During a 48-second interview in the Alabama postgame, open-locker-room, free-for-all, junior running back Bo Scarbrough used the word respect or a variation of it 11 times.
Respect came up a lot after Alabama’s 24-6 victory over Clemson, and it revolved mainly around how the offensive line felt disrespected. Where did that disrespect originate? Alabama players said it stemmed from all the talk surrounding Clemson’s defensive line. Another key component was that many college football pundits picked the Tigers to win.
Given that Alabama is usually the favorite, it was a unique feeling for the Crimson Tide. Alabama has been favored in 110 of its last 111 games, and was actually the betting favorite against Clemson. But there were questions surrounding the team after its performance against Auburn, and those questions turned into disrespect in the Alabama players’ minds. That perception permeated the team.
Emotionally-charged defensive back Tony Brown hadn’t even left the field before speaking with a local television station about the disrespect he felt from Clemson wide receiver Hunter Renfrow and Tigers coach Dabo Swinney. He wasn’t alone in that.
“We felt disrespected, and we want everyone to respect us,” Scarbrough said. “Whatever it takes to win that respect, we’re going to earn our respect. So that’s what our main thing has been, to be respected. We want our respect. We made sure we got our respect tonight.
“It was a big deal. We don’t like being disrespected by no one else, especially when we’re respecting everyone else we play. Don’t disrespect us. You’re in for a (butt whipping). Don’t disrespect Alabama when you give us 30 days to get ready.”
It’s a weird thing to grasp, that Alabama – which is playing in its sixth national championship game in nine years, which produces All-American players every year, which has been ranked No. 1 at some point in every season dating back to 2011 – can feel “disrespected.”
If Alabama players sincerely feel that way about being asked questions about another team’s outstanding unit, how must other teams feel about constantly being asked about competing against Alabama? That occurs every week of the college football season.
But the Alabama offense was more than a little miffed about the barrage of questions posed about Clemson and their defensive line.
“Since we got selected into the Sugar Bowl, we’ve been hearing about their D-line the whole time,” left guard Ross Pierschbacher said. “Even during the media day it’s like that’s all people were asking about. So for us, we kind of took that as disrespect and came in with a chip on our shoulder.”
It worked, as Alabama’s offensive line stymied the Tigers’ defensive line in both run and pass blocking. UA controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
“I think it was a lot of motivation for our guys up front. Ever since we got put in the playoff, all we’ve heard about is how good their D-line is, how good their front seven is,” running back Damien Harris said. “I’m not saying they’re not good because I still think they’re the best front seven we’ve played all year. But we took the challenge personal.
“When you challenge grown men, you expect them to respond and that’s what they did tonight.”