Alabama football can lose, and all Crimson Tide players would be wise to remember the feeling

Nick Kelly
The Tuscaloosa News

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Before Saturday, Bryce Young hadn’t ever lost a college football game. Neither had Will Anderson, Brian Branch or JoJo Earle.

No sophomore or freshman on Alabama’s 2021 roster had experienced a loss while playing for coach Nick Saban. Not until Texas A&M defeated No. 1 Alabama 41-38 on Saturday.

And many others might have forgotten. That would be understandable, considering the last time Alabama lost a game was in 2019.  

But as the kick went through the uprights and fans piled onto Kyle Field in droves, every single player wearing the script A knew the feeling.

“Everybody needs to remember how they feel and not forget it,” Saban said. “When I talked about having respect for winning, that’s what I mean.”

STUNNER:Alabama football stunned by Texas A&M for first loss since 2019

GRADES:Do Alabama football and Nick Saban get passing grades for the loss at Texas A&M?

Not only did Saban want his players to think about how they feel while losing, he also wanted them to take stock of how they contributed to losing.

Saban made sure to put himself at the front of that list, as well as the other coaches. But there are plenty on whom the blame belongs because plenty went wrong.

If there are moments to remember and learn from, it starts with plays such as the Young interception near the goal line. The 96-yard return touchdown. The two incompletions on goal-to-go in the fourth quarter. The drops. Getting beat in coverage on the game-tying touchdown to Ainias Smith.

And especially the feeling brought on by that kick from Seth Small.

All of it is worth committing to memory for each Alabama player. Not to dwell, but so that it can serve a purpose for the overall 2021 season.

Texas A&M players react as place kicker Seth Small (47) hits the game winning field goal to defeat Alabama last Saturday.

Those memories can either contribute to wallowing or improving. What happened Saturday can’t be changed. The game’s over. The field has been cleared of all fans. The 19-game win streak has ceased.

But there's still half a season to play.

As for what safety Jordan Battle said he’s going to do with those stark lessons, he pointed to improving leadership.

“Getting everybody on the same page and coming out and practicing harder,” Battle said. “We didn’t practice like we usually would, and it bit us tonight. Just have to get our intensity in practice up so things like this don’t happen again.”

Young also mentioned the importance of better intensity. That might be the most spoken word in Alabama press conferences, and after Saturday’s loss, it won’t likely be leaving Crimson Tide vocabulary anytime soon.

Saban has been seeking that from his team for an entire 60 minutes as the Crimson Tide struggled to finish at times over the first five games. Not only did Alabama not finish strong Saturday, but the start was a problem, too.

And now the word "intense" will probably be an accurate word to describe the practices that await Crimson Tide players this week.

“When you get to the game, everybody wants to win,” Saban said. “Everybody wants to play well. It’s what did you do to get to the game? How did you prepare? How did you practice? What kind of habits did you create so you can carry those things to the game?”

The harsh memories Saturday in Texas can help form those habits. It’s one game, and even with the sky-is-falling nature of a loss like this one, Alabama can remain firmly in playoff contention.

Now that all on the roster know what it’s like to lose a college football game, they vividly know the feeling they want to avoid.

Contact Alabama football reporter Nick Kelly: nkelly@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter: @_NickKelly