Michael Tomasky at The Guardian:
There’s an understood rule in American sports, and I’d guess it’s universal to some extent, that you don’t pile on. When you’ve won, you’ve won. Running up the score has always been considered graceless, gauche and most of all an invitation to the cosmos to get a taste of your own medicine one of these days.
Well, I hope Nick Saban gets it. In last night’s college football championship game, his Alabama team beat Texas 37-21. Bama was the better team: they knocked out Texas’ star quarterback early in the game, forcing the Horns to play with a really green freshman. When your D can do that, you’ve earned the win.
But look at what happened at the end of the game. Bama led 24-21 with 3:14 remaining. They forced a Texas turnover, deep in their own territory. Bama scored, making it 31-21 with 2:01 left.
Bama kicked off. Texas got the ball. On the second play, the freshman QB threw an interception. Bama got the ball back on the Texas 27 with 1:48 left.
Texas had one time out left, and so the Horns could have stopped the clock just once. I’m no good at this kind of math, and maybe some of you are, so you can figure it out. But it seems to me that the Tide could have run out the whole clock, or at worst they’d have given Texas the ball back with a handful of seconds left, still leading by 10 points. Impossible to lose, in other words.
But instead of taking a knee, Bama scored again. With :47 left. Cheap. Sickening, actually. And you could tell the gods frowned because the kicker, apparently a real gem of a kicking specialist, missed the extra point.
I don’t have anything much to add to the point, but let me join Mike Tomasky in condemning Alabama’s tasteless running up of the score during last night’s game.
This wasn’t the local high school powerhouse up against a weakling school from across town. Or even Steve Spurrier running and gunning when he’s up 40 points against some Division II school. It’s a run up the middle against the second best team in the country with the national championship on the line.
And, frankly, Alabama had already come perilously close to giving away a game they had wrapped up by playing ridiculously conservatively. Alabama’s offense essentially sat out the second half, playing not to lose rather than to win. That allowed Texas and their freshman quarterback to find a rhythm and come back to within a field goal with 6:15 left in the game.
It took a dynamic play on defense to end the Longhorns’ momentum and take the game back. A fumble recovery after a hard-hitting sack gave the Alabama offense the ball back a few feet from the goal line and Mark Ingram pushed it in three plays later to get the margin back to 10.
When they got the ball back with 2:01 remaining, Texas apparently didn’t think the 10-point margin meant the game was over. They were throwing the ball, hoping for another quick score. Instead, they gave up another interception, giving Alabama the ball back inside the 30 with 1:48 left.
Texas still had timeouts remaining, so Alabama couldn’t just take a knee and run out the clock. They ran the ball and, combined with a Texas penalty, got the ball on the 5 with 1:41 left. Two runs later, Trent Richardson scored, putting them up by 16 with 47 seconds left.
Surely, this brutality was too much for the Longhorns, who broke down crying and went looking for their mommies?
Not so much.
Jeff Kalafa at Bleacher Report:
Maybe it’s just an SEC thing. It reminds one of Urban Meyer’s Florida Gator team kicking a field goal against visiting Miami in 2008. The Gators were up over two touchdowns and kicked a field goal with 22 seconds left in the game.
One of the rationalizations they used was, “Our kicker needed practice in game situations.”
Maybe I’ve been watching Joe Paterno for too long. He’d have his quarterback take a knee on the opponent’s one-yard line if he knew the game was effectively over.
So what was going through Nick Saban’s mind? He had a chance to show some real respect toward Mac Brown’s Texas Longhorns—he chose to give them one last shot in the mouth.
One can only think that Saban wasn’t satisfied with the way the game broke down: After taking a 24-6 halftime lead, Alabama sputtered all through the third quarter and was hanging on to a 24-21 lead with 3:10 left in the game.
Christi Parsons at The Swamp:
Hours after the Alabama Crimson Tide national championship win, President Barack Obama was on the phone with Coach Nick Saban this afternoon offering congratulations and inviting the team to the White House for a visit.
The president told Saban he was “proud” of how the team played all year, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says, and the president predicted a strong 2010 season with key players set to return.
Don Kausler at The Birmingham News:
Questions that might have been asked facetiously before about the University of Alabama erecting a statue of coach Nick Saban now aren’t far fetched.
Now that the Crimson Tide has won the 2009 national championship, the question now seems to be “when” instead of “if.”
Alabama’s national championship coaches are honored with statues beside the “Walk of Champions” in the plaza north of Bryant-Denny Stadium. An empty spot is next to the statue of Gene Stallings, who led the Tide to the 1992 national championship.
After the 37-21 victory over Texas at the Rose Bowl stadium in Pasadena, Calif., Alabama athletics director Mal Moore was asked if a Saban statue will go there soon.
“It was put there for this, and I will recommend to the president that we go forth,” Moore said.