Have We Already Seen High Tide?
by Brendan Collins
They dominated their first game of the season. Clemson was left wondering if their National Championship hopes were finished when the game was over (which they were). A simple sixty minutes into the season. That’s how badly they got flooded.
Arkansas was so far under sea level by halftime, they were scuba diving. With 35 points on the board by halftime the Alabama Crimson Tide easily secured their first SEC win of the season and was starting to look like they were the real deal. The real kicker? The core of this team is young and this kind of dominance could only be the beginning of something truly special. Perhaps, however, that youthful element is foreshadowing for later.
Then came the Georgia blackout. A year before, the black jerseys helped Georgia to a second half shellacking of the Auburn Tigers to the tune of 28 unanswered points. This year was entirely different; however, as the ‘funeral’ Alabama’s strength coach referred to earlier in the week came to pass. The Crimson Tide played a nearly flawless first half of football and utterly crushed Georgia in the first 30 minutes of play. The Dogs crawled into the locker room with their tails between their legs staring up at a 31 point deficit and having failed to force Alabama to punt once in the first half or create a turnover.
Alabama’s offense rolled down the field rarely looking troubled by Georgia in the first half and over powered Georgia’s line in the trenches on both sides of the football. The junior college transfer DT Terrance Cody finally got some primetime limelight as he created constant problems all night for the Georgia line that could not stifle his run stuffing ability or take away his pass rushing threat. It was without question one of the most dominant showings in a game featuring two seemingly evenly matched teams.
When the second half finally came to a close, however, is when Alabama’s season reached its high point. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at what has passed after halftime.
After half time the Georgia Bulldogs came out and salvaged what could have been a lopsided loss by putting up 30 points in the second half and greatly changing the landscape of the game. What had looked to be an absolute rout looked instead like a mere loss. Alabama won the game; but anyone who watched the second half saw that Georgia simply ran out of time. Alabama did not finish that game strong.
So Alabama put in backups and Georgia had the chance to come back, big deal. I’ll buy that argument.
Then there’s the Kentucky game. A truly lackluster performance by the Tide and arguably a simple bounce of the ball on a late fumble kept them from a devastating loss.
A hangover game from the big Georgia demolition, big deal. I’ll buy that argument too.
That game was followed by another second half collapse against Ole Miss. A few defensive misalignments was all that kept Alabama from a loss in this game. Ole Miss came out and played a far better second half and came within four points of upsetting the Tide. That’s two less than stellar performances in a row and I’m not done.
Then came rival Tennessee. On any other year, this game would have been huge; but Tennessee’s uncharacteristic collapse made this look like one to forget for the Volunteers. It was still one to forget but not because it was a blowout. It was one to forget because if not for quarterback inexperience then Alabama would have been put away by halftime.
The Tide served this game up on a silver platter for the Volunteers with poor execution and turnovers and it was only by virtue of an off year for Tennessee that they escaped Rocky Top with another win. This game was a truly lackluster performance and maybe of all the previous ones, this one was truly deserving of a loss. The Tide, however, managed to roll forward.
So Tennessee is a rival and rivals always play tough games regardless of on or off years. I’ll buy that argument to a point. Tennessee played the game tough, yes, but Alabama also looked undisciplined and just plain bad at early points in the game (see fumbled punt for evidence).
The LSU game, however, is the topper. With the way Jarrett Lee played; this game should have looked more like the Georgia game. But it didn’t. Why? The Tide has gradually been going out since that halftime in Athens. Even with four LSU turnovers the Tide struggled to put the game away and was forced into overtime, and was truly given the game on another LSU interception in the first overtime. Also the first half dominance the Tide has relied on so much this entire season did not come to pass in the LSU game and may have finally been sapped.
With two major trap games looming in a defensively sound Mississippi State team and a wildcard Auburn Tigers team, could there be stormy waters ahead? In this time of college football uncertainty anything is possible, and Alabama has not yet won the Iron Bowl in Tuscaloosa, a game in which many of these youngsters have yet to play in. That youthfulness now comes back as a negative, not a positive.
Should Auburn come out and play a solid first half, much like LSU did, does the Tide have enough experience and talent this late in the season to overcome a highly motivated opponent? Time will tell.