If I may, I'd like to start with a video this week...
Appropriate, don't you think?
Much was made this week about some comments Coach Nick Saban made on Monday as he expressed frustration with the fans and media regarding expectations, asserting that the players finally played with some passion in the Arkansas game regardless of the score. Later in the week, he talked about taking off the reins a bit and letting the players turn it loose and have some fun.
Well played, Coach. Well played.
There is really not much to say about this one, as to mention any negatives would epitomize nitpicking. The young men in Crimson came out of the locker room like a pack of crazed animals, knocked the Aggies down, stepped on their throats, and by the end of the first half had reduced the game to a beatdown usually reserved for an FCS squad. The offensive line that had been seemingly banging its own head against a wall suddenly opened holes. The secondary that had been suspect suddenly shut down A&M's group of wonderfully talented pass-catchers. The pass rush was fierce, as strong as we've seen in three years. The kicking game was perfect. Reuben Foster was an utter manchild on special teams. Perhaps the best question to ask is how this happened and how it can be emulated in the future.
Now, make no mistake that the Aggies came into this one reeling from two consecutive lopsided losses to the Mississippi schools, and having to travel to Bryant-Denny stadium to face this Alabama team was the last thing they needed. There is little doubt that their fans will be asking some extraordinarily difficult questions this week. Remember when the Aggies were everyone's pick for number one and Kenny Hill was at the top of all the Heisman lists? Yeah, seems like a long time ago. No way to sugarcoat it, that team flat out quit yesterday and may have underlying issues that won't be easy to sort out.
Regardless of the Aggies' issues, however, the Tide took control from the outset and, dare I say, made their asses quit. At this point we need to figure out how to bottle whatever it is that brought this out in the team. Personally, I think Saban might be evolving a bit before our eyes. It's been well-documented over the years that Saban is something of a control freak, particularly as it pertains to his defense. He has always been a big believer in scheme, extra film study, extra assistants to aid in film study that cause hand-wringing among rival fanbases, etc. This week, it's like a light bulb went off. We have, by far, the most talented two-deep in the country. There are multiple five-stars sitting on the bench waiting their turn as they learn their craft. The truth is, teams like Arkansas shouldn't be in the game with this group of players. As a coach, forget all the complex schemes. Go out there and tell each player to play with passion, have some fun, and whip the guy across from him. Keep it simple and let the horses run.
Only one problem, Coach. Beating SEC competition 59-0 while dominating every single aspect of the game isn't going to do much to lower fan expectations. If anything, this game simply proved that the team is capable of meeting them. It won't take long to see if they can continue this type of play as they go on the road next week to play a Tennessee squad looking for its signature win, and a brutal November schedule looms. We should rest assured that the performance yesterday put everyone on notice, meaning that future opponents will come into the game understanding the need to match with their own passion and flawless execution. As I said after the Ole Miss loss, the season is far from over. There is much work to be done for this team to reach its goals.
Let's worry about all that later, though. For today, Tide fans, let's take the coach's cue and enjoy this one. Soak it up, take it in. If our boys play like this the rest of the season they will be hoisting that ugly trophy in January. Can't wait to see what happens next.