cloudy.png
Wednesday June 29th, 2022 12:18PM

Flawed but resilient, No. 1 Alabama peaking at right time

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

Down to the last play of the regular season, this Alabama team managed to bounce off the ropes when it seemed most vulnerable.

It is unlike some previous Nick Saban powerhouses that have been seemingly destined for the national title game — barring a shocker along the way — from start to finish.

The 2020 team batted aside every opponent during the regular season with a seemingly unstoppable offense.

The 2011 defense was equally formidable, even in a regular season slipup against LSU ( losing 9-6 in overtim e). The 2009 team, like last season's, was unbeaten.

It wasn't always clear how good the 2021 version would end up becoming.

This team was flawed and seemingly vulnerable — at least until the Southeastern Conference championship game against No. 1 Georgia. But Bulldogs seemed to have claimed the juggernaut mantle but Alabama walked away with a comfortable 41-24 win.

It was an impressive win for those underdogs at 'Bama.

Not that there wasn't reason to doubt the Crimson Tide.

The offensive line appeared suspect even before some injury issues. The defense lost linebacker Christopher Allen to a fractured foot in the opener against Miami. And the offensive backfield has been down to two healthy scholarship tailbacks through the last four games.

Saban seemed to adopt a gentler touch for this group, publicly at least. Praising more than criticizing not-so-dominant efforts after games, letting a younger group grow and evolve. Like a parent not treating all his kids just the same.

“We’ve got a lot of young players that are out there playing,” Saban said. “I think when you have success the previous season, which the guys that did come back were very successful, it really took a long time for us to sort of develop the chemistry on this team from a leadership standpoint.”

The results were survival games against Florida, LSU and Auburn — all of whom wound up 6-7. Not to mention a 41-38 loss to then-unranked Texas A&M before going on an eight-game win streak.

“It’s been a special journey, especially knowing that a lot of people doubted us throughout the season,” tight end Cameron Latu said. “And we had to just find our identity as a whole.”

Four of Alabama's wins have come by seven points or less.

Only one was that close last season: a 52-46 win over Florida in the SEC championship game.

So if this doesn’t go down with a real case as one of Saban’s best Alabama teams, it’s certainly among the most tested and one that has been peaking at just the right time.

Alabama did have to replace six first-round NFL draft picks — five from the offensive side — and three Heisman Trophy finalists, including winner DeVonta Smith.

The best offensive playmakers were gone. So growing pains weren’t unexpected.

“I feel like adversity has been a big theme for us this whole season,” said quarterback Bryce Young, who brought a second straight Heisman to Tuscaloosa.

This team was built around the best offensive player in the country — Young — and arguably the best defensive player — linebacker Will Anderson Jr.

But it still needed a last-gasp 97-yard drive and four overtimes to beat Auburn and keep those playoff hopes alive.

Only the ending — happy or otherwise — will determine this team's final legacy. But others in the Saban era are awfully hard to measure up to, including six national championship teams.

Last season's team romped through a 10-game, league-only season thanks largely to an offense led by Smith and fellow Heisman Trophy finalists Mac Jones and Najee Harris. The Tide had one of the nation's best offenses, averaging 48.5 points and 541.6 yards per game.

So that group would need all of nine quarters to match the total of 106 points allowed by Alabama in 2011, one of four Saban teams to lead the nation in scoring defense.

The 2009 team featured Heisman Trophy tailback Mark Ingram and a defense led by massive lineman Terrence Cody and Butkus Award-winning linebacker Rolando McClain.

This one has plenty of star power. And the battle scars from a season that could have gone the other way after the Texas A&M loss.

“We all came together at this point, and we’re locking in to get ready to finish this off for the season,” linebacker Christian Harris said. “So if we had a rough time in the season, we definitely are making it up.”

___

More AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25 Sign up for the AP’s college football newsletter: https://apnews.com/cfbtop25

