Sunday, September 7, 2008

OK, so not everything has changed

Brother Whit texted (text'd? messaged?) me during halftime Saturday to let me know a Gene Stallings tribute was taking place on the field at Bryant-Denny Stadium at halftime of Alabama's game against Tulane.
Few things could be more appropriate, I thought. The Stallings Era was filled with these sorts of games.
Fans of rival schools, along with national pundits and columnists, want desperately to paint a picture for the world of an Alabama fan base that's craving a return to the 1970s, to the days when Bear Bryant roamed the sidelines in Tuscaloosa (wearing houndstooth, as PMR delineated in painstaking detail last week) and Tide teams were considered a disappointment if they lost 2 games in a season. Those days are over, they say, only the irrational Alabama fans don't believe it.
The truth is much more mundane. Alabama fans are some of the more knowledgeable football fans on the planet -- whether you like it or not -- and they understand that the 1970s are in the past. What Alabama fans want more than anything is a return to the days of Gene Stallings.
Stallings doesn't get much credit for being great at Alabama because his teams weren't pretty. They had a tendency to muddle through mid-season games against the likes of La. Tech and Central Arkansas, always winning, but rarely doing more than that, and always giving fans plenty to grumble about on their way out of the stadium.
In fact, it was apropos that the pay-per-view announcers mentioned that Alabama's last meeting with Tulane was 1994. That '94 team, for what it's worth, won 12 games, won the Citrus Bowl and possible could've shared the national title that year but for an heroic performance by Danny Wuerffel in the SEC Championship Game.
The score in that '94 Alabama-Tulane contest? Alabama 20, Tulane 10.

I went through all that to say that I don't put much stock in Saturday's supremely-ugly 20-6 victory over the Green Wave. The stats aren't pretty to look at, of course -- the replay on CSS wasn't much better. But winning ugly is still winning, and no matter what this team did last week against Clemson, this sort of thing is bound to happen during even the best of seasons.

Some other thoughts from Saturday ...
-- Let's not get so caught up in complaining about the offense that we forget about the performance of the defense, which still hasn't surrendered an offensive touchdown in 8 quarters of football thus far this season. Chirp as much as you want -- Clemson was overrated and Tulane may turn out to be lousy, but keeping the opposing jersey out of the end zone will generally win you a game. Just saying.
-- One player who's been much better than I'd anticipated: Cory Reamer. The prospect of the Hoover junior starting at linebacker told me Alabama wasn't likely to be very good on D (something about him just looks wrong). But I was wrong about him -- he flies around and brings a load when he gets there.
-- The only person who had a chance to catch Javier Arenas on his punt return TD? Marquis Johnson. Unfortunately for Tulane, Marquis plays for Alabama. Let's hope Arenas' head injury isn't anything that can't be healed with a week off.
-- Watching the replay from Saturday, everything right about the offense in Week 1 seemed wrong in Week 2, right down the play-calling -- against Clemson, the offense dictated to the D from the opening snap; last night, the opposite seemed to occur. Also, for everyone prepared to pile on JPW, lay off: he was victimized by some bad drops, and he didn't throw a pick, something he undoubtedly would've done last season.

That's really all I can say about this one. My friend Kurt Branch wants desperately for me to say something that will start a trash-talking blog war, but I'm not 9 and this isn't third grade. The only thing we know about either Auburn or Alabama at this point is that both of them are pretty salty on defense and both of them are pretty well-coached.
In a sense, the two of them had parallel games on Saturday, and when both of them got comfortably ahead (comfortably, in this case, is more than one score), they both got bored and eased up. In both cases, it showed in the offensive execution -- Auburn couldn't run the ball and Alabama couldn't really do anything -- and also in both cases, the defenses for the home teams were too good to let the lapses hurt too much. The difference is that Auburn hasn't had a "Clemson game" experience yet for comparison's sake. They'll get theirs this Saturday with a revenge game against the Fighting Crooms in Starkville.

So we'll see what else is going on this week.

Also, is Ohio State playing someone important this week? Did I miss something? And also, is their starting TB hurt? Shouldn't ESPN be talking about this?


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