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My workload has literally exploded in the last week and I am headed out-of-town for a conference and fianl vacation with m family before school starts. Sorry for the cheesy-assed Roundtable Wrap-Up that follows. I’ll try to get back to somewhat normal next week.

Thanks to everybody that answered my “different” roundtable questions.

Gerry Dorsey from Uncle Rico’s Time Machine

The Tide Druid

Third Saturday in October

Todd “the writer” Jones at Roll Bama Roll

Alabama Sports Report

Alabama Gameday

I apologize for not doing a proper round-up; there just isn’t the time. I also apologize for not participating this week.

Next time we talk, practice will have started.

Having lost count of the weeks and football related questions that we have been doing this, I decided that I would shift the focus of the Roundtable. This week, as the season approaches and our anticipation grows, the questions will be solely on one of the grandest of all college football traditions; the tailgating and gameday experience. I have the luxury of living less than 5 miles from Bryant-Denny Stadium and the campus of the University of Alabama and being able to attend every home game – I’ve missed one in the past twelve years. It’s understood that not every blogger has that luxury, so feel free to modify your answers based on your situation. Email me when you get your answers up please (picmerollin(at)gmail(dot)com).

1. Given your preference, do you choose the watch the game on television or in-person and why?

As I have aged it does become more tempting to stay at home, not fight the traffic, crowds, weather, and people yelling for the coach to stop running it up the middle or to replace the quarterback, but all-in-all there really is no option; I’m going to be at the stadium. Regardless of the opponent or the conditions, walking into the stadium is one of my absolute favorite things in this world. Sure, television coverage is better and you certainly are able to get up-to-the-second information, as well as no lines for the bathroom and the ability to scream and jump up-and-down like a lunatic without awkward stares in your own home. But then again, that’s what Sundays are for. I love tailgating – all day – and the roar of the crowd and you just don’t get that at home. Some people fish, some hunt, some golf religiously. I watch college football – and to me, it’s just better live and in-person.

You just don’t get that at home.

2. As far as going to the game, do you prefer very comfortable or really sharp, in your attire?

One of the things that I dig about football in the South is that it’s an event. In my opinion, when one attends an event he or she should dress appropriately for the event. While I went through a stage where I wore a tee-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops to games, now I treat it more like a trip to the golf course; comfortable but slightly dressy clothes. I could go from the Quad to a round of golf at the nicest resort course and not get a second look (conversely, most of my gameday apparel has a second life as golfing wear). It’s got to be shorts and shirt sleeves for the early games but as the air cools I love to break out the slacks (I got a pair of red ones before the UT game last year) and button-downs. I love the fact that legions of girls wear dresses and heels to a football game. It’s part of what makes it such a spectacle.

Now, that’s just the way I want to dress. I have no problem with tee-shirts or other more casual attire. You need to be comfortable and that’s different for just about everybody, but I will make a few caveats. First, I don’t believe jerseys are appropriate for a male to wear after puberty unless he is, in fact, playing. Also for men, don’t ever wear a tank top to a football game. Trust me, no wants tickets to the gun show. Finally, I don’t care how dedicated you are to Alabama, shirtless and a kilt is a look for the carnival, not the Quad. Something tells me that Coach Bryant would have been a little creeped out about that. I know I am.

3. What your favorite gameday recipe or alternately, it’s just not tailgating without…

Miller Lite. It’s just so versatile. Wheter it’s 8:30 in the morning (don’t you dare judge me) and you’ve just set up two-dozen chairs or it’s 10:30 at night and you need a celebratory/what-the-hell-just-happened drink, it’s the perfect call. It goes with any type of food from chips, ribs, chicken, Conecuh sausage, birthday-cake, or chocolate chip cookies. It’s good in all weather conditions from blistering hot to freezing cold. It’s relatively inexpensive, is easily shared and universally accepted. It could very well be the perfect food. I know it’s not technically a food, but it does have calories and you can live all day on it.

I love beer and I normally don’t drink Miller Lite but it is a staple through football season. Throughout the rest of the year I might buy a six-pack of any variety of beers and work on it for a week, but during football season, we’ll put down several, several beers in a sitting. Like a sure-handed running back, Miller Lite is just the go-to. I’ve spoken before about my love for bourbon [Eds. Note: Please don’t be upset Bourbon. You know you’re my truest and deepest love and that you’ll always be first in my heart. It’s just, you’re not cheap, you tend to disappear if I don’t watch you closely, and let’s be honest, you affect me negatively if we are together too long.]

