Alabama's fake field goal attempt epitomized its desperate state of mind on Monday night
We’ve seen it happen. Whether it was in real life or on TV, we’ve all seen it.
There’s an attractive woman at the bar and a guy approaches her, pickup line ready. You see it coming from a mile away. But in a sort of “this is the only way I have a shot” manner, the guy still drops the pickup line anyway.
“Did it hurt when you fell?”
“What do you mean?”
“I assume you fell from Heaven because you’re an angel.”
They aren’t usually as cheesy as that, but you get the point. It reeks of desperation. Any casual observer will think, “man, did you really think that would work?”
That’s how it felt watching Alabama’s horrendous fake field goal attempt on Monday night against Clemson. It was desperate. It was obvious. Everyone in the bar saw it coming. For crying out loud, Clemson had 7 guys playing off the line of scrimmage. Yet on 4th-and-6 in a 15-point game, Nick Saban still pulled the trigger and basically said to Clemson, “did it hurt when you fell?”
Needless to say, Alabama’s pickup line didn’t work. Not only did Mac Jones miraculously not gain 6 yards against the nation’s top scoring defense that was clearly ready for the fake with its alignment, but it epitomized the entire second half for the Crimson Tide:
— Richard (@richardhtx) January 8, 2019
Alabama never really had a chance after that. Any chance of wooing the prettiest girl in the bar was over.
Obviously, Saban was asked about what went into the decision to drop that awful pickup line. Er, fake field goal attempt.
“I think it was a poor decision on my part not to kick the field goal the first drive of the second half,” Saban said. “We thought we had a really, really good fake, and somebody didn’t block the guy they were supposed to block, so it didn’t work, so it was a bad call. It’s always that way.”
Wait a minute. “Somebody didn’t block the guy they were supposed to block, so it didn’t work.” Did he really say that? Like, that play was just one block away from working?
That was like the rejected guy going back to his table of buddies and saying, “yeah, that girl is just super snobby.”
In Saban’s defense, he hadn’t had time to go back and watch the film when he made that comment. When he does, he’ll see that the player who actually tackled Jones was Niles Pinckney, who had 2 Alabama players blocking him before he sniffed out the play. And if he didn’t make the play, All-American defensive lineman Christian Wilkins was going to. Why? Alabama tried blocking him with its freshman kicker.
There was no scenario in which that play would have worked when Clemson came out in that defensive alignment. It told the story of the night. The Tigers were more prepared in every facet of the game:
Lot of talk in the Clemson locker room about the fake field goal. Swinney had been preparing all week for Saban to run a fake at a critical time. Even today they were looking at one from LSU. Needless to say, they were ready when the situation was presented.
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) January 8, 2019
You don’t say?
There was a distinct difference between that move and desperate Saban moves in years past. He was desperate in last year’s title game when he benched Jalen Hurts and went to Tua Tagovailoa. Tagovailoa led a comeback for the ages and it became one of the great in-game coaching decisions in college football history.
Both of those calls, though, shared something at their core. It was Saban essentially saying, “we need to get tricky to win this game.”
Up until the Tagovailoa switch or the fake field goal, Saban didn’t watch an Alabama team that could impose its will on both sides of the ball like he saw so many times. He saw a team that was a step slow, physically and mentally.
We always talk about the message that it sends in football when a team has to get fancy like that. It basically announces to the world “we can’t beat you straight up.”
There’s a reason that the guy drops the desperation pickup line. In his head, it’s the belief of, “this is never going to happen unless I do something unorthodox to initiate the action.”
Maybe Alabama didn’t need to resort to that at that point of the game. Perhaps Alabama could have made a field goal to close the deficit to 12, which would have at least given the offense some confidence after the break after it was stymied in the second quarter. Then again, 3 points were by no means a given.
We know Saban had extremely little confidence in his kicking game after a missed extra point and a chip shot that barely slipped through the uprights. And at the rate Clemson was scoring against his porous defense, obviously there was a sense of urgency that field goals weren’t going to be good enough. That’s why Saban went for it on fourth down from his own 34-yard line in the second quarter.
For once, Alabama wasn’t the pretty girl at the bar getting hit on. On Monday night, that was Clemson.
And much to Saban’s chagrin, the Tigers simply rolled their eyes at his desperate pickup line and continued to enjoy their night.