Decade of Dominance: 10 defining moments in Nick Saban era at Alabama
When a coach guides a team to four national championships in nine seasons, he tends to experience some pivotal moments, moments that can make or break a season. Here are 10 of Nick Saban’s defining moments at the helm at Alabama.
10. Fittingly, we’ll start with a play from an Alabama-Arkansas matchup, and it was actually the last time the teams met in Fayetteville. Up 14-13 with about two minutes to play, Landon Collins snuffed out any hope for the Hogs with a leaping interception off a desperation heave from quarterback Brandon Allen. It was only appropriate that the game was decided by a turnover since the game featured 7 fumbles (4 lost) along with that late pick.
9. Alabama never found a way to shut down Johnny Manziel, but it emerged as victors against Texas A&M in 2013. The defense was gashed for yards and scores, but safety Vinnie Sunseri’s 73-yard interception return for a touchdown might have been the difference. In the third quarter, Sunseri’s pick-six gave Alabama plenty of breathing room, pushing the team’s lead to 35-14. Manuel had a chance to tackle Sunseri but missed. Johnny Football got the Aggies within a touchdown in the fourth, but Alabama went on to win, 49-42.
8. Alabama’s 21-0 blowout win in the national championship game over LSU didn’t contain a tense moment. However, if one were to point to a defining moment, it would have been Trent Richardson’s 34-yard touchdown run that punctuated the victory by giving Alabama a 21-0 lead in the fourth quarter. Jeremy Shelley connected on five field goals which was a huge relief for Crimson Tide fans after losing in the regular season in overtime, 9-6, at LSU partly because Cade Foster missed three field goals (Shelley also missed a field goal in that game, although it was blocked).
7. Saban returned to Tiger Stadium in 2008 and won in dramatic fashion. John Parker Wilson’s 1-yard quarterback sneak provided a walk-off win over LSU in overtime, 27-21. The game was significant more for the fact that it helped Alabama clinch the SEC West in Saban’s second season at the school. The team eventually improved to 12-0 and advanced to the SEC Championship Game against Florida.
6. The Alabama-Clemson national championship game to cap the 2015 season had an abundance of signature moments. However, the one that stands out most is the trick play: Saban’s gutsy call to try an onside kick with Adam Griffith, who made a choppy kick that was recovered by Marlon Humphrey. The decision to try the onside kick shifted the momentum of the game with Alabama going on to win, 45-40.
5. The moment most Alabama fans will remember from the 2009 SEC Championship Game is that of Tim Tebow crying uncontrollably as Alabama milked the clock to a 32-13 victory. For Alabama fans, it was vindication after Tebow and the Gators crushed the hopes of the Crimson Tide faithful in the 2008 SEC Championship Game. Saban finally let down his guard, giving star running back Mark Ingram a shoulder bump. Alabama went on to win the national title with a 37-21 victory over Texas.
4. In the 2012 SEC Championship Game, Georgia trailed Alabama by 4 points with 10 seconds left and had made it to the Alabama 8-yard line, but Aaron Murray’s attempted pass was tipped by Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley. Georgia receiver Chris Conley followed his instincts and caught the ball, but as a result, Georgia ran out of time. Mosley’s tip helped Alabama emerge victorious, 32-28. After the play, defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, who is now Georgia’s head coach, jumped up and down while congratulating Mosley. Alabama went on to blow out Notre Dame in the national championship game, 42-14.
3. In the 2009 Iron Bowl, Greg McElroy remained poised. He led a mammoth 15-play, 79-yard Alabama drive that took up 7:03 and resulted in his 4-yard touchdown pass to Roy Upchurch to give Alabama a 26-21 lead with just 1:24 left in the game. The Alabama defense held the Auburn offense to seal the game, but McElroy’s touchdown pass is significant because it was the Iron Bowl and because it was crucial to Saban’s first national championship at Alabama.
2. In the final moments of the 2012 matchup against LSU, AJ McCarron looked up the field to receivers heavily covered and LSU bringing a blitz, so the quarterback flipped a short screen pass to T.J. Yeldon. Yeldon took it to the house for a 28-yard touchdown reception with just 51 seconds left in the game. Alabama won a tense game 21-17 at Tiger Stadium, remaining undefeated. While the team lost a week later against Texas A&M, the Crimson Tide still went on to win another national championship.
1. Alabama fans will always remember Terrence Cody’s block of Daniel Lincoln’s 44-yard field goal attempt with just four seconds left in the 2009 Tennessee game. Alabama won the game 12-10 and went on to win the first national championship under Saban’s watch. Some may not know it was actually Cody’s second blocked field goal of the game. Cody threw off his helmet and ran around like a young child.