Alabama Football: What to make of the Iron Bowl that almost was … but wasn’t

There was every reason to believe Alabama football was good enough to beat Auburn. The reality was there were as many reasons why it wasn’t.

It is harsh to conclude the Alabama football season ended Saturday evening in Jordan-Hare Stadium. There will be another game and for many players, it will be meaningful. As the reality of a flawed season sinks in, there will be far too many recriminations.

The annual expectation – no make that demand – of Crimson Tide fans that every season end in a national championship is a fine goal. It is a goal to which almost no other college football program can aspire. The Crimson Tide’s success in winning championships is unparalleled. The flip side of that success is any failure is portrayed as massive.

Alabama football lost a game it should have won against Auburn. Bad Crimson Tide luck turned into Auburn good luck. But the loss should not be blamed on luck or officiating or even the heavy toll of this season’s injuries.

It is tempting to think of the game in terms of the Auburn offense scored 34 points and the Alabama football offense came within six inches of scoring 48 points. Those numbers and facts are correct. But they lead to a wrong conclusion. The real reason Auburn won and the Crimson Tide lost was the Tigers made fewer mistakes.

Glaring were the two Tide interceptions turned into 14 Auburn points. A never-healed, old Crimson Tide wound bled again, when a field goal bounced off an upright. Those three plays played a major role in Auburn winning, but so did many other, less obvious ones.  The Tide’s 13 penalties were only four more than Auburn, but that too is misleading. The Tide’s illegal procedure penalties were unforced errors. The kind of errors Nick Saban defines as discipline mistakes.

Without ascribing fault to any certain players, the Tide defense blew too many assignments. Those blown assignments were a contributing factor to both Boobie Whitlow and Bo Nix, averaging over seven yards-per-carry on their 22 rushing attempts.

In the defensive battles in the trenches and on the edges, Auburn gained an advantage. The Tigers had eight tackles-for-a-loss, four QB-hurries, and a sack. Alabama football had zero sacks, four tackles-for-a-loss and two QB-hurries.

Auburn played its best game of the season. The Alabama Crimson Tide also played well, just not quite well enough.

Losses are so few for Alabama football fans, the suffering may be deeper. Watching a CFB Playoff without the Crimson Tide will be a new experience. Roll Tide Roll Forever!

 

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