Whenever there is a clash between two of the top four teams in the country the outcome of the game will always feel bigger for the winning group.
Just look at last year when LSU came into Bryant-Denny Stadium and defeated Alabama for the first time in nearly a decade. The Tigers were prancing all over the field in celebration after overcoming a huge obstacle.
Alabama’s win over Georgia didn’t exactly stir up the same sort of response as LSU’s from a season ago, but it was still rather meaningful to head coach Nick Saban.
The four days leading up to the game had Crimson Tide fans holding their breath over the status of Saban after he received a positive test for COVID-19 on Wednesday. What transpired in the coming days was one of the more odd stories in college football so far this season where Saban eventually proved his initial test to be a false positive and be able to return to coach Saturday’s game.
And if you don’t think his win over the Bulldogs didn’t mean something to him, just check out his dance moves after the game.
— Alabama Football (@AlabamaFTBL) October 18, 2020
This moment was close to not happening for Saban and his players and he shared his newfound respect for the ability to participate in moments like this.
“It was very emotional for me,” Saban said during his postgame press conference. “I think a couple things — I think I gained a lot of respect thinking that I had this, even though we’ve done everything we can to set a good example relative to social-distancing, wearing a mask, washing hands from a players’ perspective. I think everybody should have the proper respect because I’m gonna tell you when they tell you you tested positive that’s not a good feeling. I wasn’t sick.”
Saban also shared that he received a large number of text messages from people sending him prayers when he originally received a positive test for the virus.
“The other thing I have a tremendous amount of gratitude for the unbelievable number of people that texted, sent prayers was just phenomenal, and I believe in things in like, so I do think that all helped,” Saban said. “So I’d like to thank all those people for their support and their help and all the relationships and the people that I know all over the United States calling, checking, texting. It really is heartfelt, and I really appreciate it.”
But what brought Saban the most joy from the game was his player’s ability to stay focused during his absence. The team was without Saban in person for the last three days of practice with offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian taking over and preparing to step in for the game.
Despite the uncertainty, Alabama was able to stay the course and prepare like every other game which helped them achieve the 41-24 victory.
“And I really appreciate it — which I said earlier — the fact that the players handled the disruption without an issue,” Saban said. “I think that’s the big thing. So, it was emotional for me to come back today. Now, I think they handled the disruption really really well. I’m not sure me coming back today — I think they were ready to play this game whether I was there or not.
I told when I got sick, I said, ‘I haven’t made a block or a tackle or caught a pass for about 40 years now, so whether I’m not there of not, you guys ought to be able to go out there and take care of business.’ And I was really proud of the way they handled that.”
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Patrick Dowd is a Reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter, via Pat_Dowd77