Alabama Faced Defeat for the First Time, but Overcame
By: Larry Burton
As a late fourth quarter Alabama field goal attempt bounced off the goal post and went wide, Alabama was looking at the possibility of having Mississippi State going on a last few minute drive and taking the game and Alabama’s undefeated season from them.
Fortunately for the Tide, the defense that proved both porous and penalty prone got two big stops and with the game on the line, Jalen Hurts and the offense all played like they had ice water in their veins and went down the field for the game winning drive.
No, they didn’t cover the 14 point spread. No the offense and defense both didn’t look particularly great all night long. The didn’t win time of possession, first downs and Jalen Hurts, Alabama’s quarterback famous for his running, didn’t rush for as many yards as the Bulldog’s Nick Fitzgerald.
But they won.
They didn’t play their A game on offense or defense and they made more costly penalties than they’re accustomed to making.
But they won and against a very quality opponent.
Several things happened as a result of this game and here are a few.
#1. They know if they’re in a tight game where ever play has to count they can do it. As Nick Saban said in his post game press conference, “You don’t learn that beating teams 49-0.”
#2. Every man is important. Who caught the game winning touchdown pass? Not one of the stars on the Bama team, not even a starter, not even a guy that’s really considered second string. But with the game on the line a little known, even less used benchwarmer came in and caught his only pass of the game, but what a catch and run it was for DeVonta Smith, a true freshman who made the next man up saying actually mean something.
#3. They didn’t panic in their first close game, their first game where they were behind in the second half or really at any point of the game. It seemed like they understood they were in a 60 minute game.
So going forward, these were important lessons to learn. Maybe another and one that will please Saban is that if the players were eating all the rat poison we in the media have been shoveling them with all the stories about how good they were, they saw today that all that may not be true.
Now that they see the two films of badly they played overall and how great Auburn played in upsetting number one Georgia, it won’t be hard for Saban to sell the idea that is much to do, that they’ll have to play with greater focus and play at a much higher level than they did today.
Don’t think for a second that Saban won’t remind them that the team they struggled with all night and finally beat by seven points was blown out by Auburn by a hefty 39 point victory.
I wrote an article earlier this week called “What the Mississippi State Will Tell Bama About Auburn & Georgia” (you can read it if you missed it by clicking on the link). In that article it spelled out just close the offensive and defensive stats are between Mississippi State, Auburn and Georgia. It’s meaning was that if Alabama had trouble with Mississippi State, then you could expect them to have trouble with Auburn and Georgia too.
These are points that you can bet that Nick Saban will point out to the Tide as well. Saban will tell his boys that if they thought this was a tight, tough game, that they may not have seen anything yet. He’s going to tell his team that they’re going to have play every down just as they did in the few series of the fourth quarter in this game.
They faced defeat this week and overcame it, but to do so against Auburn and then Georgia will take a bigger commitment.
Larry has been published in almost every media outlet for college sports and now primarily writes here for Touchdown Alabama. Follow Larry on Twitter for inside thoughts and game time comments at https://twitter.com/LBSportswriter