Alabama's victory wasn't fit for the Louvre, but most outsiders will simply glance at the numbers and assume the obvious - Alabama took care of business. It was clear from the postgame comments and actions of Alabama's fifth-year coach Nick Saban this game gave him fits. "This has been a tough week for us from a defensive standpoint," Saban said. "And I'm glad it's over." The score wasn't indicative of the tight contest, which was a 10-point game for most of the third quarter and forced the Tide to use its starters deep into the fourth. Georgia Southern's offensive decisions on fourth down resembled a Las Vegas high roller with a nothing-to-lose mentality fueled by 18 carries, 153 yards and a touchdown from freshman Domonique Swope.
Alabama fell back on another excellent second half performance to pull away from the Eagles. "We did a much better job in the second half," Saban said. "I thought our guys adapted and adjusted and did a good job in the second half." Alabama held Swope to only 27 second half yards and quarterback Jerick McKinnon to one rushing yard after getting 47 in the first half. What did hurt the Tide in the second half was kickoff coverage. "Very disappointing on the kickoff return," Saban said. "We had a guy that missed a tackle, a couple of guys got off of blocks the wrong way and the safeties were not in a good position. It just wasn’t good execution." What kept the Eagles from obtaining a lead in this game was Alabama’s offense, which had one of its best games of the season. Quarterback AJ McCarron had 190 yards and three touchdowns through the air, finding seniors Gibson four times for 49 yards and Brad Smelley four times for 58 yards and two touchdowns.
"They say statistics are for losers," Georgia Southern coach Jeff Monken said. "We can look at those things and think of it as a moral victory. Bottom line is, though, we didn’t win the football game. Our kids played as hard as they could. They played with so much effort, and I’m proud of our guys for running the ball like that."
Before falling 45-21 on Saturday afternoon, the 44-point underdog Eagles scored more points, gained more yards and generally did more psychic damage to the Crimson Tide’s vaunted, top-ranked defense than any other opponent this season. "They did a really good job of running their offense," Alabama coach Nick Saban said of the Georgia Southern triple option. "It’s a tough offense to get prepared for. It’s totally different than what we do all the time. We obviously didn’t execute the way we wanted to on defense all the time.
It’s never easy to say goodbye. But that’s what Alabama coach Nick Saban and the rest of the Crimson Tide faithful will have to do Saturday when Alabama’s extraordinary 2008 class bids farewell to Bryant-Denny Stadium. This class that featured the likes of Julio Jones, Mark Ingram, Courtney Upshaw, Mark Barron, Dont’a Hightower and Barrett Jones will go down in Alabama history as one of the best to step foot in Tuscaloosa, Ala. For as serious as Saban can be, we might witnesses a softer side of him during Saturday’s senior day. "A lot of guys in that class played a lot of really good football," Saban said. "Those guys to this point have won 45 games. That’s probably as many games as anybody around here has ever won in their career."
The Tide wasn't at its dominating best against Georgia Southern (9-2) and its well-executed triple option attack that bears little similarity to what Alabama is accustomed to. Yet Richardson, a Heisman Trophy candidate, kept piling up the stats in a game that never offered him much of a breather. He ran 32 times, caught a 4-yard touchdown pass and broke Shaun Alexander's school single-season mark of 19 rushing touchdowns. "It means a lot," Richardson said. "I didn't even know I did, but they told me I did. I talk to Shaun all the time. He's like a big brother to me."
"It was such a disappointment," Georgia Southern head coach Jeff Monken said. "We haven’t had a block kicked all year. Every other kick we had (Saturday) was just fine. That’s a 10-point swing right there. "It could have been a 17-17 game at the half. I’m never going to be happy when we lose, but I thought our kids put forth a tremendous effort against one of the best football teams in the country, maybe the best in the country."
"I told our players before any of this ever happened that the legacy of the seniors that have won 45 games since they've been here, won a national championship, would completely get defined if we didn't get everybody's best effort in this game," Saban said. "When what happened happened, I told everybody this morning, 'That hasn't changed.' We have two games to play. We're asking everybody, 'Do you know what your best is? We need your best for the rest of this season, and this game today.'"
Not many national champions play football games on Friday night. Maybe that’s why Alabama senior center William Vlachos didn’t think Oklahoma State was playing before the second-ranked Cowboys were stunned in double overtime by Iowa State. "I didn’t even know they were playing until we got done with the meeting last night," Vlachos said. Left tackle Barrett Jones, who didn’t play Saturday to give his ankle time to heal, knew it. "We went upstairs and Barrett’s watching it and Tweeting about it and talking about it," Vlachos said. By that time, Oklahoma State was trying to protect what had been a 24-7 lead that had been shaved to a touchdown. "We were going, ‘maybe this thing could happen,’" Vlachos recalled. "Everybody was glued to the TV. Once it was final, it was pretty exciting in the hotel. We probably woke some people up."
Richardson did it with a heavy heart. He was asked about when he learned about Iowa State's upset victory over No. 2 Oklahoma State, and revealed he was attending a funeral Friday in Atlanta for his aunt. "She passed when we were playing Mississippi State," Richardson said. "She got to see me score, and she took her last breath. This game meant a lot to me today because I just know she was with me the whole time running."
