The streak is over.
On October 15, for the first time in 15 years, Alabama lost to Tennessee, 52-49, on a last-second field goal from the leg of Chase McGrath as time expired.
After escaping the smoke-covered scene at Rocky Top, Nick Saban talked to his team and the media following his first loss to Tennessee as Alabama’s head coach.
“A lot of work to be done. Way too many penalties. I did too many things to help them. Gave up explosive plays. We had a major error on special teams; it was totally unnecessary. That led to a score on their part,” Saban said at his post-game press conference. I do give them (Tennessee) a lot of credit. They did a nice job with their offense based on what we were trying to do on defense. But we didn’t execute well enough.”
Saban continued: “I got to give our players a lot of credit for fighting back and getting back in the game down 21-7 and having an opportunity to win.”
With 25 seconds left in the game, the Crimson Tide had a 67% chance to win. With 9 seconds left, the Volunteers had an 81.5% chance to win, according to ESPN’s Win Probability metric.
A coaching decision from Saban might be to blame.
On 3rd & 10 from Tennesse’s 32-yard line, Alabama, with two timeouts, could’ve handed the ball off to any of its talented backs to make struggling kicker Will Reichard’s life easier and milking the clock to keep Vols’ QB Hendon Hooker off the field.
Instead, QB Bryce Young dropped back for a pass with pressure in his face and let go of an errant throw over the middle and into the ground.
“We were trying to move it closer,” said Saban. “We thought that they were blitzing & had a loaded box a lot.”
Saban took a lot of heat for the call.
Still, he stood by the decision.
“I thought we could make plays in the passing game. Now, Jahmyr (Gibbs) had a chance to make the play. That’s the best thing that we did all night,” he said. “So that’s how we thought we could get it closer. When I say that, I don’t mean we should have run instead of passing it at all. They were blitzing, and we were in empty. So you got to throw the ball hot.”
Where Does Alabama Go From Here?
Despite the heartbreaking loss to rival Tennesse, Alabama still has national championship aspirations.
Lucky for the Tide, the SEC East — where No. 1 Georgia & No. 6 Tennessee, who will rocket up to the top 4 next week, sit at the top of a division only one team can win — is night and day compared to the West.
The most challenging obstacle sitting between Alabama & a third-straight trip to the SEC Championship Game is a road win at No. 9 Ole Miss. Of course, Saban’s team needs to handle the rest of its schedule, which doesn’t include the Bulldogs.
But all things considered, after losing its first game to Tennessee in over a decade, there are silver linings for an uber-talented Alabama team.
So, what’s next for the Tide?
“You know, there’s no room for error in the West .. we can win the West and still have a chance to go the SEC championship,” Saban said. “I think the key to drill is you got to learn from these experiences. You gotta learn from the mistakes that you make. You never improve if you can’t learn from the mistakes that you make.
With everything ahead of them, it’ll be business as usual in Tuscaloosa.
Neyland Stadium Trolled Crimson Tide After Victory
The song “Dixieland Delight” by Alabama is a tradition at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Fans interact with each lyric, and at most Crimson Tide football games, it’s the loudest moment, aside from what happens after a touchdown.
As the turf of Neyland Stadium populated with orange & white outfitted students, fans, and alumni, the song played over the loudspeaker.
“Rolling down a backwoods, Tennessee byway…”
The Volunteers finally had the chance to play the song they’d heard for 15 subsequent years after an Alabama loss and didn’t hesitate to capitalize.
Alabama will return home on October 22 to host No. 16 Mississippi State, hoping they hear Randy Yeuell Owen’s voice again after a victory.