The big man hopped briskly through the cold night air, grinning widely while red-and-white clad Alabama fans clapped and shouted from above. "Six more games!" yelled D.J. Fluker, Alabama’s massive 6-foot-6, 335-pound right tackle, as he strode toward the Crimson Tide’s locker room at Memorial Stadium. With its convincing 42-10 win over Missouri on Saturday, No. 1 Alabama improved to 6-0, only six wins from a perfect regular season. For three-plus hours, Fluker and his teammates had met their coach’s direct challenge, clearly illustrating the gulf that exists between college football’s elite programs and everyone else. "We had a pretty straightforward message to our team: How important is the season to you?" said Alabama coach Nick Saban, whose team improved to 3-0 in SEC play. "It's not the potential you have, it's what you do … with your effort, your toughness ... we have been a very good team and this game was, in some ways, the epitome of that."
Eddie Lacy was credited with a 73-yard touchdown run on Alabama's second offensive play Saturday, setting the tone for the afternoon as the Crimson Tide chewed up yardage on the ground at will. But if you add the distance he covered cutting across the field while outrunning much of the Mizzou defense, Lacy certainly topped 100 yards on that one carry. That's not something the junior does routinely given a full game. But his career-high 177 yards were the most glaring indictment of a Mizzou defense that had been fairly solid. "It was a big old hole, and I was able to run through it," Lacy said of the touchdown run 45 seconds into the game. "The offensive line came out and they dominated. Every time we had a big run it was because they made a big hole for us."
"I just came in with a positive mindset," he said. "I came out hoping. We haven’t had a running back have a big run in a long time. I was able to do it today, but it was just because I was thinking positive."
The game couldn’t have started any better for the nation’s No. 1 team. Alabama jumped out to a 27-0 lead midway through the second quarter and looked unbeatable, but then the lightning struck. A 40-minute weather delay stopped the Tide’s run and gave Missouri a spark. UA didn’t score again until the fourth quarter. Still, Alabama took care of business and passed another SEC road test.
Nick Saban came off the field Saturday and sized up the afternoon for No. 1 Alabama. "It was tough sledding out there today, guys," the Crimson Tide coach said. The thing is, he was speaking more about the weather than the opponent. "For the conditions, I was pleased with the balance that we had," he said. Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon gave Alabama a pair of 100-yard rushers in the same game for the first time this season and the duo combined for five scores as Alabama beat Missouri 42-10 in a soggy, lightning-delayed game. The Crimson Tide had a season high 533 total yards and held Missouri to 129 yards -- and just 3 yards rushing. "Basically the offensive line came out and they dominated," Lacy said. "I mean, every time we made a big run it was because they made a big hole for us."
"That is maybe the best football team I've ever seen," he said yesterday after watching Alabama dismantle another team, his Tigers, 42-10. "Time will tell. Some people might disagree with me. … I don't see a weakness."
Saban took blame for the Crimson Tide playing "flat" after the weather delay. With Alabama ahead 27-0 during the delay, the coaches agreed to just a five-minute halftime. "I didn't do a very good job when we were on the 30-minute break, obviously, getting the intensity back up, getting the mental energy back up going out there and warming up and coming back and playing like we needed to play," Saban said, "because we didn't play nearly as well after that. That's something I'll be responsible for."
"He said he could play, he was able to back in the game and AJ wanted to go back in the game," said head coach Nick Saban. "As long as the doctor said it was OK for him to go back in the game, I was OK with him going back in the game." At this point, Alabama was only up 28-10 and Saban said the team wasn’t in a position where it could sit McCarron if he was good enough to go back in. "We certainly were not to where you get concerned about ‘is this game over?’ because they’re one score away from getting back in the game," he said.
In the interest of journalism, I did not sit in Missouri's warm, cozy press box Saturday. Instead, I descended into the stadium, to see just how foul the conditions really were. They were terrible - wet and cold and unpleasant. But Alabama didn't seem bothered. And the more I endured the miserable weather, the more it occurred to me that the feeling must be somewhat similar to what opponents are feeling these days when they play Alabama. It is unpleasant, and there isn't much you can do to stem the unpleasantness. Even taking Pinkel's words with a grain of salt, there is a certain echo in "looking at the film" and not finding a weakness and in looking at a weather radar and seeing the storm clouds coming. There is not really much you can do about it, and once it starts, it becomes a test of endurance, with one eye on the clock, until you can get out of the stadium and into a nice hot bath.
Alabama coach Nick Saban expected the University of Alabama's defense to have some problems with Missouri's offense Saturday. The Crimson Tide did have a few difficulties, but it inflicted more damage on the Tigers. Alabama held Missouri to nine first downs, intercepted two passes and recovered a fumble in a 42-10 victory. Of equal importance, the Crimson Tide came up with big plays at the right times to stall most of the offensive momentum that Missouri was able to muster. "The one thing that I think helped us was the pressure on the quarterback and getting some sacks at critical times in the game," Saban said. "The couple turnovers were very helpful."
