BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Do we come here today to bury Alabama or to issue a warning?
Once before, Alabama lost a game that it was expected to win and the whole country pronounced the Crimson Tide dynasty dead on arrival.
That was in 2015 when Alabama did just about everything wrong and had a series of errors that led to an early loss against Ole Miss.
In a 41-38 loss to Texas A&M on Saturday, Alabama couldn't score touchdowns in the red zone, gave up too many big plays on defense and didn’t finish strong – which is the Nick Saban mantra.
A week after that 2015 loss to Ole Miss, a Crimson Tide team picked as an underdog bounced back by throttling a top-10 Georgia team in Athens.
That prompted Saban to issue his famous “buried and gone” speech on the media’s premature obituary on the Crimson Tide’s season.
“If it was up to you we’re six feet under already, we’re dead and buried and gone...gone,” Saban said just over six years ago.
Everyone knows the rest of the story. Alabama dominates the rest of the season, wins the SEC title, crushes Michigan State in the CFP semifinals and downs Clemson for the national title.
Can the same ending happen for Alabama in 2021? Before the loss to the Aggies it was a foregone conclusion that Alabama was the best team in the country. That hasn’t changed. Alabama is still one of the best teams in college football. It just didn’t play like it Saturday.
The big issues mentioned before were the culprit – red-zone inefficiency, defensive lapses and inability to finish.
Alabama was abysmal in the red zone. It scored two touchdowns inside the 20 and settled for field goals three times. And on a third-and-goal at the 1 in the second quarter Bryce Young threw an interception.
"We certainly moved the ball well enough on offense yardage-wise, but they stopped us in the red zone, turned the ball over the 2-yard line with an opportunity to score,” Saban said.
Defensive stops were hard to come by in the first half and it led to 24 Aggie points. Texas A&M had two touchdown drives of 75 yards in the first half and racked up 258 yards of offense.
Although Alabama’s defense tightened up in the second half – allowing 17 yards on the Aggies’ first four possessions – it couldn’t get off the field on the final two drives. Texas A&M scored 10 points in the final five minutes.
“We actually went ahead in the game at the end of the game, couldn’t get the stops on defense we needed to and had the ball with three minutes to go in the game, could have gone two-minute, went down the field and had a chance to kick a field goal and win it ourselves. But then we didn’t stop them,” Saban said.
There is much to fix between now and the next game at Mississippi State, but Alabama isn’t starting from scratch. If anything, the loss gives Saban a chance to hammer home the point he’s been trying to make all year.
“When you get to the game, everybody wants to win. Everybody wants to play well,” Saban said. “It’s what did you do to get the game? How did you prepare? How did you practice? What kind of habits did you create so you can carry those things to the game? And that’s what sort of eliminates bad plays. When you don’t do things like you think you need to do them, then that’s because what kind of habits did you create in preparation.”