In the past three games, neither team has been able to pull an Iowa State (this week's code word for a dream-wrecker) and derail the other team's championship hopes, although in the past two games, the home team has come excruciatingly close. Auburn played Alabama deep into the fourth quarter in 2009, before Roy Upchurch's late score put the Tigers away. Alabama built a huge first-half lead last year at Bryant-Denny Stadium, only to see it erode like a sand castle at high tide in the second half. The game was a blowout in 2008, but the difference may have been that Alabama was playing at home. Will that be the difference for Auburn, at least in terms of making it close, on Saturday? It's too early in the week to predict, but it is worth noting that Auburn has been much better at home than on the road. (Also worth noting is that Alabama has been a good road team this season.) I think predictions will be all over the board this week, from one-sided to close.
Nick Saban has proven to be worth his weight in bronze. Alabama's 45-21 win over Georgia Southern on Saturday secured another 10-win season for the Crimson Tide, its fourth straight in Saban's fifth season. The Tide is 10-1 and will have at least two more games beginning at Auburn on Saturday and a bowl game in January.
There have been times this season that the University of Alabama defense has helped to carry the UA offense through some difficult times. Saturday was the offense's turn to take some pressure off the defense. And in a 45-21 win over Georgia Southern, the Crimson Tide offense did exactly that. Alabama never trailed, piling up 462 total yards while the defense scrambled to contain an old-school option offense that Georgia Southern ran efficiently enough for 341 total yards of its own. "The defense has always had our backs. They faced a tough team that runs a triple option and is very good at what they do," wide receiver Brandon Gibson said. "We took the initiative as an offense to go out and put some points on the board."
Alabama now needs Rhoads' address to send holiday cards. Fruit baskets will be accepted, too, to Baylor and USC after what transpired Saturday night. "Absolutely mayhem in hotel capstone," Alabama offensive lineman Barrett Jones posted on Twitter on Friday night after Rhoads guided Iowa State to an upset of No. 2 Oklahoma State. "Everyone in the halls hugging each other. Now WE control our destiny." Or as safety Vinnie Sunseri put it: "We told everyone to believe!!! Roll Cyclones Roll!!!"
"In my opinion that was a good win for us," Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. "That's a good little team we played out there today. When I say little team, I don't mean literally. Those guys played hard and played with a lot of toughness. I think it was really important that our offense did a fantastic job of controlling the ball. They were always able to answer the bell and do a really a good job of not allowing them to have the ball. The time of possession was really good for us. I was really pleased with the way we competed. We played a lot better in the second half than we did the first. We did a good job on third down to keep the drives going. We always answered when we needed to."
Ingram was asked if he would vote for Trent Richardson for the 2011 Heisman Trophy. "I'm gonna vote for the best player in the country," Ingram said. Then he was asked if he voted for center William Vlachos in 2010. Vlachos recently told reporters Ingram voted for him. "I voted for the best player in the country," Ingram said. "That's all I can say. That's all I can give you."
The Crimson Tide (4-0) advanced through the championship game by virtue of a 62-42 win over Maryland on Thursday followed by a 70-60 victory against Wichita State on Friday. The Boilermakers find themselves with a matching 4-0 record after wins against Iona (91-90) and Temple (85-77) to appear in the title game. "I’ve got a lot of respect for Purdue’s team," UA head coach Anthony Grant said. "When you look at the tradition and success of their program, you know it’s going to be a very tough game tomorrow. We’re excited to have the opportunity to compete against them for the tournament championship."
One day after taking down Maryland 62-42 in the opening round of the tournament, the (4-0) Tide advanced to the championship game after a hard fought 70-60 win over Wichita State. Tony Mitchell continued his stellar play to start this season to lead the way with 26 points as the Tide blocked a tournament record 14 shots in the win over the Shockers. Regarded as one of the premier defensive teams coming into the season, the Tide haven’t disappointed early on as they are allowing opponents to shoot just 30.9% from the field while surrendering an average of 50.8 points. Their 4-0 start is their best since the 2006-07 season when they won their first seven matches.
One day after defeating Maryland 62-42 in the opening round of this tournament, the Tide advanced to the title game with Friday's 70-60 victory over Wichita State. "That was the goal coming in and we're happy to have the opportunity to play for a championship," coach Anthony Grant said. "We don't play in the past. We don't play in the future. We are focused on today."
Purdue's Robbie Hummel, who had 23 points and nine rebounds against the Tide in 2009, missed last year's game with an injury. He leads Purdue this season in scoring (20.8 ppg) and rebounding (5.3 per game). Alabama's JaMychal Green, who had 16 points and eight rebounds against the Boilermakers two years ago, was serving an indefinite suspension last season that ended up lasting three games. Tony Mitchell scored 14 points and Trevor Releford had 12 for Alabama last season at Purdue. Mitchell leads the Tide this season with 18 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. Green is averaging 14.5 points and 6.5 rebounds. Releford is averaging 11.5 points.