If there was only one thing I could have at or take to a tailgate, it would be Miller Lite.

4. What is your drop-dead have to be in your seat time?

I don’t believe in missing kickoff (or leaving until the clock is zero for that matter – why on earth would you pay to watch a game and not see every second of it?!?), so that is probably drop-dead, but I like to be entering the stadium just as the rosters are completed and they fire up “Sweet Home Alabama”. Usually if I’m in my seat by the National Anthem I’m happy.

5. Is there any paraphernalia you have to take in the game with you?

I’ve tried binoculars, foam fingers, shakers, radios and programs. But over the years I’ve found it best to streamline. I don’t beleive in shakers anymore – men should not shake pom-poms, there’s usually someone with a radio and if they aren’t updating you automatically anyway they’ll usually fulfill your request for information, and binoculars are just too damn heavy for the little benefit they supply. There are two things with me in the game and they are both in my pocket; my cell phone (I get a lot of texts form out-of-town friends during games) and my flask – unless of course it’s hot or my kids are with me because I drink very little and no brown-liquor when I am responsible for their care.

Alright, not a single actual football related question. But all that stuff is as much a part of the football experience as the ball is. At least to me anyway.

The good folks over at 3rd Saturday in Blogtober are taking another crack at generating and moderating questions for the original roundtable. Leave it to the Vawl bloggers to start copying what we are doing.

Speaking of Tennessee, did you know that in the last six seasons (’02-’07) – the same stretch that Alabama has gone 1-5 with LSU, 0-6 with Auburn, and gone 43-33 with only three winning seasons overall – Alabama has gone 3-3 with Tennessee? I say all that, to say that even in the midst of one of the worst stretches in the history of the University of Alabama’s football program, they have manged to hold their own against one of their biggest rivals. I believe that there has been no discernible change in direction of the UT program and their fans can speak of the high expectations for the upcoming season but, as much as you can point to indicators of future success you can point to indicators of impending doom. The era of Phillip Fulmer will end in one of two ways; a massive blow-up, as I’ve been predicting for a while – Tennessee will be no better than 4-3 and out of the Eastern Division race coming into the Alabama game – or a continuation of the slow steady march into mediocrity that they are on now. I beleive that Dave Clawson will help the situation, if Fulmer lets him, but I don’t think he’ll have enough time to get it done before the Jabba the Fat is run out of Knoxville. The game has passed Fulmer by.

Also, their loss last season to Tennessee leads me to believe that Georgia isn’t as solid as they appear. Tennessee was a mediocre team, at best, last year – a very mediocre Alabama team handed their ass to them in a paper sack with cute little ribbons on it – and they caught UGA completely off guard. Maybe Richt will use that loss as a reminder, but truly elite teams don’t get surprised like that – I’m not saying they don’t get surprised, but that Georgia was done well before 60 minutes into that one. That wasn’t Stanford surprising USC or even La-Monroe surprising Alabama, that was a major rival shoving it down their throat. Really good teams are up for their rivalries. When you look at Georgia on paper this year they are downright scary but in the age of parity there is not a team out there that can take a week off. Georgia took at least one and probably two weeks off last season, and that’s not counting the other close games – Alabama and Vandy.

I would say that the Auburn game followed closely by the Florida game were the high-water-marks for Georgia last year. The Hawaii game, while impressive in many, many ways, shouldn’t give a true picture of Georgia coming into this season for two reasons. First, Hawaii had no business in that game. If that was played during the regular season it would have shocked no one. Second, I don’t believe that much, if any, momentum is carried from season to season. The Georgia team that takes the field in September will have to find their own identity and set the tone for the coming year. Richt may break through this year, but until he does the thing that will be in the back of my mind is that Georgia had a good team that was coming together and got blown away by a mediocre, at best, Tennessee team last year and that was not unprecedented for a Richt coached team. And it usually happens at home. His road record still amazes me. There is no doubt he can coach and is arguably one of the top two or three in the conference. Now he has to prove he can manage expectations and push through for the big one. If he runs the gauntlet this season he has my non-existent vote for Coach of the Decade.

On to the questions.

What record would you consider “sufficient progress” in the coming season?

