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March 25, 2019    
January 30, 2016

Road to the championship: Part I out

A Rocky Start – Four weeks into the season the Tide bottoms out.

The Tide began the 2015 season ranked number 3. It was a team with lots of question marks. Conventional wisdom said this team that would win with defense and the offense should grow as the season progressed.

In game one, Alabama beat a good Wisconsin team 35-17. The Tide ran smoothly but there were a couple of things to nitpick, all in all a very good first game. After Wisconsin it pretty much looked like Jake Coker had the starting quarterback job wrapped up.

  In that game, the Tide’s kicking game did not look as polished as it was the year before Adam Griffith missed a field goal and JK Scott shanked a couple of punts. Still, no real reason to worry at that point. Though, down the road you knew they were gonna need clutch punt and a game winning field goal. All of that was yet to come in early September things were more or less OK.

  The Middle Tennessee State game was a step backwards. Alabama turned the ball over twice on interceptions in a lack luster performance, which included a sub 100 yard game from Derrick Henry. It’s not like the game was ever in doubt, but there were just too many errors. Neither quarterback looked sharp and both Coker and Cooper Bateman threw a pick, Adam Griffith missed two field goals and Tide turned the ball over on downs twice.

  The following week the plane crashed into the mountain or so it seemed. There had been some niggly issues in the first couple of games including a spotty kicking game and the fact that neither quarterback could hit the deep ball consistently, which was the bread and butter of the 2014 team.

Then Ole Miss rolled into Tuscaloosa looking to win its first game in Alabama since 1988 and the first back to back victories over the Tide ever. When the game was over mission accomplished Ole Miss—with a ton of help from the Tide.

  The coaches,looking for one of the quarterbacks to step up and “grab the bull by the horns,” started Cooper Bateman. Alabama set the tone for the evening by fumbling the opening kickoff. Which led to an Ole Miss field goal. Bateman threw the first interception, which led to a touchdown and put Alabama at minus two in the turnover category. After the touchdown Alabama’s Kenyan Drake fumbled the ball. Putting Ole Miss in business at the Tide 18. Again, Ole Miss scored. If you’re keeping score at home that’s 17 points off three turnovers. The Tide would get ten points before the end of the half to make the score 17-10 Ole Miss.

  Except for the dang turnovers the first half wasn’t really that bad, the Tide was down seven but hey it could have been worse. Well, then it got worse. Before Alabama scored again on Jake Coker’s three yard run Ole Miss was up 30-10. It got down right embarrassing. Tide fans were leaving in droves. The ESPN guys had never seen anything like that and frankly I couldn’t remember seeing anything like that either.

  Ole Miss scored a touchdown on its opening drive of the second half, followed by two field goals before Alabama did anything. The Tide scored a touchdown, with 1:33 left in the third quarter making the score 30-17. Alabama forced a three and out then quickly scored again drawing within six points at 30-24. Then Ole Miss scored on one of those crazy plays The Tide front seven nearly sacked Chad Kelley, but he got the ball off it bounced off one player, a second Ole Miss player caught it, and 73 yards later Ole Miss 36 Alabama 24. Things were looking up, but Coker threw his second pick. Ole Miss scored again going up 43-24. The Tide would score two more touchdowns but the final Coker interception, the fifth turnover of the night, pretty much sealed the deal. Bama still had a shot with 25 seconds left, but it was not to be.

  However, the game proved a couple of things. This team would not give up and they found their quarterback. Coker would start the rest of the season. Except, ha, except, for the five turnovers Alabama out played Ole Miss—more yards, more first downs and better time of position. However, the scoreboard read 43-37 and well that’s what counts. It was a feeding frenzy the next week. The grave diggers and the pall bearers lined up. It was over in T-town they said, get used to it. Saban was washed up and the dynasty was so over.

  When the polls came out after the Ole Miss game Alabama had fallen to number 12 and there was joy everywhere, well almost everywhere. Below is a flight from the craft brewery of the sports writing world:

  “One loss doesn’t knock Alabama out of the playoff race, as Saban proved again for the hundredth time last year, but there was a distinct “end of an era” feel to this loss.” Joe Giglio of The News & Observer

  “This is not the Alabama team that dominates and suffocates and eviscerates. This program, since late last season, stumbles and eventually crumbles in big games.” Matt Hayes, Sporting News

  “Alabama built its dynasty on defense and the simple fact is Saban’s defense is downright ordinary now…. In two weeks, when the Tide roll into Georgia and lose, it will be a perfect capstone to the rise and fall of the Tide dynasty.” Clay Travis, Fox Sports

  “Never mind that we're talking about a kick returner dropping a couple balls, thus helping Ole Miss to 10 easy points in a game it won by six. These turnovers tell us Alabama is not going to win many championships this year.” Jason Kirk, SB Nation.

  After this you’re thinking it couldn’t get any worse. It didn’t actually, but the pollsters decided, with good reason to drop the Tide a notch after a snooze worthy 34-0 beating of UL Monroe. It should be noted here that ULM finished the season 1-11 and number four in the Bottom 25, which, well, is not good. September ended with the Tide ranked number 13. Though we did not know it at the time, Alabama had hit rock bottom. To make matters worse the Tide had to travel to Georgia, where for the first time since 2008 they were underdogs.



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