“Sometimes, coaches realize the game has passed them by and this is the kind of loss that does that.”
I’m paraphrasing, but I still had to laugh during halftime of the Mississippi State-LSU Saturday night when ESPN studio analyst Lou Holtz actually mentioned the words retire and (Nick) Saban in the same sentence. Two weeks ago, Alabama could have beaten the Kansas City Chiefs by two touchdowns according to some pundits and now, after two close games against quality teams in the SEC, the recent three-time national champion coach should all the sudden turn in his loafers and look for a new gig?
Talk about overreacting.
I love Lou, I really do, but what was the Notre Dame homer thinking when he looked over at Mark May and said those words? Reece Davis chuckled and for good reason. The Crimson Tide will be fine just as long as they know the road to the BCS National Championship Game is no longer in their hands. Saban spoke rather bluntly to reporters after Saturday’s loss, obviously frustrated that his team didn’t bring its best effort against Johnny Football’s Aggies. He didn’t have an excuse for Alabama being punched in the mouth on its on field, other than placing the blame on execution.
The Crimson Tide play to a standard each and every week but were quickly knocked off rhythm in the first quarter. With a few schematic changes, Alabama rebounded and play much better the rest of the way, but fell victim to a handful of game-changing plays down the stretch and didn’t have the poise that’s indicative of Saban’s teams. The Aggies forced three turnovers, converted 11-of-18 third downs and found holes in the nation’s top defense. First-year A&M coach Kevin Sumlin revealed the blueprint on how to beat an SEC titan utilizing a fast-paced offense with a prolific quarterback and for his troubles, the Aggies are now the SEC’s sixth Top 10 team.
So what’s next for the fourth-ranked Crimson Tide after falling from the ranks of the unbeaten?
Regroup and try again. Two wins, a shot at another SEC title and a BCS bowl lie ahead, though it comes as a tough-to-swallow consolation prize to the defending national champions. This season, through 10 weeks, went off without a hitch despite Saban constantly reminding whoever would listen that Alabama was not invincible. A.J. McCarron proved he was human after last week’s Baton Rouge heroics and threw his first picks of the season while the Aggies pounded the hairline crack (exposed by LSU’s Zach Mettenberger in the passing game) with a relentless pace.
Part of me thinks Saban expected a challenging game, but in no way considers A&M’s win a sign of things to come in Tuscaloosa. The win was the Aggies’ (8-2, 5-2) first signature victory in an impressive first SEC season and catapulted Manziel to the top of everyone’s Heisman lists. But will A&M be able to contend year-after-year in the West with Alabama and LSU at the top of the pecking order? Time will tell.
I wish Lou Holtz wouldn’t have inferred that Saban has lost a step. It’s comical to think he has. What’s really unfortunate is how the Crimson Tide will respond over their next two games against hapless Western Carolina and Auburn. I doubt the Catamounts or Tigers send Dr. Lou a Christmas card next month.