The legendary golf coach Harvey Penick said, in one of his great books, that improvement usually comes in bunches. He observed that golfers scores don’t decrease point by point but rather they are lowered in bunches when the golfer improved one of his critical skills. I believe that it is the same in football. A team doesn’t improve by one win a year, at least not real improvement, because that can be as much a function of schedule than anything. Alabama needs to improve in two main areas in a general sense; it needs to beat the teams it is supposed to beat and it needs to beat its rivals that are supposed to be superior to be considered as a better than average team. Alabama will be the pre-season underdog against Clemson, Georgia, Tennessee (maybe), LSU, and Auburn. That means that seven wins would be over teams it was supposed to beat unless something changes to those five listed, and it will to at least one of them. If you do what you are supposed to do then that really can’t be considered improvement although in light of the past two seasons it would be considered so. If Alabama wants to contend or position itself to contend in the future it has to beat some of the teams it isn’t supposed to.

My answer is that for significant improvement, Alabama needs to beat two out of the last three games listed above (UT, LSU, & AU) that it plays this year. I don’t believe they will be improved enough to win the first two but they should be coming together by late October. I would be content with a 7-5 record. I believe that is where we should be statistically. But I will not be happy with another loss to Auburn (I have never been nor will I ever be). If you want it in numbers then I say 8-4 or 9-3 with a win over Auburn and I am more than pleased. Does that expect too much? Maybe, but then again I’m an Alabama fan – I’m not supposed to be content with mediocrity. I also will not call for Saban’s firing or Ross’ Brother to be carted from the field if that doesn’t happen.

Does college football need a playoff? Why?

No. I know who the national champion was last year. How could a playoff improve that? Georgia or USC might not like it but then again they shouldn’t have lost to Tennessee or Stanford. Ohio State would have still been in a playoff, as would Oklahoma, LSU, and then the fight starts all over again for the next spot. Maybe in the future but not now. I think every year but ’04 the BCS has worked, maybe not as well as it could have but certainly no worse than the old system. Call me old-fashioned but just because you’re playing your best ball at the end of the season doesn’t mean you get a shot at the title – this isn’t basketball. The best body of work will still get you there (with Auburn in ’04 being the lone exception). And it isn’t like we’re not tuning in because there isn’t a playoff.

If you’re an Alabama fan and a native Alabamian, then more than likely you became a fan sometime between conception and the cutting of the cord, but what moment do you remember best as being “the moment” that you became an active participant in your fandom?

When my dad parked in front of a house on 13th Street, walked me up 10th Avenue by the old man selling fresh roasted peanuts, into Bryant-Denny Stadium and the crowd rose and cheered in unison. It made the hair on the back of my neck stand up and still does to this day as I recall the moment. I don’t know how old I was (Dad says four) and I don’t know who Alabama was playing, but I have loved it every moment since.

What rule change would you most like see implemented?

I would like to see them tighten up the rules for roughing the passer – it is clear when the qb has passed the ball and there is a lot of extra activity after that point. The qb should be punished for holding to ball too long or having a lineman miss a block, but once he delivers a pass he shouldn’t be slammed to the ground as a reward.

I’ve been planning to write this for a while and was hoping to hold out until closer to the actual kick-off, but I can’t stand it any more; I’ve got to get this off my chest.

My name is (Picture Me Rollin) and I have a problem. I am college football junkie.

My life is not complete without college football. I need it. I crave it.

As soon as one dose is finished, I am jonesing for the next fix. Seven days is too long between games. The break between the regular season and the bowl games gives me the shakes and I utterly go into a deep depression shortly after the championship game is over in January. I have been this way for as long as I can remember and it affects most every facet of my life. My career suffers for not being able to focus on the task-at-hand while daydreaming of touchdowns and interceptions and for the constant need for information that I require to get me through. My marriage suffers because of the funk that I go into after losses. My family life suffers for the amount of time I spend on the Quad on Fall Saturdays. My relationship with friends suffers because I “yeah”,”no”, and “get out” my way through phone conversations while reading a news story or study a depth chart instead of focusing on their needs. Even my spiritual life suffers; it’s easier to find a Mormon in my protestant church during the Fall than it is me. [True story: in response to my grandmother’s admonition that I should get as excited about my savior as I do about football I said, “maybe if Jesus was in a crimson jersey and sacked the Tennessee quarterback, I’d jump up and down about him too”. I’m sure I’ll answer for that one day.]

In spite of all the pratfalls and negative effects on my life and the lives of those around me I just can’t help myself. I need college football as much as the air that fills my lungs.