  • Associated Categories: Sports, Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Football, College Sports, AP Online - Georgia News, AP Sports - College Football
© Copyright 2022 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Flawed but resilient, No. 1 Alabama peaking at right time
This Alabama team seemed to bounce off the ropes this season when it seemed most vulnerable
12:31PM ( 12 minutes ago )
Saints expect to be 'peeking' at scoreboard against Falcons
Quarterback Taysom Hill and the New Orleans Saints will be watching the scoreboard when they close their regular season at the Atlanta Falcons
12:26PM ( 17 minutes ago )
Biden decries Trump backers' 'dagger at throat' of democracy
President Joe Biden is accusing Donald Trump and his supporters of holding a “dagger at the throat of democracy."
12:24PM ( 19 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Bid fails to dismiss Kobe Bryant crash photos lawsuit
Lawyers for Los Angeles County failed in their bid to persuade a federal judge to end Vanessa Bryant’s lawsuit over gruesome photos of the helicopter crash that killed her husband, Kobe Bryant, her daughter Gianna and seven others
11:15AM ( 1 hour ago )
EXPLAINER: Why was Novak Djokovic not let into Australia?
Novak Djokovic came within one victory of sweeping all four of last year’s Grand Slam tennis tournaments and entered 2022 needing one title to set the men’s record of 21 major championships
8:02AM ( 4 hours ago )
Crosby, Rodrigues rally Penguins to 5-3 win over Blues
Sidney Crosby and Evan Rodrigues scored 12 seconds apart in the third period, and the Pittsburgh Penguins rallied past the St. Louis Blues 5-3
3:04AM ( 9 hours ago )
AP Sports
Saints defense hopes for a better rush vs. Falcons QB Ryan
The Saints' defense has been menacing quarterbacks and racking up sacks in three recent victories that have kept New Orleans alive in the NFC playoff race
8:33PM ( 16 hours ago )
Ross Browner, 2-time All-American at Notre Dame, dies at 67
Ross Browner, a two-time All-American at Notre Dame and longtime defensive lineman for the Cincinnati Bengals, has died
6:46PM ( 17 hours ago )
NFL looks at contingency sites for Super Bowl amid COVID-19
The NFL, not surprisingly in the midst of a rise in COVID-19 cases, has looked into other potential sites for next month’s Super Bowl
6:37PM ( 18 hours ago )
AP Online Football
Warrant issued in Memphis slaying of rapper Young Dolph
Authorities say an arrest warrant has been issued for a Tennessee man wanted in connection with the fatal shooting of rapper Young Dolph
8:21PM ( 16 hours ago )
Mid-major pop-up game pits San Francisco and Loyola Chicago
San Francisco and Loyola Chicago struggled to find opponents for college basketball games so they decided to meet in the middle
5:20PM ( 19 hours ago )
No. 2 Duke returns from COVID-19 outbreak, tops Georgia Tech
Freshman Paolo Banchero had 17 points and 11 rebounds to help No. 2 Duke beat Georgia Tech 69-57 in its return from a COVID-19 outbreak that had led to a pair of postponements
12:51AM ( 1 day ago )
College Sports
Georgia governor aims to loosen rules for carrying handguns
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp will push for a new state law that would loosen the state's handgun requirements
10:03AM ( 1 day ago )
Snow stalls Amtrak in Virginia, with excruciating delays
Winter weather is playing havoc not only with road travel but also passenger trains in Virginia and other states
7:41PM ( 1 day ago )
Smart, Georgia trying to stop skid against Saban, Alabama
Kirby Smart and Georgia get a chance to snap their losing streaks against Alabama in the biggest game of the season
3:13PM ( 1 day ago )
AP Online - Georgia News
Oklahoma QB Williams enters portal, says Sooners an option
Oklahoma quarterback Caleb Williams says he is entering his name in the transfer portal so he can speak with other schools
9:22PM ( 2 days ago )
Smart can rewrite legacy by ending Georgia's title drought
By bringing the Bulldogs to another national title game, coach Kirby Smart has made Georgia a regular part of the championship picture
4:59PM ( 2 days ago )
No. 6 Baylor tops No. 8 Ole Miss in Sugar Bowl; Corral hurt
Al Walcott set a Sugar Bowl record with a 96-yard interception return, Monaray Baldwin raced 48 yards for the go-ahead score on an end around, and sixth-ranked Baylor beat No. 8 Mississippi 21-7 as injured Rebels quarterback Matt Corral looked on from the sideline
2:31AM ( 4 days ago )
AP Sports - College Football
Saints expect to be 'peeking' at scoreboard against Falcons
Quarterback Taysom Hill and the New Orleans Saints will be watching the scoreboard when they close their regular season at the Atlanta Falcons
12:26PM ( 17 minutes ago )
Biden decries Trump backers' 'dagger at throat' of democracy
President Joe Biden is accusing Donald Trump and his supporters of holding a “dagger at the throat of democracy."
12:24PM ( 19 minutes ago )
Djokovic in limbo as he fights deportation from Australia
Locked in a dispute over his COVID-19 vaccination status, Novak Djokovic is confined to an immigration detention hotel in Australia as he awaits a ruling on whether can compete in the Australian Open later this month
12:22PM ( 21 minutes ago )
As Broadway fights virus surge, unsung heroes find spotlight
The theatrical magic keeping Broadway going during the latest coronavirus surge has been the unheralded actors ready to step into any role due to an emergency
12:15PM ( 28 minutes ago )
Dozens of protesters, 12 police dead in Kazakhstan protests
Authorities say security forces have killed dozens of protesters and 12 police have died during extraordinarily violent demonstrations in Kazakhstan
12:14PM ( 29 minutes ago )