There two ways to look at the season.
A ‘failure’ and choke-job of Biblical proportions (even though it’s hardly fair to call a 10-2 season a failure.) Or maybe it’s the ‘Surprise Season.’
At beginning of the season, if you’d told me that Alabama would be one of the 4 teams in the College Football Playoffs – I’d taken it. With a new offensive coordinator with enough baggage to kill any program in the nation and no real clear or good quarterback options, a 3 or 4 loss season was not out of the question.
But along the way Sims played like he was All-World…at home. Lane Kiffin found ways to get the ball to Amari Cooper that not even the Mad Hatter could imagine. Alabama put up video game numbers on offense and this inspired hope from the faithful and hype from the media.
Never mind that we also got All-Toilet from Sims when he played outside the city limits of Tuscaloosa and Kiffin often turned into a Pass-Happy-I-Forgot-I-Have-Two-Beasts-And-A-Greek-God-At-Running-Back play caller at the most crucial of times.
The Sugar Bowl last night (a man-handling by Ohio State) was exactly a microcosm of the whole year. Alabama taking advantage of the mistakes of the other team but often making too many of their own to overcome. Those mistakes would be turnovers and play-calling. Sims and Kiffin provided both. A majority of blame has to sit on Kiffin for getting in his own way by putting the game more on the arm of Blake Sims instead of the legs of Derrick Henry and TJ Yeldon.
Alabama had their chances thanks to their special teams and defense. The offense never sustained a drive of any importance in the first 3 quarters and only scored when Ohio State decided to not blitz and sit back in a zone. Ohio State did to Alabama what Alabama normally does to other teams. Put guys up front and say – your QB is going to have to beat us and quite honestly, we don’t think he can.
A “brilliant” (ESPN’s words, not mine) Kiffin continued the torture with his worst game ever as a play-caller. After horrible over-throws and bad reads, he just kept feeding the ball to Sims. Even after seeing Henry blast the Ohio State defense for 8 and 9 yards a carry as well as screen passes, Kiffin kept calling rollouts, bubble screens, and tight end screens with an inaccurate QB and brick hands receivers instead of Amari Cooper. Let’s not forget an end of the game two-minute drill that the Alabama offense looked lost.
Yet Alabama was within 7 points and a Hail Bear play of forcing overtime.
Ohio State won by being bullies with their offensive line. You can’t expose your defense to that kind of beating forever and win. Bama’s offense never kept Ohio State off the field. Bama’s defense did well until finally the injuries and hammering took its toll. In return, Ohio State threw when it needed to but consistently took the sledgehammer approach to the Bama defense. I lost count how many players they sent to the locker room. It was a vicious hitting game and Ohio State was left standing when the smoke cleared.
Congrats to the Buckeyes.
But also congrats to the Tide for having a most improbable season all things considered. Let’s hope the Tide heal and remember how to run the ball in the off-season.