Where Does Alabama Go From Here?

Christopher Walsh

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Senior defensive lineman Raekwon Davis used one word to describe what the locker room was like after Alabama’s loss to LSU on Saturday night, “quiet.”

Sophomore cornerback Patrick Surtain II used two words: “Pretty quiet.”

Although Alabama may have kept its playoff hopes alive by almost coming back from a 20-point halftime deficit against the top-ranked Tigers, the 46-41 loss still left the Crimson Tide in a somber mood on Monday.

It would be one thing if Alabama simply got beat. However, the numerous miscues and poor play across the board, especially in the first half, have only added to the disappointment.

“We created a lot of issues for ourselves in this last game, some of them unforced errors,” Nick Saban said. “Just dropped the ball on the ground. I think everybody has to just sort of learn from the mistakes that we made in this game.”

The key moving forward for the Crimson Tide is not to let one loss turned into two or more, especially since Alabama may still have a shot at the national title.

It won’t, though, if it takes another L or doesn’t play well during the final three games of the regular season at Mississippi State (11 a.m. Saturday), against Western Carolina and at Auburn.

“The No. 1 thing that I’m concerned about, just so everybody gets it, is how we complete the season,” Saban said. “I don’t want to talk about anything other than the game that we have this week. We’re not making any predictions or whatever.

“We have kind of a legacy around here that we’ve only had one team in the last 12 years that’s lost more than one game in the regular season. I’d like for this team to be able to continue that, and we certainly want to focus on all the things that we need to do to try to be able to get that done.”

The team that had more than one loss during the regular season was 2010, when the reigning national champions faced seven straight opponents coming off a bye. Alabama lost three times (at South Carolina, at LSU and Auburn) before things finally came together and it crushed Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl.

That 2010 team had a lot of talent as well, including Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram Jr., Julio Jones and Marcell Dareus.

One almost had to go back that far to find the last time LSU defeated Alabama, winning the Game of the Century in 2011, 9-6 in overtime.

This time the game was nearly as close, but the Tigers exploited a lot of things including the Crimson Tide having four true freshmen in the defensive front seven. LSU would line people up in unusual places, which would require adjustments, and then snap the ball.

“We had problems during the game on third downs when we needed a stop and we didn’t finish that the way we need to,” Surtain added. “That’s a point of emphasis."

Saban said Alabama defenders missed 25 tackles in the game, in part due to the strong performance by running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire. He finished with 199 all-purpose yards.

“We’ve got to be better at a lot of stuff, it’s not just the run,” Davis said. “It’s just a lot of stuff.”

With Alabama ranked fourth in the polls, the Crimson Tide appears to still be on target to make the College Football Playoff semifinals, but there’s obviously the potential for a team playing in a conference championship game to move ahead of it in the final rankings.

However, that’s still four weeks away.  All Alabama was doing on Monday was returning to practice and trying to get starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa a little healthier.

Even though Alabama (8-1, 5-1 SEC) can't reach the SEC Championship Game unless LSU loses twice against Ole Miss, Arkansas and Texas A&M, the Crimson Tide still has three games to go on the regular-season schedule.

With a sweep, at minimum it would head to the Sugar Bowl, plus chances are not all of the other top contenders will will out.

Alabama know it has to in order to have any playoff shot, and Mississippi State and Auburn are always tough venues. Two years ago, it barely got out of Starkville with a win, and then lost on the Plains.

“It’s a big emphasis,” said Smith, who caught the game-winning touchdown against the Bulldogs in 2017. “We just move forward, work on what we need to do, and finish out the season strong and hopefully see where it takes us. We can’t control our destiny.”