It was a rainy, foggy, chilly day in Tuscaloosa on Saturday, and the weather was the best part of the day for the Auburn Tigers football team. Auburn's first offensive possession included nine plays for 25 yards and took 4:12 off of the clock. It was their longest possession of the game in both plays and time, and things went down hill from there.
The reality, however, was that the game was over before it even started.
There was a quiet intensity all week from the Alabama football program, with all eyes on the Auburn Tigers. While the media, and a large portion of the fans, wanted to talk about the SEC Championship Game and a potential National Championship, this team did the same thing that they've done every week - prepare for the next game on the schedule. And in this case, the next game on the schedule included settling a six year old score with the guys from west Georgia.
The weather actually did put a little damper on the pre game crowd energy, with folks concentrating on staying warm and dry. It was a slow burn, though, as the energy and intensity level grew gradually as kick off approached. Then there were three events that whipped the crowd into a frenzy that seemed to create 92,000+ folks ready to get on the field and hit someone.
First came the national anthem. I know, I know... the national anthem? This particular anthem was sung by Mrs. Jay Barker, country singer Sara Evans. I'm not a country music guy, so I had never actually heard her sing. And while I'm not typically a fan of "big" national anthems, she certainly has talent. And regardless of my opinions about style, this got the crowd started:
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Then we got the Senior Day ceremony. Nick Saban does this different than a lot of coaches, choosing to forego his pregame ritual to come out onto the field for an actualy ceremony. Each player is introduced and comes to mid-field with Coach Saban and his family, where they have a picture taken and are given a commemorative football. Sadly there is no video of this, because it was not only a wonderful ceremony, but it continued the build of the crowd.
Not only did Coach Saban recognize the nine scholarship seniors (with injured Will Oakley in street clothes and his jersey), but also senior walk-on Brad Pounds, and the three seniors who had to be medically disqualified prior to the season - BJ Stabler, Charles Hoke, and Zeke Knight. Each of these guys was wearing their Alabama jersey, and got the opportunity to be recognized with the rest of their senior class. A senior class, by the way, that will see all 13 of these guys having graduated by May.
Next up was the entrance of the team, which has become much more rousing in recent years. As much as a I love the video that was used for years, the new video, followed by AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" creates a different level of energy.
And as if that wasn't enough, there was the Siran Stacy moment. We showed it to you yesterday, but it's worth seeing again. Siran was the honorary team captain for the game, which means that he walks out to midfield with the team captains and stands with them for the toss of the coin. For Siran, it was more than that, though. Just over one year removed from a horrible car wreck that took the life of his wife and four of his five children, this was Siran's first time back on the field at Bryant-Denny Stadium. He took his daughter with him to midfield, and then made it his personal mission to get the crowd ready for football.
And after all of that, there was a football game to be played. A game between two teams headed in polar opposite directions. Alabama, preparing to play for the SEC Championship and possibly the National Championship, vs. Auburn, preparing to watch college football's bowl season from home with a 5-7 record.
Alabama dominated every part of this football game. The Tide outgained the Tigers 412 to 170. And that 170 is a bit deceiving since Auburn's longest play of the day, a 30 yard pass play, included 23 yards that came after Mario Fannin fumbled the ball forward. Bama outrushed the Tigers 234 to 57. Bama led in passing yards 178 to 113, despite attempting five less passes. Bama had an 11:14 advantage in time of possession. In fact, the only category where Auburn led was kick-off return yards. Of course, the Tigers did have seven attempts to none for Bama.
It's the norm to go position by position and breakdown the highs and lows, the great performances from the bad. But there's no point with this game. Alabama simply dominated in a way that this series hasn't seen since 1962 - when Bama won 38-0. Other than a few incomplete passes, a couple of sacks, and a shanked punt, there really isn't anything negative to say about Alabama's performance.
I will mention a few superalitives, though.
Jim McElwain deserves special recognition for John Parker Wilson's third quarter TD pass to fellow senior Nikita Stover. On Bama's first offensive possession of the second half Wilson broke away from the Auburn pass rush and appeared ready to run for a gain of 15-20 yards. As he neared the line of scrimmage Auburn DB Walter McFadden left Stover wide open downfield and headed for Wilson. John Parker recognized this and threw on the run, unfortunately short. McFadden was able to recover enough to get back and interfere with Stover, keeping Bama from scoring on that play. The damage was done, though.
On Alabama's next offensive possession, the Tide ran a designed bootleg to the McFadden's side, and when John Parker neared the line of scrimmage, McFadden again pulled off of Stover and headed for the line of scrimmage. This time John Parker took a step sideways to stay behind the line of scrimmage, set his feet, and hit Stover for a 39 yard touchdown pass.
Glen Coffee wasn't listed in the SEC's list of player of the week candidates, and I'm not sure why. He simply whipped the Tigers for 144 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown. He's now up to 1,235 yards on the season, which is the seventh highest single season total in Bama history - and only 236 yards away from Bobby Humphrey's school record. On his 41 yard touchdown run he showed the type of patience and vision that you usually see at the next level, abusing Zach Etheridge with an inside out move, before exploding around the end for Bama's first touchdown.
The offensive line was again dominant, and the SEC took note, giving Antoine Caldwell their Offensive Lineman of the Week honor. My favorite play for the offensive line came on Mark Ingram's first touchdown. For the second time this season Bama used Terrence Cody as a goal line blocking back, only this time the play was so well blocked that Cody had no one to hit. Caldwell, Mike Johnson, and Andre Smith cleared away the entire right side of the Auburn defense to the extent that Cody never hit anyone on the play. That is domination.
Eryk Anders is fun to watch. He had Bama's biggest sack of the day on a play that saw him totally abuse the Auburn offensive front. He lined up at left end for the Tide, and began the play running away from the line. He wasn't dropping into coverage, though. He ran a circular route right into the center of the line of scrimmage, where there was no one waiting to block him. With a full head of speed he hit Kodi Burns and drove him 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage. With forward progress it only ended up being a ten yard loss, but it was my favorite defensive play of the game.
Bobby Greenwood got the credit for the blocked field goal that ended Auburn's only scoring threat. Coach Saban gets credit for a well timed time-out that made Auburn attempt the field goal twice, though Greenwood was close to blocking the first attempt.The second time he exploded through the Auburn line and gave Moragn Hull nowhere to kick the ball.
And then there was the beautiful pass from Greg McElroy to Marquis Maze that accounted for Bama's final touchdown. On a third and six play from the Auburn 34, McElroy read the Auburn coverage perfectly and hit Maze in stride at the goal line for his first career touchdown.
And that pretty much set off the celebration that lasted for hours. This was a celebration that was, in some ways six years in the waiting. But in reality it was more than that. Because this game was played in Birmingham for so long, this was the first time that Alabama has ever beaten Auburn in Bryant-Denny Stadium. This game also marked the first time that Alabama has ever won its 12th game of the season at Bryant-Denny Stadium. It also closed out the first undefeated regular season in Nick Saban's coaching career.
This game was the single loudest that I have ever heard Bryant-Denny Stadium. I really can't do it justice, and neither can the video below. Also, ignore Gary Danielson being a moron as much as you can.
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