There are 45 days until kickoff – I’ll see you on the Quad!

Special Note: If anyone is aware of what became of the fine human being that used to author an email and later a blog called Reflections on Saturday, please leave a comment or email me at: picmerollin(at)gmail(dot)com. I really miss that guy’s brilliant work.

This is the sixth installment in my chronicles of the worst Alabama football games I have personally attended. The goal being to gain a little perspective about where we (as a fan base) have been and contrast the bad games with the good games in the past (and future).

You can find the previous entries here: No. 10 was the losses to Mississippi State in ‘06, UCF in 2000, and ULM in ‘07. No. 9 was the loss to State in ‘98 and No. 8 was the defeat against Georgia in ‘07 , No. 7 was the loss to Auburn in 2000, and No. 6 was a few kicks short in Fayetteville in 2006.

No. 5: Alabama (17) vs. Auburn (18), Jordan-Hare Stadium, November 22, 1997

Oh the humanity! Here lies the game that should have been in the season that never should have. The one game season was stolen literally, from under my nose. Damn you Mike DuBose! Damn you to hell!

Up to this point in my efforts to tell you of my trials and tribulations as an Alabama fan I have been able to keep a little bit of detachment. Granted, no loss is ever good but up until now the losses were somewhat bearable or explainable – even if using warped logic helped the explaining. Now we’re getting to those losses where I was beginning to doubt that the sun actually would rise the next morning. Those defeats that manged to suck the joy from life for more than just a few hours on a Saturday evening. This is the start of the truly painful ones.

The 1997 season, much like the 2000 version, was an utter disappointment. Maybe not in the same grand fashion that 2000 was – Alabama was not predicted to contend for the national championship – but in a sense it was worse. See, in 2000 we had the 1997 season to compare to and at least by the last few games everyone knew that DuBose was on his way out, but in 1997 Alabama was beginning a new era and there hadn’t been the fresh memory of a losing season to temper the disappointment. Alabama football had enjoyed a time of relative success; excluding the forfeited games of the ’93 campaign you would have to go back to 1990 to find a season that had more than 3 losses (7-5 in Stallings’ first year at the helm)and more than a decade to find a season with more losses than wins. Alabama had won a national championship in 1992 and every year since then, save 1995, they had at played in the conference championship game. Also since Auburn’s string of four-in-a-row in the late eighties they had only managed to win every other year at best. In retrospect I believe that 1997 and the administration of Mike DuBose was the beginning of what most of the followers of Alabama football would agree as the “time in the wilderness” that even now we hope is ending. Needless to say, in light of the decade preceding it the 4-7 effort of Alabama in 1997 was just brutal.

But as the saying goes, you throw it all out the window for the Iron Bowl.

In 1997, I was a student at the University and was engaged to the beautiful girl that would become, and still is, my wife. Football, even a decade ago, was different. Alabama was still playing a few games, including the Tennessee game in Birmingham and the capacity of Bryant-Denny was less than 75,000 – the new upper deck would be completed prior to the next season. LSU was still doing a good job of winning a big upset and then losing in grand fashion the following week and other than Florida there was really not another big time program, arguably, in the conference – Tennessee under Manning was beginning to build momentum (going on to win the SEC that year), as was a Jackie Sherrill guided Mississippi State team [Eds. Note: The Georgia Bulldogs, whom are about to be discussed, demolished State that season]. Georgia was not on the map. [Eds. Note: In response to a comment from Tommy (who is quickly becoming my favorite commenter) I offer up the following two options, which I should have chosen from, concerning Georgia in 1997: Option #1:                              and Option #2: Georgia had a relatively successful season in 1997, losing only to the two teams that represented their respective divisions in Atlanta, in what was the high-water mark of the Jim Donnan era. The 10-2 record and #10 ranking in the final poll would signal Georgia jumping in the pool with the big boys only to stand by and watch as the bigger boys made out with the cheerleaders in later years. In the age of mediocrity that defined the Donnan tenure, and  subsequently ended with the hiring of Mark Richt, the venerable coach proved that one could do more with less by having uber-talented teams that almost always lost to division rivals Tennessee and Florida (except in ’97 as Tommy points out), in-state rival Georgia Tech, and end-all-be-all rival Auburn. So while Georgia was certainly on the map, most especially in 1997, in a retrospective view they were but a bump on it to the real players in the conference on all except the rare incident when they played to their potential. Of course that all changed in 2001 when Baby Jesus was hired, but as I recall my memories of 1997 I remember not Georgia and their climb to “player” contention but to be fair, in the future I will either exclude the Bulldogs or give a more complete account of their season as I recall the best and worst Alabama games and my memories of them.]

