After the crystal football was awarded and the confetti cleared, all there was left to do was reflect, analyze and put some perspective on what had happened.
That included even the Gatorade bath, which once again Nick Saban didn’t see coming.
“It's cold, it's sticky, but I appreciated not getting hit in the head with the bucket,” he said. “That was an improvement.
“I really pride myself in being able to anticipate what's coming next, you know, anticipate what the next problem in the organization is, anticipate what we need to solve, what we need to focus on, what we need to work on, and I've never been able to anticipate the Gatorade coming. I don't know what's up with that.”
Replay showed that when the team captains made their move, the player shielding them was none other than massive right tackle D.J. Fluker, giving the coach absolutely no chance. He had the final laugh, though, by adding another ring to his already impressive collection, and told reporters: “I just put them on the coffee table for the recruits to look at.”
With the 42-14 victory over Notre Dame in the BCS title game, Alabama became college football’s first back-to-back consensus national champion since Nebraska in 1994-95, as well as the first school to win three national titles in the BCS era — never mind in four years. Outside of the Cornhuskers one had to go all the way back to the Fighting Irish in the late 1940s to find a comparison, and those teams didn’t play postseason games.
It was the Southeastern Conference’s seventh straight championship, continuing an incredible run that had been unprecedented in the sport, while Saban went from being the first coach to lift the crystal trophy a third time, to enjoying the fourth (three at Alabama).
"I hope people really appreciate what this team has accomplished,” Saban said. “To repeat and win back-to-back championships maybe one of the most difficult things in sports, in any sport, for any team to do.
“Many times they say it’s toughest to win your first championship, but really it’s tougher to win the next one because every day when you try and repeat and win the next championship it’s a test of your will to just be the best that you can be.”
Saban credited the consecutive crowns as being the team’s legacy, especially with there only being nine scholarship seniors on the roster. They went 49-5 during their careers, with two Southeastern Conference titles, four straight bowl wins and three national championships.
“We always seemed to our best at crucial situations, and most importantly we saved our best for last,” team co-captain Barrett Jones said. “We finished strong.”
Alabama was especially known for its powerful offensive line and ground game as for the first time the Crimson Tide had two 1,000-yard rushers with junior Eddie Lacy and true freshman T.J. Yeldon. Amari Cooper became the first freshman to record 1,000 receiving yards while also setting the program record for touchdown receptions, and junior quarterback AJ McCarron led the nation in passing efficiency while only having three interceptions.
But even with the dominating performance against Notre Dame, it was still a whirlwind championship chase, beginning in early November.
Ten months after Les Miles called the Alabama vs. LSU: “Big-Boy Football,” it finally was, if not more. With a record crowd at Tigers Stadium that was so frenzied it literally shook the press box after the home team took a fourth-quarter lead, the Crimson Tide left fans on both sides stunned and lost for words after it capped a last-minute 72-yard drive for an incredible 21-17 victory.
Even a hoarse Saban said that Yeldon’s 28-yard screen-style catch-and-go for the game-winning touchdown in the rematch of the BCS National Championship Game was something that he’ll never forget.
“Those guys played their hearts out,” Jones said, and he was talking about the other team.
But just a week after barely surviving against LSU, a tired Crimson Tide team had numerous mistakes and missed opportunities including a 20-0 deficit, three costly turnovers, and a potential game-winning drive that was stopped just two yards short of the end zone.
Johnny Manziel, who went on to win the Heisman Trophy, had 345 yards of total offense while senior wide receiver Ryan Swope grabbed 11 passes for 111 yards to pace the Aggies quick-attack offense. McCarron nearly matched him by completing 21 of 34 passes for 309 yards, but had his first two interceptions of the season.
While the Aggies’ 29-24 victory was arguably as big as any in that program’s illustrious history, it very nearly derailed Alabama’s title chances, and would have had the Crimson Tide not gotten some help from other teams pulling off upsets.
That led to perhaps the best SEC Championship Game ever played, which came down to just five yards. After traveling almost the length of the field in less than a minute, it was the distance Georgia was from the end zone when time ran out on its title dreams as Alabama pulled out a gut-wrenching 32-28 victory.
The game was hard-hitting, emotional, and had four lead changes in the second half. The Crimson Tide carved up the Bulldogs for 350 rushing yards. Lacy had 185 on 20 carries and scored two touchdowns to be named game MVP, and Yeldon tallied 153 yards on 25 carries.
It still went down to the very last snap when instead of spiking the ball to stop the clock and set something up, Georgia coaches watched helplessly when flanker Chris Conley caught a pass tipped by linebacker C.J. Mosley short of the end zone, extinguishing any chance of the Bulldogs running another play.
Overall, it was the Crimson Tide’s 15th national title.
“This train is not stopping at all,” senior defensive end Damion Square said. “They’re just reloading.”
This is the fifth 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 information from the book "Decade of Dominance" was used.