In the preview of SEC Championship Game this past Friday, looking at what it would take to beat the Gators, I wrote the following:
In short, what we really need is perfection. Of course, a football game (not counting kicks) usually consists of 120-130 snaps, and that's just entirely too many snaps to not expect some breakdowns, particularly against a team of Florida's caliber. Thus, as with most things, perfection is an elusive goal in football, and it is one that we will not attain tomorrow. Nevertheless, the harsh reality is that we are going to have to come very close to that level if we are indeed going to knock of Florida.
And as expected, perfection was indeed unattainable. We made some mistakes throughout the course of the game, obviously. Leigh Tiffin missed an extra point. Julio Jones had a key drop, and may have misplayed a potential big play on a deep pass.We missed a couple of sacks here and there. But it wasn't perfection only because achieving perfection is practically impossible even on a purely theoretical level.
In terms of the legitimate possibilities of human performance, however, our collective performance yesterday in Atlanta was probably as close to perfection as anyone could ever realistically expect. Just take a general look at the stat book... we racked up almost 500 yards of total offense. Mark Ingram had almost 200 total yards and three touchdowns. Greg McElroy averaged almost 14 yards per passing attempt. We held Florida to 13 points -- the fewest points an Urban Meyer team has scored since our 31-3 thumping of them in 2005 -- and pitched a shutout in the second half. We held Florida to under 100 yards rushing, and players not named Tim Tebow combined to run for all of 26 yards. We didn't have a single turnover, and we ended up with one penalty for all of five yards.
Even on a non-quantitative basis, yesterday was about as good as it gets. Greg McElroy played the game of his life, and made plays with both his arm and his feet. Mark Ingram may have won the Heisman Trophy with his performance. And Trent Richardson, really, was even more successful running the football than Ingram. Colin Peek had the best game we've had from a tight end in ages. Marquis Maze was a game-changer. Marquis Johnson found redemption. Terrence Cody dominated the Florida interior offensive line. P.J. Fitzgerald made a touchdown-saving tackle against an elite returner in the open field. Javier Arenas, fittingly enough, put the final dagger through the Gators heart not with his return abilities, but with a fine play on an interception as a defensive back.
Even the coaching staff was on fire. Jim McElwain constantly changed things up on offense, and the Gators were always a step behind the adjustments. Effectively everything that you could do on offense yesterday, we did it. And the same thing went for us defensively. Nick Saban and Kirby Smart constantly changed our defensive packages, and there was no inherent tendencies to anything that we did.
And remember that Friday post I referenced in the introduction? In that piece I outlined eleven different things that we needed to do in order to get the victory. In hindsight, we did ten of those things, and in many of those categories we far exceeded what I thought we needed to do. Regardless of how you analyze it, you really cannot heap enough praise on the way that we played yesterday.
Again, absolute perfection really isn't attainable, but our performance yesterday was probably as close to perfection as you could ever realistically get.
And in all fairness I cannot say that Florida was really anything less than I expected. They are a truly great team in their own right, and in many ways they were exactly what I feared. Their offense is still unbelievably good, they are outstanding in every aspect of the kicking game, and the defense is as tough as nails. If you look at their performance yesterday, it wasn't that they really did anything wrong. By and large they played a fine game in their own right, and their shortcomings were really more about great plays that we made than anything that they did wrong. Again, they are a great team and should be recognized as so. I imagine they annihilate Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl, and should probably finish up #2 in the country.
All in all, we needed a great performance to win yesterday, and we went above and beyond that level. We didn't just play great football, we came as close to perfection as we probably could have gotten. In all honesty, given the quality of the opponent, this was the best game an Alabama team has played since January 1st, 1993 against Miami and perhaps even the best we've played since January 1st, 1966 against Nebraska. Bottom line, a performance of this caliber is extremely rare even on a historical level. We needed to play like this in order to win, and we rose to the occasion. With absolutely no doubt whatsoever, to date, yesterday was this team's finest hour.