Terry Grant gains precious few yards against the Florida State defense.
To begin with, this isn't so much about the disappointment of a loss, but really the way the game was played. Simply put, it was a snoozer for anyone that wasn't an Alabama or Florida State fan. After several seasons of largely forgetable OOC slates, the prospect of an epic clash between two programs that have seen better days but back on the rise thanks to some revamped coaching staffs was one a lot of people were looking forward to. There was endless coverage of Bobby Bowden's first match against his old team (if you forgot, Bowden played QB at Alabama for one year before transferring to Howard (now Samford) so he could get married), and story after story spoke of his childhood obsession with Alabama football, his scrapbook of Alabama clippings and memoribilia and even his off handed remark that he'd like to see a game at Bryant-Denny retires, so long as "we aren't playing Florida State." This was also Coach Saban's first big out of conference opponent, and all eyes were on how the Tide would rebound after a disappointing loss to Georgia in OT.
We all know how it turned out, though. The exciting defensive slug fest that the 21-14 score might indicate was far from what actually went down. If I had to describe it, I would instead call it a quagmire of offensive ineptitude. Neither team moved the ball consistently; Alabama had 19 first downs the whole game, converting only 6-20 third downs, while FSU managed to move the chains only fifteen times and converted 6-16 third downs. It was a banner day for the kickers, though, as the Tide punted ten times and the 'Noles kicked the ball away eight times themselves. No one even came close to a 100 yard rushing performance in the game; FSU QB Xavier Lee led all rushers with 59 yards on 11 carries, followed by Alabama's Terry Grant, who gained 36 yards on 9 attempts. In fact, neither team had over 100 yards of rushing in the entire game, as Alabama had 89 yards on the ground and FSU ran for 84. Through the air wasn't much better. Much was made of John Parker Wilson's 28 of 53 for 224 yards and 2 TDs performance, but anyone that watched the game knew that the vast majority of those yards and one of the TDs came in the waning moments of the fourth quarter against an exceedingly soft prevent defense. Florida State fared a little better, producing 266 yards through the air (compared to the Tide's 240) and two TDs, one of which was a short hitch route that turned into 70 yards TD by De'cody Fagg after little used backup Marquis Johnson, playing in place of a benched Lionel Mitchell, failed to wrap him up for no gain.
Even more disappointing, though, was what this game almost single handedly revealed about the 2007 model Crimson Tide. The explosive offense that we all expected had fizzled, attitude issues continued to be a problem as the aforementioned Lionel Mitchell watched from the sidelines because of a poor work ethic in practice, and the defense made the, at least 'til then, fairly pedestrian Xavier Lee look like a Heisman contender. Alabama would rebound slightly over the next few weeks, eeking out last second victories against Ole Miss and Houston and enjoying a brief moment in the sun against Tennessee, but, even more than the LSU collapse and subsequent losing streak, the Florida State game was the one that really set the tone for the season.