There was a moment last season, however fleeting, when it appeared the SEC’s national title streak was destined for an unceremonious end. Alabama dropped in the polls after an unexpected home loss to Texas A&M -- the game Johnny Manziel officially announced his Heisman candidacy -- and Oregon and Kansas State briefly seemed set for a BCS championship clash.
Of course, that didn't happen. Alabama made it back to the national championship game, and Nick Saban and Co. reigned supreme once again. In fact, that’s the story – the anxiety-filled, one-week scare – most folks bring up when recounting how 'Bama almost missed a shot at a repeat and how the nation's most dominant league nearly lost its golden run of championship consistency.
According to former 'Bama lineman D.J. Fluker, however, the streak was in far more danger at a different time last fall: the Tide's Nov. 3 escape at LSU. Fluker, now a member of the San Diego Chargers, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Wednesday that former LSU defensive end Barkevious Mingo came one epic tackle away from handing Alabama its first loss of the season:
"He hunted down our running back and it was amazing he was able to get back there that fast,'' said Fluker. "It shows you right there that he's got good pursuit angles. If Barkevious had caught him, they would've won the game. Luckily we scored.''
Fluker is referencing Mingo's pursuit of T.J. Yeldon on the dramatic screen pass that gave 'Bama the lead for good with 51 seconds remaining. When watching the play from start to finish, two things come to mind: A) Yeldon belongs near the top of every preseason Heisman list and B) Mingo reversed his bull rush at the line of scrimmage, chased Yeldon for nearly 30 yards and eventually lunged at his feet near the goal line. Had Mingo actually stopped Yeldon (which he didn't come particularly close to doing), the actual outcome of the game -- more likely than not -- would not have changed.
Fluker's assessment -- “If Barkevious had caught [Yeldon], [LSU] would’ve won the game” -- is a credit to Mingo, but it doesn't make a lot of sense. Fluker's effort is unquestionably impressive, but he's able to get just one flailing arm on Yeldon. And even if he would've made the stop, Alabama would have retained possession in excellent field position, at the one or two-yard line, with the potential to score a short-yardage touchdown on the very next play or two. Of all the physical and mental tools that make Fluker an ultra-talented lineman with a bright professional future, accurately recounting the nuances of previous football plays probably isn’t one of them.