Auburn in 1997 was far from the program they are today. After Pat Dye left them to clean up the mess of NCAA problems, Terry Bowden had piloted them the first of the two undefeated seasons without the benefit of proving that they were the national championship in just over a decade- this time with NCAA sanctions prohibiting them from the post-season. They came into the 1997 version of the Iron Bowl with an 8-2 record and as a heavy favorite. As a fan hoping to see a win there was really not much hope of me doing that but none-the-less we jumped in the car and left Tuscaloosa late Saturday morning.

It was my first trip back to the Plains since my short tenure there as a student (in pre-veterinary medicine) in the fall of 1991. We arrived to the warmest Iron Bowl that I could recall – we took jackets but didn’t need them – and I knew things were going bad when we got our bottle of booze into the stadium only to have it shatter on the concrete underneath the seats we were in. To the smell of wasted rum, we watched the teams take the field.

Coming out of high school in the Gadsden area, Freddie Kitchens was the state’s Mr. Football and the next big-time quarterback for the University. And while his career was far less stellar than expected, he did have an uncanny knack for playing big against Auburn, leading the critical drive to win the game, near the end of regulation, the season before. It was not Kitchens, but Lance Tucker that started the game under center. After Tucker went 2-9 and was found ineffective Kitchens came in and righted the ship. Freddie did what the starter couldn’t do; move the football. His first drive ended with a fumble deep in Auburn territory, but on his second attempt he found pay dirt and gave Alabama a lead they would hold until deep into the fourth quarter.

I don’t remember if Alabama played above their heads as much in that game as they finally, after a season of frustration, played up to their potential, although I am certain that the return of several injured starters helped the cause. In any event, an Alabama team that had battled adversity all year came in and played like warrior-poets that night. They controlled the game. They were living up to our expectations and late into the game it seemed certain that they were going to cast aside the title of underdog and put things, in the state where football matters most, right. They were going to beat a ranked Auburn team that was headed to Atlanta. They were going to beat Little Brother and give us something to hang our hats on going into the long winter. They were going to give us one good feeling, a feeling that is better than most, to carry us through until Crimson jerseys were donned again in the fall and Alabama could reassert itself as a power in SEC football.

How quickly we learn or are reminded that this game is not truly over until it is… well, over. With under a minute to play and first down being all that was required to win the game outright or at least a punt deep into Auburn territory, giving the defense a chance to continue the fabulous job they had done all night, the
unthinkable happened. Third and eight, a screen pass was called and Kitchens rolls to his right and reverses field to find Ed Scissum near the line-of-scrimmage with some help out ahead. But a block was missed and mere moments after reaching up to catch the pass, Scissum was hit low by Montavious Houston, knocking the ball to the turf and our hopes of redemption with it. The only thing that needs to be stated after that was that the field goal was good and Auburn punched their ticket to their first trip to Atlanta and beat Alabama when they were ranked for the first time in five tries.

We left the stadium stunned. And we weren’t supposed to be stunned. Alabama had done what they were supposed to do all along but not that night- they played well. This had not been a season of close losses. Other than the Arkansas game early in the year, Alabama had just been beaten. The ride back home was quiet and the only thought was that we had to wait a whole nine months to get that taste washed out of our mouths. The game was an event that starts one of those brutal stretches of recollection where your mind goes through a myriad of things that you think, if had only gone a little different… So close but yet so far.

Yeah, I know I’m behind with this, but I didn’t want to miss out on Alabama Gameday’s questions:

Which non-conference home-and-home series would you most like to see?

I’ve spoken before of my love for the Oklahoma game; that was my favorite OOC that I’ve ever been to. There are several games that fit the bill for me and I would be happy with any of, say, Notre Dame, Penn State, Nebraska, USC, Georgia Tech, or Texas. If you had to have one single team though, I’d have to pick Oklahoma.

Which of the following is the most likely win for Alabama this year: LSU, Tennessee or Auburn?

