Alabama's season dissolves in a dizzying series of Iron mistakes and an all-too familiar doink
College football goal posts are 18 feet, 6 inches away from each other — a set of 5-9/16 inch diameter metal poles painted yellow for extra visibility.
For the Alabama Crimson Tide in 2019, they might as well have been 6 inches apart and made of pure Kryptonite.
From the season’s opening game against Duke, down to the final gun against Auburn, goal posts have been the mortal enemy of the Tide. A doinked kick was bound to cost the Alabama at some point … simply because the law of statistics tell you the goal-post-hittingest college football team in history was going to clank one when it truly mattered.
Saturday night, on a slip-and-slide field against the hated school down the road on the season’s biggest stage, it truly mattered.
Joesph Bulovas is a fine young man, I’m sure. Always says please and thank you, Holds doors for women. Helps old ladies across the road. Eats his veggies without complaint.
But Saturday night, with the Iron Bowl on the line and Bulovas trotting out onto the field, you just knew what was going to happen.
Because it happened a few times this season. It happened to Will Reichard before he got hurt. It happened to Bulovas.
Those goal posts don’t have feelings, and neither does the football as it is hurtling toward them. But the kicker that propels said football sure does, and kickers wearing Alabama uniforms seem to short-circuit in situations enough to make grown folks wince and look away before it even happens.
With 5-star athletes littering the field, and an small city’s worth of personnel dedicated to finding more and more every year, the perpetual question remains: How can Alabama coach Nick Saban never actually recruit a kicker?
Not that Saturday’s thrilling 48-45 loss to No. 15 Auburn was all Bulovas’ fault.
Alabama dissolved Saturday in a flurry of untimely mistakes and penalties and lack of discipline.
The Crimson Tide were penalized 13 times for 96 yards, the most flags for a Saban-coached Alabama team in history. The last one, an illegal substitution flag, came as Auburn coach Gus Malzahn coached the socks off Saban and his staff — sending out the Auburn offense to try and draw Alabama offsides, instead getting the Tide so jammed up they kept their regular defense out there and sent in a punt returner.
Twelve players is 1 too many, as the even the rookie Pop Warner coach will tell you.
Alabama quarterback Mac Jones, in only his 2nd career start and undoubtedly on the most pressure-packed stage he has ever seen, uncorked not 1 but 2 pick-6s — the second one ending up being a 100-yard Auburn TD that once again shifted momentum back to the home sideline.
As for Auburn, belief is a powerful thing. It makes 3-loss teams look invincible in the clutch and allows ordinary receivers to tiptoe sidelines and make ridiculous 1-handed catches.
“Our team believes they can beat (Alabama),” Malzahn said while the Auburn student body was busy racking up a healthy 6-figure fine for rushing the Jordan-Hare playing surface yet again. “Other teams just hope.”
A person could also look at this Alabama season and see a whole lot of positives. This is a team, after all, that lost its star quarterback, starting tight end, both inside linebackers, star freshman running back and kicker for the season.
Tua Tagovailoa set Alabama records for the better part of 2 seasons, even though he didn’t play every game in either season due to injury after injury. Perhaps Alabama’s most electrifying player in school history, he was relegated to being the Tide’s No. 1 cheerleader against Auburn after a season-ending hip injury.
Jones was never meant to be more than a holder for field-goal attempts (sigh), and it was to be Tagovailoa who was torching the Tigers for 400-plus. Just as Miller Forristall was supposed to be available for pass-catching and blocking. Just as Dylan Moses and Joshua McMillon were supposed to be patrolling the middle of the defense.
Just like Reichard was supposed to be out there at the end against Auburn instead of Bulovas, who again made his bed every morning and never talked back to his parents.
But excuses are for losers, and the bottom line is this: No. 5 Alabama was outplayed and outcoached by the Auburn Tigers, yet again, in the Iron Bowl. Just like 2013. Just like 2017.
It isn’t black magic that puts Auburn in position for stuff like this to happen over and over again. Sure, the SEC office will likely offer some sort of milquetoast explanation for the Tigers getting :01 to break off a 52-yard field goal at the end of the first half. But Malzahn also immediately knew that getting a replay challenge in there might afford the opportunity to line up for the field goal.
Auburn outplayed and outcoached Alabama. Bulovas’ missed field goal at the end, along with Alabama’s 4th-down penalty, weren’t the cause of the defeat but rather the symptoms.
But still … darn goal posts.