NEW ORLEANS | Don’t waste a failure.
That’s been the mantra for the Alabama football team this season, a slogan that came into focus after it fell one second short of another national title in essentially this same spot a season ago. And for 11 games in a row this season the Crimson Tide rolled. But now the slogan applies again.
Alabama enters the Sugar Bowl off a 12-point loss to Auburn in the Iron Bowl, the last game it played. That game occurred Nov. 25, so the team has had more than a month to stew on that message. Don’t waste a failure.
Upon arrival at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airpot on Wednesday morning, UA coach Nick Saban spoke again to the season’s rallying cry.
“Well, I think that one of the statements that I made last year after we didn’t succeed in the championship game was ‘don’t waste a failure.’ Which means learn from the things that we did or didn’t do,” Saban said. “And I didn’t think we finished very well, we didn’t finish very well in the game, lost the game at the end of the game and I think your identity as a team starts with how you finish. And this team has an opportunity to try to finish this season a little better than what we did the last, and I’m proud of the way they went through the season. I think we lost our identity a little bit in the last game, maybe forgot who we were and what we needed to do to be able to succeed in our last game. And we feel fortunate to have the opportunity to sort of rectify that in the playoffs.”
Asked how he’s seen team respond to the failure of the Iron Bowl, Saban pushed back, arguing that the team won 11 games in a row this season.
“Well, we only had one this year,” Saban said. “We’ve responded all year long and won 11 games, and we didn’t finish like we wanted to and I think we need to show that we can do that.”
But that one game was a big one and not just to Alabama fans, who hate losing to Auburn. It was a game that nearly derailed UA’s season by keeping them out of the College Football Playoff.
So what has the team learned from the loss five weeks ago?
“There are a lot of things,” junior running back Damien Harris said. “One of our biggest points of emphasis has been our fundamental execution on all sides of the ball: offense, defense, special teams. That’s something that Coach Saban has been hard on us about. I think that’s the biggest thing we worked on coming into this next game.”
The bounce back is something Alabama’s mastered after a setback, and let’s be honest, there haven’t been a lot of setbacks considering the remarkable consistency the team plays with year in and year out. But this year especially there’s been opportunities for Alabama to prove its resiliency because of the seemingly non-stop injuries.
“I definitely take a lot of pride in what we did this season, especially with all the injuries we had,” junior Minkah Fitzpatrick said. “I was really excited that my team really bounced back and fought hard the whole entire season. We lost one game, but we were still fighting the entire time.”
Reach Aaron Suttles at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0229.