Despite what one of my blogger friends, who happens to pull for UT says, I think the win against Tennessee will be the most likely. Pre-season they would be my pick for least talented, most potential problem team of the three. But if there is a guarantee it is this: after the fifth or six week of the season, the dynamic will have changed and this prediction will be different… or maybe it won’t.

Who will be the #2 quarterback coming out of Fall practice?

With no other knowledge than the stereotypical type that freshman really struggle with all the necessary skills to quarterback a team, I believe it will not be Star Jackson. McElroy is older but both him and Fanuzzi have been in the system the same amount of time. Fanuzzi was recruited by Saban and probably is closer to the type of QB that the coach is looking for, so I’m giving my absolutely meaningless endorsement to Fanuzzi.

If you could swap any two SEC schools for any other schools in the Southeast, which would they be?

I’d get rid of the Arkansas (it’s just too far away) in the West and swap them for Southern Miss and I’d get rid of Vanderbilt and swap them for Florida State because that would make their rivalry with Florida mean more than bragging rights plus it would be coll to play them more often.

Here are the responses to the new round of questions from the good folks at Roll Bama Roll:

1. And the Valley Shook recently posted their thoughts on “Saban the Disciplinarian.” As LSU partisans, they have a lot more experience with Coach Saban than we do, and I’m interested in your thoughts on why we feel like Saban is the man to restore discipline in Tuscaloosa.

If there is a maxim I have when it comes to college football, it is this: Winning cures everything. Since football is a game, it is about wins and losses and if a coach doesn’t win nothing else he does, no matter how good for a player or society as a whole, matters very much – at least in the court of public opinion. That is not to say that he doesn’t need to be a stand-up guy and expect that from his players but at the end of the day it’s about winning football games. Had Coach Bryant not won a whole bunch of football games the copious stories of making men from boys would never be heard. Bryant’s legacy, at its root, is about turning boys into winners. I never thought I would find my self agreeing with anything that Terry Bowden said but in a recent interview he quoted his father who stated, “If discipline won football games then Army and Navy would never lose.” (I’m going from memory, that could be slightly off – but the point is the same). Auburn fans are crowing now about the type of players Tubberville recruits and the comparative problems that aren’t happening in their program. All this talk will come to naught or at worst become an excuse should Alabama win in the November. Does that mean that I think what happened with Johns and Elder, and Castille, Johnson, et al is alright? No, but with the exception of Johns ans Elder, I’m not that surprised or upset either and I do not believe that Johns and Elder are the face of the program. When all of Shula’s recruits are gone the problems will not magically stop, but I don’t believe you can have a program that is trouble-free and also successful on the field. I’d be happy to entertain contenders for that title but I can’t think of one right off. I also don’t believe young men, from 18 to 23 are getting worse. I think that society has changed, for the worse, and that we are now apprised of every single event that happens. Boys, so to speak, will always be boys, but instead of rumor around campus, their antics are the fodder for a multitude of media outlets.

To summarize, football coaches are paid to win football games. That is all. If we want a team devoid of trouble of any sort then we need to hire a drill instructor and recruit kids from the best backgrounds. If that happened Alabama wouldn’t be in the Fulmer Cup standings but then again they wouldn’t be in the A.P. and Coaches standings either.

2. And on that note, what’s your gut instinct on any further arrests before the start of the season?

I hope we’re done. I believe that should have scared everybody straight and I also believe that Johns absence will help to unite the team.

3. On a forward looking note, name the game you are most excited about this coming season and why.

Always the Tennessee game; whether it’s Mid-March, the start of July, the end of September, or the day after it’s played, the Third Saturday in October defines college football for me.

4. What’s the game you are dreading the most?

Georgia- It’s just going to be so tough to win in Athens and my loathing of the sanctimonious spouting of the typical Georgia fan makes we not excited about that contest.

5. Finally, give me the dream play you want to see posted in YouTube form on every football blog this season involving the Crimson Tide.

A Lee Tiffin field goal sailing through the uprights as time expires and the instantaneous bowing of heads of the Georgia faithful as their national championship dreams collapse around them. You could replay that for LSU and Auburn as well, although in all honesty I think that Little Brother will be the only other team we play that might still harbor those dreams when we play them.

This is the fourth installment in my chronicles of the worst Alabama football games I have personally attended. The goal is to gain a little perspective about where we (as a fan base) have been and contrast the bad games with the good games in the past (and future).

