By Jess Nicholas, TideFans.com Editor-In-Chief
Oct. 9, 2011
Among the many traditions of Alabama football are a few that aren’t as glamorous as 13 national championships or 22 SEC titles. One of those is the tradition of middling performances in homecoming games.
There’s a reason Alabama tries to schedule West Creampuff Tech at homecoming. The 2011 Crimson Tide showed exactly why Saturday by trading 30 minutes of blows with a Vanderbilt team that, while clearly much better coached than most Vandy teams of the past 20 years, didn’t really belong on the same field as Alabama.
When Alabama finally woke up – no doubt aided by a Nick Saban-infused alarm bell at halftime – the Crimson Tide proved the Commodores’ nation-leading 14 interceptions and stout run defense numbers were mostly smoke and mirrors. Alabama isn’t Ole Miss, much to Vanderbilt’s chagrin, and by the time the Tide was through with the game, Alabama had shut the ‘Dores down completely – not to mention shutting them out.
After six games, Alabama still hasn’t played a complete game this season. That’s because Alabama’s games have a tendency to be over at around the 10-minute mark of the fourth quarter. If Alabama were to play a complete game, it would result in scoring outputs more familiar to bowling than football.
Still, Alabama deserves credit for eventually waking up and finishing off the Commodores despite not having Eddie Lacy in the backfield or C.J. Mosley in the linebacker corps. For the second straight game, Alabama knocked the opposing starting quarterback out of the contest. For the sixth straight game, Alabama kept churning like a diesel locomotive. Vanderbilt had no shot.
In a week where Alabama changed (and lightened) its practice schedule, then proceeded to play half a game of football, putting up a 34-0 win over an SEC opponent – even if it was Vanderbilt – is cause for celebration. With each passing week, Alabama looks as good as its press clippings, which is great news considering the Crimson Tide has a team coming to town in November that is every bit its equal. Sure, Alabama has Ole Miss and Tennessee to worry about first, but LSU is the speeding train that everyone can hear coming down the tracks.
While Houston Nutt has had plenty of success against Alabama in the past, it’s hard to imagine the Crimson Tide losing to Ole Miss this year. As for Tennessee, the Volunteers weren’t that good to begin with, and now Tyler Bray may be unavailable for the Alabama game. If either game is closer than two scores, there will be plenty of hand-wringing among the Alabama faithful.
And so it is that Alabama’s primary concern over the next two weeks will likely be keeping key players healthy, with actually winning the games being priority 1A. The emergence of Nico Johnson as a viable option against the pass makes the decision to sit Mosley easier to swallow. Jalston Fowler’s tough running helped ease the pain of not having Eddie Lacy. Consider this a first step toward a very important goal.
Some have mused that, for those not alive 40 years ago, that this is what it must have been like during the 1960s and 1970s during the apex of the Bryant era, when the question wasn’t whether Alabama would win, but rather by how much, and how much of the opponent’s spirit would the Tide wash away in the process.
Vanderbilt, while being a well-coached team with a decent defense and an improving offense, is probably having the same thoughts right about now. Despite facing an Alabama team that gave only a typical homecoming effort, the Commodores couldn’t dent Bama’s armor. Ole Miss doesn’t appear to have much more of a chance next week, either.
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