Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Reflections in the afterglow

I'm still trying to process what I saw Saturday night. It was the most amazing ending under the most intense pressure you'll find in a football game. Everything was on the line for both teams and it was another classic Bama-LSU game. This has become possibly the top rivalry in the SEC. And when TJ Yeldon crossed that goal line....

....well, wow!

The emotion of that night is summed up in this video posted on youtube:
(If you follow this blog, you may recognize someone at the 1:51 mark.)

It was a night I'll never forget. It makes me reflect on other great Bama games of the past. Here is a Top 11 list of games I've been to in the 44 years since my parents first took me to a game. If I thought through it on a different night, the list might be different. By tonight, this seems like a pretty good one. They are selected based on how memorable the game was from an "on-the-field" perspective. At some point, I plan to compile a list based on how meaningful a game might have been from a family/friends or off-the-field point of view. That list will definitely be different.

Note: The list is chronological. It's too hard to rank them! In the case of bowl games, dates are based on the season rather than the actual date of the game.

  1. Alabama 14, Penn State 7, 1978. This was in the Sugar Bowl and was the first of five national championships I've seen the Tide win in person. Known mainly for "The Goal Line Stand" where Barry Krauss famously called across the the Penn State QB, "You'd better pass." They didn't.
  2. Alabama 20, Georgia 16, 1985. The first final-drive comeback from Bama that I ever saw. After falling behind on a blocked punt with only a minute left, QB Mike Shula drove the Tide to the winning score. Like the game this week, they got into field goal range where they could have tied it, but didn't settle for that.
  3. Alabama 25, Auburn 23, 1985. The Kick. Probably the most exciting fourth quarter ever, with four lead changes and a long drive leading to a 57-yard field goal by Van Tiffin. The key to the drive was converting a 3rd-and-18 (with 4th-and-4) after a sack. 
  4. Alabama 28, Florida 21, 1992. The very first SEC Championship Game, played in Birmingham. Florida seemed on the verge of blowing it open all night, but never could. Then, Antonio Langham broke a tie with a never-to-be-forgotten pick-6. Bama was SEC champions and headed to play for the national championship in the Sugar Bowl.
  5. Alabama 34, Miami 13, 1992. And this was the result. The heavy underdogs manhandled  the Hurricanes including a famous play where George Teague stripped the ball from Lamar Thomas and returned it. The Canes have never been the same.
  6. Alabama 22, LSU 16, 1998. Saturday's game was reminiscent of this one, although there was not nearly as much on the line then. It was memorable because it was an incredible comeback in Tiger Stadium and is the only time I remember where the Tide recovered an onside kick as part of a comeback. They recovered from a 16-7 deficit with less than five minutes remaining.
  7. Alabama 40, Florida 39 (OT), 1999. A double digit underdog to the third-ranked Gators, the Tide rode the back of Shaun Alexander to the most exciting overtime win in their history. I never will forget that 25-yard run.
  8. Alabama 12, Tennessee 10, 2009. "Rocky Flop." This was almost the negative image of the 1998 LSU game. A vastly less talented Tennessee team hung around and hung around.  Then they scored and got the ball back from an onside kick and could have won with a  field goal. But Terrence Cody blocked his second FG of the day, and Bama had faced their biggest challenge on the way to...
  9. Alabama 37, Texas 21, 2009. "Remember the Rose Bowl, we'll win then." There was nothing like winning the national championship in the Rose Bowl venue, because that was where our national tradition had been born in the 1920's.
  10. Alabama 21, LSU 0, 2011. Just a dominating performance against an intense rival. Getting to play them with everything at stake was huge, and then to shut them down like that - awesome! And...
  11. Alabama 21, LSU 17, 2012. Maybe it's too soon to put it on the list. Maybe the glow is so strong that I have no historical perspective. But this was the most thrilling finish with most on the line...ever. That combination is so rare. If Alabama goes on to a championship, this is the moment where they became that team.
So there it is. Alot of years, summed up in 11 incredible games. There are so many more. You just can't beat college football. Right?


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