The Alabama Crimson Tide, the best team in the nation, rolled into town and did their thing, trouncing Missouri 42-10 in a game that went as expected except for that hole in the middle in which the stadium was evacuated. After a lightning delay, the final 2½ quarters were played in front of crowd more reminiscent of a spring game than a visit from football royalty. Those who left and didn't return got the gist of it. Alabama was already up by four touchdowns, confirming that the best team in the nation — maybe the best MU Coach Gary Pinkel has ever seen, he said — is way better than an average Missouri squad. From Eddie Lacy's 73-yard touchdown run on the second play from scrimmage to LaMichael Fanning's illegal but physically impressive suplex of MU running back Russell Hansbrough late in the fourth quarter, this was about Alabama matter-of-factly dominating Missouri without feeling it played particularly well.
Finally, we see why six out of 232 combined voters in three major polls don’t vote Alabama No. 1, and a stormy day in Missouri opened our eyes. Turns out the process-oriented Crimson Tide loses its edge a smidge when the process is interrupted by, say, a weather delay. Good thing for Alabama it doesn’t happen every week, and good thing the Tide’s lulls don’t last more than a quarter or two. Otherwise, woe would be today’s release of the season’s first Bowl Championship Series standings. And yes, this is dripping satire.
There’s a fine line between winning and losing, between seizing the moment and squandering opportunities. Bad teams lose because they don’t know how to make a good play, then build on the performance in a momentum-changing manner. Good teams know how to weather the storm and keep a team from building momentum. It’s hard to tell whether top-ranked Alabama fits in the category of a great team that can take another team’s best shot and restore order to its game plan, or whether Missouri isn’t good enough to take advantage of the opportunity it was presented.
The Alabama player who helped enable a Missouri kickoff return for a touchdown Saturday was injured running back Dee Hart’s replacement, coach Nick Saban said. Saban did not name the player who occupied the spot previously held by Hart, who is out for the season with a knee injury. "(Hart) was a great kickoff cover guy and a great special teams guy," Saban said. "I'm not criticizing the guy, I'm just saying that affects your team."
The game was over in 45 seconds. On Alabama’s second play from scrimmage Saturday at Memorial Stadium, running back Eddie Lacy took the handoff from quarterback A.J. McCarron and found a hole on the right side. He burst into the open field before cutting back left, dodging the feeble tackle attempts of Missouri defenders E.J. Gaines and Kenronte Walker. Lacy scored, the rain poured and for all intents and purposes, the game was over. Alabama scored 28 straight points to begin the game, eventually sailing to a 42-10 win over Missouri. "Well, it’s a play. I don’t think you pitch a tent and go home," said Missouri coach Gary Pinkel, referring to Lacy’s touchdown run. "It’s like anything else. They made plays. They did a good job. They out-executed us. But obviously, for Alabama that was a great play."
Junior tight end Eric Waters was carted off on a stretcher in the waning moments of the game because of an undisclosed injury. Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said that he was told by the trainer that Waters was taken off that way as "a precautionary measure." A team spokesman said Waters underwent a CT scan, which came out normal, and was set to undergo an MRI.
Mizzou was never going to win this game. With the nation’s best defense that held Missouri to 129 total yards and forced the ball backwards enough to limit the Tigers to three rushing yards, and with running back bulls in Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon combining for 272 yards and four touchdowns, Alabama had more than enough to ride out the storm. Alabama was the big kid, its arm on the head of the smaller guy swinging away but unable to reach the target. But at least Missouri had started swinging. Where was that from the outset? "I wouldn’t say we weren’t trying," wide receiver T.J. Moe said.
Jones' somersault at the end of his 30-yard punt return on the last play of the first quarter caught the eye of Sarah Patterson, coach of the two-time defending national championship UA gymnastics team, who knows a thing or two about flipping. Patterson commented on her Twitter account right after the punt return: "Wow!! Bama Football Can "FLIP" with the BEST!!" It also made an impression on his teammates. "We were hoping he'd land and kept running," linebacker Adrian Hubbard said. "It was a good play. It's tough."
Pinkel said poor tackling was part of Alabama rushing for 362 yards, and added that it suggested the team wasn't locked in enough and was "making (Alabama) bigger than what they are, even though they're pretty good." ... MU receiver T.J. Moe on what Mizzou did during the 38-minute weather delay: "Um, we sat down." What did the coaches do? "They sat down, too ... I'm telling you the truth." Whatever the case, Mizzou played much better in the next 30-plus minutes or so of game clock than it had in falling behind 27-0 in the first 21:20. The Tigers outscored Alabama 10-1 (an extra point on the fourth touchdown) until the Tide scored two touchdowns in the last 8:05 ... Tigers tight end Eric Waters was being evaluated Saturday night after going down hard on his back and hitting his head on the turf late in the game.
A Mizzou team that has lost its way and an Alabama program that appears on trajectory to the BCS national title game converged on Saturday to produce a predictable result: a 42-10 Crimson Tide victory. The dismantling by top-ranked Alabama, which led 27-0 before a lightning delay 21 minutes 20 seconds into the game, punctuated the end of the first half of MU's first Southeastern Conference season thusly: The Tigers are 0-4 in league play and have been outscored 133-55. With the season verging on a shambles, perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the moment is that MU (3-4) has a bye this week before resuming SEC play Oct. 27 against Kentucky. "Good time to get a break," Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel said.
Special teams The Tide gave up a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Cody Mandell dropped a snap on a punt and was tackled for a long loss. Christion Jones caught a punt near the goal line. Grade: C