My apologies for the lateness of this post — due to circumstances I did not foresee (namely, the traffic all over everywhere) we didn't make it back from Durham until 7 p.m. Sunday. By then, all I wanted to do was pour myself into bed. In any case, some scattered thoughts from Saturday:
• As it did a week ago vs. Penn State, Alabama showed a remarkable ability to block out the weirdness of the circumstances in its thumping of Duke. There were a number of quirky things about Saturday's game: the fieldhouse where our guys had to dress that appeared to be 2 miles from the stadium, the "intimate" setting that looked like a really large high school venue, the fact that (at least) 50 percent of the crowd was 'Bama fans (it was like Vandy, only not as big). Saban's guys never let Duke (or its fans) believe that an upset could happen at any point, and by the end of the first quarter the game was already over.
(As an aside, you know the phrase "they could've named the score?" Well, take it from someone who was there: Alabama could've named the score. The final — Alabama 62, Duke 13 — wasn't even remotely indicative of how dominant the Tide was. Had they wanted to score 150, they could've. It was an afternoon reminiscent of coach Bryant's teams in the late '70s, when the other side was just happy to be there.)
• Saturday also couldn't have gone much better for Mark Ingram, who broke multiple big runs — even showing off his confidence in his knee with a few nifty moves — scored a few times and was out of the game by halftime. This even satisfied my wife, who loudly protested Ingram's presence in the lineup from the time it was announced.
• It is, of course, a rather glaring concern that Duke's offense moved the ball as well as it did, particularly through the air, where Arkansas will almost certainly look to hurt us this week. Having said that, it's also fair to say that, by the time the Devils started moving the ball, they were already behind 28-0, so it's fair to wonder if our guys just weren't playing with a great deal of intensity. Meaning? I don't think we've learned all that much about our team yet. But we're about to learn a lot.
• Duke athletic officials were prescient enough to open Cameron Indoor Stadium — across the street from Wallace Wade — to the public about 2 hours before kickoff, enabling scores of 'Bama fans (like me) to wander in, snap a few pictures and drink in the atmosphere. A neat venue, even if you actively root against Duke most of the time (and I do!).
• Which reminds me: if you ever wondered why everyone hates Duke, you only needed to spend a few minutes on campus around their student body to figure it out. They're that snotty Eastern prep school that's always portrayed in movies, only sprung to life.
• The Duke campus makes it worth the trip, however: every building is constructed of the same stone, and the chapel — a cathedral-like structure that dominates everything — is gorgeous. We were there nine years ago in the middle of spring, so to come back and see all the 'Bama fans wandering around, snapping pictures, it was sort of like the Twilight Zone.
• Biggest crowd pop of the day: when they introduced Coach K and two of his assistants, in honor of their accomplishments with USA Basketball. Hard not to get fired up over that.
• One more good road trip story and then I'm off: on the way back to our hotel, we stopped by the student union for a minute, just to breathe in some air conditioning. Per chance, we wound up overhearing the following conversation between a group of three flabbergasted girls:
Girl No. 1 (confused): "I guess they just like football a lot."
Girl No. 2 (more confused): "I don't know why."
Girl No. 3: "Well, they are No. 1."
Girl No. 2 (even more confused now): "Why'd we play them again?"
And with that, it's on to Fayetteville. Roll Tide.