You're probably sitting there thinking, "Wait a minute. The 2009 season was part of another decade."
And you're correct. Except the title game was played on Jan. 7, 2010. Technically, that makes this one game of that season part of this past decade.
Fans had wondered how long it might take Saban to deliver the Crimson Tide to the college football promised land, and the answer was almost exactly three years from the day he was hired. The 2007 team had struggled with some issues, and 2008 took huge steps. But in 2009, it all came together.
It makes you wonder what Saban was thinking as he held up the crystal football on the midfield stage at the Rose Bowl. Alabama was the first Southeastern Conference team to go 14-0 in winning the championship, Saban became the first coach in the modern era to win titles at two different schools, and the Crimson Tide celebrated at the same place it won its first championship 84 years previous.
“I’ll tell you what I told the team, that I’ve never been prouder of a group of guys for their resiliency, their buy in, their hard work, the blood, sweat and tears that they put worth to accomplish what they accomplished this season,” Saban said after beating Texas, 37-21. “I think most of us don’t realize how difficult it is, the togetherness that it takes, the discipline and execution that it takes, and certainly the hard work that these guys did.”
Just like there had been scores of people who had contributed to Alabama landing its first national title since 1992, which seemed like an eternity to Crimson Tide fans, there were a lot of key moments to led to the confetti falling in Pasadena.
Some of them were obvious, like beating Florida in a No. 1 vs. No. 2 rematch in the SEC Championship Game, Mark Ingram II winning program's first Heisman Trophy, and Julio Jones becoming an incredible receiving threat.
But the defense was just as good.
When Rolando McClain was presented with the Dick Butkus Award as college football’s most outstanding linebacker all he had been told was to show up at Nick Saban’s office for a meeting and to dress up a little. Needless to say, he was a little shocked when Butkus walked into the room with the trophy.
“I think Rolando stepped up as a leader as soon as he stepped on the field as a freshman,” defensive end Lorenzo Washington said at the time. “He might not have been as vocal a leader by then, but his play, I don’t think there’s been a freshman defensive player who played like he did in many years. He’s continually stepped up his game and this year he just came full circle. He put everything on his back, everything on his shoulders. He literally is the quarterback of the defense. He gets the front right, he gets the defensive backs right, he gets the linebackers right and everything starts and ends with him, every play.”
McClain was the first player at Alabama who Saban referred to as the “alpha-dog” of the defense, the term the Crimson Tide would use to describe someone as being head and shoulders above the rest: “Ro was a special guy that way.”
Alabama ended up with an unprecedented six players named first-team All-American by the Associated Press: Javier Arenas, Terrence Cody, Ingram, Mike Johnson, McClain and Leigh Tiffin, with sophomore Mark Barron a third-team selection. Ingram and McClain finished as unanimous All-American selections while Arenas, Cody and Johnson were consensus picks.
“I think when you’ve got a guy like him up front it changes everything for everybody, for the opponents, you’ve got to go to different things, and for us, it makes it a little bit easier for us,” Arenas said about the player dubbed “Mt.” Cody, the Crimson Tide’s massive nose tackle.
“You know, just him being there week in and week out, you kind of get used to it and you kind of get used to everybody else adjusting instead of trying to run up the middle and shove it down your throat. So it’s good to have him up there. I don't know what it would be like without him, honestly.”
Among the records that fell included Tiffin becoming Alabama’s career scoring leader with 385 points, which ranked second in the SEC and NCAA behind Georgia’s Billy Bennett (409). Arenas finished 10 yards short of the NCAA record for punt-return yards, but set the SEC record for both career punt-return yards (1,752) and touchdowns (seven).
With 116 rushing yards in the national championship game, Ingram finished with 1,640 for the season, shattering Bobby Humphrey’s school record of 1,471 (1986).
McElroy set Alabama records for consecutive completions (14 vs. Florida International), highest completion percent in a single game with a minimum of 10 (13 for 15, 86.7 percent against North Texas), and single-season completion percentage at 60.92 (198 of 325) while having just four interceptions. He was one touchdown pass short of trying the Crimson Tide single-season record of 18.
This is what Saban meant when saying that the team was really like a bus, and he was just the driver. With everyone contributing, they could collectively go anywhere, even Pasadena.
“Can you believe this?” junior tight end Preston Dial said while running around the Rose Bowl field during the postgame celebration.
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This is the eighth story in a series that will appear before New Year's Day, counting down the top 10 Alabama football moments of the 2010-19 decade.
Some of the information in this story originally appeared in "Decade of Dominance"