Unfortunately it will take a while to get that loss out of my head. Something tells me that I will always remember that one. Punt Bama Punt happened the year before I was born so there is no recollection of it. Maybe Cam’s Comeback Bowl 2010 is the new Punt Bama Punt.
My personal maxim of football is that the game is won on the line-of-scrimmage. Coming into the game, I felt like Auburn had done a better job all season of controlling both lines and thus the advantage was theirs. I hoped Alabama could put together its first complete game of the year and win, but I thought it would take the kind of effort that hadn’t been seen all season.
Here are a few random thoughts about the game from the perspective of a fan on the 25 yard line of the West Upper Deck:
- Auburn won because they were a better football team this year. Despite all the time we give to records and programs and comparisons, the game is won by the better team the vast majority of the time. I didn’t say more talented squad or better coached, or more focused, I said better team. I can still love the University of Alabama and its football team but I can readily admit that Auburn had the better overall team. This year.
- Auburn is a better team this year mainly due to its experience. A quick review of their depth chart shows that one offensive lineman, the H-back, and running back are the only guaranteed returning starters next season ( I am assuming that Adams and Newton will go pro). On defense, one lineman, one linebacker, and two defensive backs will be back (I am assuming Fairley goes pro as well). That is a lot of experience and it is hard to trump that on talent alone and in all fairness, there are some pretty talented kids in that group. They never gave up, which is tenacity that is learned through experience. Talent in no way makes up for that.
- Auburn also has an incredible quarterback. Forget about allegations for a minute. Cam Newton is a once in a generation athlete. You just don’t find talent like that everyday – Julio Jones is the same way at receiver, unfortunately receiver does not impact the game the way quarterback does. I’m just glad we only have to hear about him for one year. You think Tebow love made you sick, imagine four years of Newton.
- Auburn rarely makes mistakes. There were no offensive penalties that I recall. The flag against Fairley was ticky-tack at best and was probably earned in the last game (Thanks, Bulldogs). They just didn’t do many things to beat themselves. That is the mark of a good team (see ’09 Alabama).
- Forget about the “out-coached” comments. Alabama’s game plan was great. The team was motivated. The offense did a great job early on and the the Tiger defense on its heels. The defense was phenomenal. I never imagined Alabama would be that effective against Newton (despite the loss, Alabama still out gained Auburn and held Newton to season lows) but if the plan was to stop the run and make them beat us in the air, as it usually is, Newton and company made the plays that Alabama didn’t. Four trips in the Red Zone in the first half that netted two field goals and two turnovers. That’s not coaching. That’s execution. Look at it like this, if Alabama scores a touchdown on any of those four possessions, we aren’t talking about this today. A back dropping a sure touchdown pass or the most sure handed back that I can remember fumbling a ball through the end zone are not coaching problems.
- I’m not sure what happened to the resiliency Alabama used to show in the fourth quarter. This could be a coaching call, but I’m going to defer to experience and leadership.
- Empty seats in the student section are inexcusable. Come on, kids!
- We need to have a few less Scott Cochran cheers during the game. I don’t think they are working.
Finally, as disappointed as I was (and am), I really don’t believe that this signals a shift of power in the state (other than the one obvious year). As mentioned above, Auburn is senior laden and both Cam and Malzhan should be gone next year (I’d kind of like to see Cam behind a line with four new starters and for both Newton and Malzhan, their stock will never be any higher than it is right now). With the majority of their defense gone as well, Auburn should struggle against a brutal road schedule.
Alabama is not unique in that it has struggled (by comparison) in a season after a national title with a roster that lost a lot of starters. The Tide had a much better season than Texas or Florida. Recruiting is going well and despite what happened Friday, I wouldn’t even consider trading Saban for Malzhan or anyone else for that matter.