There were just over 10 minutes remaining in the game, and Saban was looking for a play that would help his team lock up the fifth national championship of his coaching career. The risky onside kick call provided all the momentum the Crimson Tide would need.
“We weren’t playing very well on defense,” Saban said, according to the Associated Press. “It was a tie game. I thought we needed to do something that was going to change the momentum of the game. That certainly did.
“I felt like if we didn’t do something or take a chance to change the momentum of the game that we wouldn’t have a chance to win.”
The team practices a variation of the play once a week, and Saban had told kicker Adam Griffith before the game to be prepared to try an onside kick that night. Griffith had just scored a game-tying field goal when Saban asked him if he was ready to go for it.
“I’m like, “Yeah, sure,’” Griffith said. “That’s it.”
Griffith delivered a perfect kick to defensive back Marlon Humphrey, and just two plays later tight end O.J. Howard scored a 51-yard touchdown to give Alabama a lead it would not relinquish, going on to win, 45–40.
Humphrey said he was surprised Saban called the play in such a high-stakes game, but center Ryan Kelly applauded his coach for the decision.
“Desperate times call for desperate measures,” Kelly said. “That’s why he's the greatest coach, in my opinion.”
- Erin Flynn