By Ken Roberts/City Editor
The lyrics to the University of Alabama’s fight song call for teaching opponents to behave, then sending them to a watery grave.
In the past four seasons, visiting UA football foes have learned that proper Tuscaloosa etiquette includes a wet funeral.
Since a loss to Ole Miss on Sept. 19, 2015, 26 opponents have come to Bryant-Denny Stadium and each one has left with a fresh loss on their record.
The Crimson Tide’s 26-game home winning streak began with a 34-0 pasting of Louisiana-Monroe on Sept. 26, 2015, and continued through the last Tuscaloosa game of the 2018 season with a 52-21 blitzing of arch-rival Auburn.
On Saturday afternoon, New Mexico State will try to avoid becoming Alabama’s 27th straight victim.
So how has Alabama done it? Of course, UA’s dominance has been built by stockpiling talented players on the recruiting trail, but crunching the numbers shows that the team has adhered to Nick Saban’s formula for winning football:
• On defense, stop the run and force the opponent to make errors
• On offense, feature a balanced attack and protect the football
In processing the 26-game home winning streak, here are some stellar stats and obscure facts about the Tide’s reign of perfection:
Making a point: In the 26-game span, Alabama has averaged 41 points per game to its opponents’ 9.7. That works out to UA scoring 1,066 points while visitors have scored just 252 points.
What’s the spread: UA has won by as few as five points and as many as 63 during the streak.
Nowhere to run or pass: Alabama’s defense has limited opponents to 96 yards per game on the ground in the streak. Sixteen of the 26 opponents have been held to less than 100 rushing yards, with the lowest single-game total being nine yards gained by Louisiana-Monroe. The Citadel ran for the most yardage, 275, but were held to zero yards in the air. Passing attacks have also found it tough to tame the Tide, averaging 140 yards per game. Seven foes have been held under 100 yards passing and no one has reached 300 yards. The closest was Texas A&M with 263 yards in 2018.
What’s the takeaway: UA has forced 40 turnovers while committing 26. UA has scored touchdowns on three fumble returns, three interception returns and added one safety. Only one UA opponent scored a touchdown on defense: Tennessee’s lone score in 2017 was a 97-yard interception return.
Getting offensive: UA has scored 30 or more points in 22 of the last 26 home games. Fourteen times UA has scored 40 or more points and eight times the Tide has lit up the scoreboard for 50 or more points. Included in the 50-or-more barrages were games against SEC West foes Ole Miss (66 points), Mississippi State (51) and Auburn (52).
Defending the home turf: On defense, UA has four shutouts (Louisiana-Monroe, Kent State, Mercer and Mississippi State) and six times opponents has scored just once. In 15 of the 26 home wins, Alabama has limited the opponent to 10 or fewer points.
A balanced attack: Alabama has scored at least one rushing touchdown and one passing touchdown in 24 of the 26 games. UA has averaged 211 yards on the ground and 268 in the air. Of course, the emergence of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in 2018 boosted the passing numbers. UA passed for more than 300 yards in every 2018 home game except the Mississippi State game.
Measuring stick: Alabama averages 479 yards per game, while opponents average 236.
It’s good: UA has made 40 field goals, compared to the opponents 20. For good measure, UA’s special teams have contributed four touchdowns on punt returns, while allowing none.
Close, but no cigar: Only one home game in the streak has truly been in doubt in the fourth quarter. On Oct. 24, 2015, Tennessee took a 14-13 lead with 5:49 to play in the fourth quarter on quarterback Joshua Dobbs’ touchdown run. But the Tide marched 71 yards in eight plays to reclaim the lead, with running back Derrick Henry scoring on a 14-yard run with 2:24 remaining. UA missed a two-point conversion, which meant Tennessee could have won the game with a touchdown.
But on Tennessee’s ensuing possession, Ryan Anderson sacked Dobbs, forcing a fumble that UA recovered and securing a 19-14 Alabama win.
Other than that, Arkansas led Alabama by a 7-3 score late in the third quarter of the Oct. 10, 2015, game. But Jake Coker’s 81-yard pass to Calvin Ridley put the Tide ahead with a 1:39 left in the third quarter. Alabama eventually won by a 27-14 margin.
And in 2016, Texas A&M took a 14-13 lead on a touchdown pass from Trevor Knight to Christian Kirk with 12:54 left in the third quarter. Jalen Hurts threw a touchdown pass to Ridley to give the Tide the lead six minutes later and UA added two more TDs to earn a 33-14 win.
What might have been: In Alabama’s last home loss in 2015, the Tide had the ball late in the fourth quarter trailing Ole Miss 43-37. But what if, instead of throwing an interception, UA had scored a touchdown and kicked the extra point to pull out a 44-43 win? In that scenario, UA would now have a 43-game home winning streak. That would move Alabama’s last loss at Bryant-Denny Stadium all the way back to Nov. 10, 2012, when Johnny Manziel led a 29-24 upset over the top-ranked Tide.
Chasing history: UA’s longest home winning streak is 57 games from Oct. 26, 1963, to Nov. 13 1982, under legendary coach Paul W. “Bear” Bryant. But there’s an asterisk to that streak: UA split home games between Tuscaloosa and Legion Field in Birmingham during that time. So that streak only covers the games played at Bryant-Denny Stadium, while most of the tougher opponents were played at Legion Field. UA’s current home streak has been built on a schedule with four SEC foes and three non-conference opponents. So who has the longest home winning streak in college football history? The University of Miami Hurricanes won 58 straight home games from 1985 to 1994.