Alabama football respects the game, commands it from opponents

NASHVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 23: Najee Harris /

Alabama football felt disrespected by Vanderbilt, but Coach Nick Saban taught his players to command respect by doing their jobs. Not running their mouths.

The moment when one could have foretold the end of the game last Saturday was in the first quarter.

Up by 14 and driving deep into Vanderbilt’s end, Alabama’s starting quarterback Jalen Hurts ran the ball and was stopped, standing upright, for a short gain. Instead of stopping at the whistle, the Vanderbilt defense continued to push Hurts repeatedly, more aggressively than before. Some of the Alabama offensive line got between their quarterback and the seemingly frustrated Vandy D-line, but no flags were flown.

In fact, the Alabama players backed off from the bait, as the Vanderbilt players continued to jaw at the Crimson Tide. It was almost as if Vanderbilt was trying to get the game to become personal and make Alabama take a foolish penalty.

That’s not how Alabama rolls. For Saban’s team, it’s strictly business.

The Tide ended up punching the football into score to go up 21-0, demoralizing Vanderbilt. What better revenge on a team than on the scoreboard in Vanderbilt’s own stadium and in front of their own fans?

Michael Casagrande of reported that “defensive lineman Nifae Lealao got a few headlines from a postgame interview last Saturday when he finished a comment saying ‘Alabama, you’re next.'” Those words prompted Hurts, after the game, to say, “With Alabama, we want to be respected […] I guess we felt like we didn’t have the kind of respect we wanted leading into the game. So, we came out and tried to play Alabama football.”

Each player on Alabama did as their head coach had taught them: just do the job. They did that and more.

The offensive line looked like a herd of elephants mad that their cub was being targeted by a pack of wolves. They soon stomped the hunting howl right out of them. Alabama rushed for almost 500 yards, the most in one game by a team coached by Saban.

The defense were relentless but not wild like Vanderbilt’s players. They kept their focus. The defensive backs covered their receivers like it was the last thing they would ever do, so they had to make it count. There were no sacks, but the pass rush was controlled and kept able bodies into throwing lanes and persisted to make Vanderbilt’s quarterback squirm in the pocket until he was finally replaced.

Instead of trying to inflict physical pain on the opponent, and allow themselves to get frustrated enough to take stupid penalties, the defense inflicted psychological pain that may last much longer. Vanderbilt did not ever cross the 50-yard line in possession of the football.

Vanderbilt’s fans did not even want to stick around. Most of them had left by the third quarter, and this was the scene after the game:

Actions speak louder than words. One cannot respect an opponent who tries to bark fear into one’s heart. Only through complete command of one’s actions can one master the body, mind, and soul of the opposition. Vanderbilt tried to bully an upset victory from Alabama through words, but Alabama rose higher than those aspirations. Their actions psychologically beat the competitive life out of Vanderbilt’s football team, and even their fans, before the second quarter even started.

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By that point, nobody, not even future opponents watching, wanted any more of Alabama. The Crimson Tide put the rest of the SEC on notice: put up or shut up.