Tide low a byproduct of believing hype?
Posted: Tuesday, October 12, 2010 2:57 pm
By: By JOHN ZENOR, AP Sports Writer
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — The superlatives for Alabama were flying like so many footballs: Juggernaut. Unbeatable. Budding dynasty.
The eighth-ranked Crimson Tide’s star tailback Mark Ingram and coach Nick Saban think some of that over-the-top hype might finally have helped sink the titanic Crimson Tide team. It’s all fine and dandy for media and fans to say and hear such things, but when the players start to believe them bad things can happen.
Like South Carolina 35, then-No. 1 Alabama 21.
“I think some of the guys that have never experienced a loss here at Alabama just thought we could show up because we’re Alabama,” Ingram said Monday. “That’s definitely not the case.”
And the Gamecocks proved it. Alabama’s defense was shredded, the running game was a nonfactor and quarterback Greg McElroy was buried time and again.
The Tide (5-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) woke up Sunday morning to a new reality.
The 19-game winning streak was gone, along with the national front-runner status that some ’Bama fans had begun regarding almost as a birthright, like back in the Bear Bryant glory days.
Saban had continuously talked about the dangers of being “satisfied,” of not bothering to absorb necessary lessons when you just keep winning.
Then, a 31-6 win over Florida really set the hype machine in gear.
Suddenly, Alabama was down 21-3 early to the Gamecocks and proved beatable after all. And Saban had his Exhibit A.
“Reading it in the newspapers all week, just because you beat Florida 31-6, people start talking about you being the best team in the country,” Saban said.
“We’re not the best team in the country. We had the best team in the country last year, and we proved it.”
But, he said, this team has proved nothing. Though he used some stronger language to get that point across.
It won’t get any easier. The remaining five SEC opponents, like South Carolina, all have bye weeks to prepare for the Tide. Plus leading receiver Julio Jones is questionable this week after breaking his left hand and a groin injury appears likely to sideline right tackle D.J. Fluker for at least the Ole Miss game.
There were plenty of potential problems exposed by the Gamecocks.
McElroy was sacked seven times, and Saban said all but two could be attributed to him hanging onto the ball too long waiting for something to open up downfield.
South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia and receiver Alshon Jeffery feasted on a young secondary and a defense that came in yielding the fewest points per game in the nation. Adding insult, Garcia put up strong enough numbers to be named SEC offensive player of the week.
Marcus Lattimore came within 7 yards of breaking Alabama’s now 40-game streak without allowing an opposing player to rush for 100.
And partly due to the early deficit, Ingram and Trent Richardson combined for a meager 17 carries and 64 yards.
Now, when Saban points out the little things his players are doing wrong, he figures he’ll have an attentive audience.
“It’s not a new lesson,” Saban said. “It just happens to be after a loss, when everybody’s willing to listen. You all (the media) are just like the fans, (thinking) ’They’re just saying that because he’s the coach. They’re doing everything they’re supposed to do. They won.’ That doesn’t mean you’re doing what you’re supposed to do. That doesn’t mean you’re playing the best you can play.
“What’d I say last week? At this time of year if you’re not doing things right, you’re going to get exposed. Well, we had some guys get exposed. Whether it’s the left tackle, whether it’s the right corner. So what are you going to do about it, that’s the question.”