant-Denny Stadium hoping to beat Alabama for the fifth straight year. Every fan, player, and coach knew Mike Shula had to win this game to save his job.
As expected, Shula could not pull off this task. Now if he would have won this game would he still have his job? I highly doubt it.
If Mike Shula was still at Alabama, it is very unlikely that there would be a crystal trophy in Alabama's historical trophy case.
Now how did this change Alabama? Mike Shula was fired immediately despite having a bowl bid. Joe Kines finished out the season for Alabama, but the main focus was on who the next coach of Alabama would be. After a long process of interviewing and denies from coaches such as Steve Spurrier and Rich Rodriguez, Alabama found its new man, Nick Saban.
Entering his fourth season at Alabama, Nick Saban has one of the most impressive resumes in college football. Nick Saban is slowly building his legacy at Alabama and it would not have gone down this way if it were not for this game.