You can find the previous entries here: No. 10 was the losses to Mississippi State in ‘06, UCF in 2000, and ULM in ‘07. No. 9 was the loss to State in ‘98 and No. 8 was the defeat against Georgia in ‘07 and No. 7 was the loss to Auburn in 2000.

No. 6: Alabama(23) at Arkansas(24) (2OT), Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville, Arkansas, September 23, 2006

Many years ago I set for myself the goal of attending an Alabama football game at every stadium in the conference. Up until 2006 I had never been to Fayetteville and it was the only stadium of a SEC Western Division school that I had not been to. When my new neighbor, who has business interests in the Fayetteville area invited me to attend the game with him I jumped at the chance.

In my lifetime, Alabama is 297-127-2, and I have been to approximately 120-125 of those games. More specifically, since 1995, when I started attending the University of Alabama, I have been to 111 games -that is every game in Bryant-Denny except one during that time span and all but two at Legion Field plus several away games – and Alabama’s record in those contests is 66-45. That means I have witnessed Alabama lose 45 times in person. What makes me pick ten and place them above the rest as exceptional losses? It’s a finely tuned and not easily explained combination of opponent, situation leading up to the game, what was at stake, and how Alabama performed. There is also another factor that makes a truly horrible experience; situation surrounding the game that have nothing to do with it and still affect your experience. This loss in particular was horrendous because of the simle fact that Alabama litterlly took defeat from the jaws of victory, but there were some other factors at play.

First off- I’m pretty sure that it’s easier to get to Tibet than it is Fayetteville. It’s definitely somewhere you go to and not through. It’s about 550 miles from Tuscaloosa. That’s farther than it is to Gainesville, or Lexington, or Columbia. But to its credit is a very picturesque place. The drive up from I-40 is quite scenic and when you get to the campus, the way the stadium sits on the hill is really pretty.

Because my friend and ride was coming home from vacation that day, we didn’t actually get to leave town until about 10:30 on Friday night. That’s about 16 hours prior to kickoff and we had to drive what seemed like 30 hours just to get there. Oh and there’s the sickness. I almost forgot the sickness. On Tuesday of the previous week I came down with strep throat for the first time since probably high school. On Wednesday I begged the doctor for shots of anything that would help me feel better. By Friday I was just starting to feel like myself again but I was still exhausted. Needless to say, when we arrived in at the tailgate, after about three hours of sleep at a hotel somewhere between Memphis and Little Rock, I was spent.

We passed through a huge rain storm between Little Rock and the interstate connector that takes you into Fayetteville and as we pulled into our parking spot the sky was still cloudy. The clouds surrendered to the sun as we made the steep walk up the sill to the stadium a few hours later.

Coming into this game Alabama was 3-0 on the season and going back to the start of the ’05 campaign was a combined 13-2.  The season had opened as expected with a win over Hawaii in which the team tried to give it a way in the end. They followed that up with a close win over Vanderbilt and an easy victory over La-Monroe (boy those were the days). This was to be the first road test for the Tide and a game they could win. After all the hogs had been dismantled by USC and then rebounded to beat a hapless out-of-conference opponent.

John Parker Wilson Ross’ Brother did a good job as a sophmore signal caller. Actually from what I remember he played very well, maybe even a little over his head. DJ Hall had great catch for a touchdown that put him over 1,000 yards for his career and the defense did admirably in stopping the Arkansas deadly duo of McFadden and Jones. In fact, I’m quite certain that had Alabama not lost a turnover that was returned for a touchdown that we never would have been able to argue about how Shula got all conservative and made the long march for an ill fated field goal attempt instead of going for the touchdown. Tiffin was horrible that day. He missed three field goals and an extra point. The last field goal would have won it in the first overtime and the missed PAT gave the game to the Razorbacks. It was the second time Alabama had lost to Nutt’s hogs in a four year period and the loss gave Shula a 1-2 record against Nutt.

It was heartbreaking to walk away from the stadium with the feeling that the game had been given away. Alabama beat themselves. That is one of the most frustrating types of losses. Losing to better teams isn’t necessarily good but it’s somewhat understandable. Losing to someone you had beat just makes you sit there and scratch your head and way “What just happened”?

In hind sight that became the game that started the wheels coming off of the Shula bus. A win there and the season probably turn out differently. A win there and he gets a little more leeway with the rest of the year. But it wasn’t to be.

After you sit there for a while and let the sting of defeat sink in there comes a point where you realize that you still have to drive home.

Did I mention that it was a long way?

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