The talk of college football on Monday was UCLA’s comeback in against Texas A&M. The Bruins may have ruined the Aggies’ season right of the gate (shades of the 2000 season) by erasing a 34-point deficit in the final 20 minutes in an amazing performance by quarterback Josh Rosen. Meanwhile, mentions of Alabama’s 17-point win over No. 3 Florida State stressed how mundane it all was, just another game in which the Alabama anaconda squeezed another unsuspecting foe to suffocation.
Now, I love entertainment and the UCLA comeback was wildly entertaining. But along with the buzz, is there the slightest hint of irony, too? Isn’t the angst among Aggie faithful, right up to their Board of Regents, based on Kevin Sumlin’s team being unable to do exactly what Alabama did in stifling FSU?
Assigning a single thought to a unified mass of “Alabama fans” is a mistake. Like any large group, Alabama fandom is made up of diverse individuals whose opinions range from the logical to the laughable. There are some, though, that wanted the weekend results to look like this: Crush the opponent the way A&M did in the first half, then guard the lead. (Can you imagine the Chernobyl meltdown if Alabama blew a 34-point second half lead against anyone, including the New England Patriots?) Oh, and by the way, the quarterback needs to look like second-half Josh Rosen in the process. To put it another way: Some fans love to play high-profile, big-name opposition like Florida State — but only if UA proceeds to beat them like they were Florida International.
That’s not to say Alabama and quarterback Jalen Hurts can’t improve. Avoiding turnovers and managing a game against the FSU defense are one thing, but Nick Saban himself said Monday that the Crimson Tide left “money on the table” by failing to execute on makeable big-play opportunities. At the same time, Saban tried to gently tap the brakes.
“Look, it’s the first game,” he said when asked about Hurts’ performance. “I’m not here to protect the player. I think he would tell you that there’s things that he could do better. I also think there were good plays that he made that we need to build on. (There are) definitely some things that we could do better as coaches to help the players, and the players could do better to technically execute what they need to do so that we can make more explosive plays. We had several opportunities to make explosive plays, and whether there (was) a breakdown in protection or aborting the play too quickly, we weren’t able to make those plays. When you do that, you leave a lot of money on the table.
“I don’t think that, (with the) field position and opportunities that we had in this game, we could ever walk away saying we were satisfied with the points that we scored.”
The point, though, is that Saban understands that Alabama is 1-0 after Week One, and improvement can actually occur — for the quarterback, for the offensive line, for the new offensive coordinator. Things in Tuscaloosa are not what they are today in College Station. Still, there are worries that some opponent down the line will have a quarterback like Rosen — and a running attack — and a decent defense — and then there will be trouble. That opponent might not come until after Christmas, but it’s best to get your holiday fretting done early and beat the rush.
Meanwhile, if that isn’t enough to set off a panic, there is also a good chance that we’ll all see the backup quarterback this weekend and that he might, against a very different opponent, look good. So you might think you’ve heard teeth gnashing so far — but just add that to the mix, and Heaven help us all.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.