NEW ORLEANS – So it turns out history was made Monday night in the Superdome, just not like it was expected.
Instead of LSU lifting itself to the top of the football world and possibly into the discussion of the greatest teams of all time – which it would have if it had finished 14-0 with wins against four top-three opponents – it was Alabama that took a unique turn in the spotlight. The state, not the school.
For the first time since before World War II, the national champion from college football’s highest level has come from a single state in three consecutive seasons. Minnesota, which has won six national crowns but none since 1960, picked up titles in 1934, ’35 and ’36. The last came in the first year The Associated Press started putting out a poll, but since then no state has had the champion reside within its borders three years in a row.
Alabama’s impressive defensive performance against the Tigers changed that. The Tide made it bookend titles in 2009 and 2011 to go around Auburn’s championship a year ago.
Take a look at what some of the nation’s newspapers had to say about Alabama’s victory — and LSU’s defeat — in Monday’s BCS title game.
“I think that passion is probably there because we don’t have pro sports in our state and everybody relates to the college programs that we have and it’s been that way for a long time,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said Tuesday morning in the final BCS news conference. “I think it makes it special and maybe a little unique that we have that kind of situation and I think it speaks volumes for the programs in the state.”
Along with that unique historical note for his school and state, the head coach himself scratched his name in the record book again. For the third time, Saban sat in the morning-after media session talking about how his team won a national title. He’s the only coach to do it as many times in the BCS era, also taking LSU to the top in 2003.
As usual, he deflected much of the attention, instead focusing on the players in the game and the coaching staff that contributed to the team victory. It’s well deserved as both sides of the ball were schemed and executed to near perfection.
The Bama defense was swarming from the start, pressuring Tiger quarterback Jordan Jefferson relentlessly, leading to three fumbles – only one lost but it was costly as it effectively sealed the game in the fourth quarter. It also shut down the run game as talented freshman RB Kenny Hilliard was the Tigers’ top rusher with 16 yards.
While it wasn’t unexpected, it was unrivaled in its effectiveness. The Tide allowed just 92 yards of total offense, only five first downs and pitched the first shutout in a title game in the BCS era. LSU only crossed the 50-yard line once, and that didn’t come until the fourth quarter.
It’s been the same way all year. Bama finished the year as the only team in the country allowing less than 250 yards of total offense per game. Alabama’s average? 183.6.
“I think what this defense accomplished statistically [this season] probably speaks for itself, but I love competitors,” Saban said. “I think that there’s a lot of talent on this defensive team, but I tell you what, these guys are great competitors and they’re warriors, and sometimes they can’t practice very well all week and I get mad at them. But, man, when they go to play, they play hard. They play well together and they have a lot of pride in their performance, in what they do and they’ve done it extremely well. … This group probably was a cut above in a lot of ways, at least statistically.”
The statistics also don’t lie when it comes to the offensive side. Saban was adamant that the game plan from the start was to rely more heavily on quarterback AJ McCarron. McCarron, a sophomore, needed to be on top of his game and put pressure on the vaunted LSU secondary, an area Bama expected to be able to exploit despite facing two Tiger All-America cornerbacks – a first for any program.
“Look at it this way: If we don’t do it, we can’t win. So we need to do it,” Saban said of planning to attack through the air. “If [McCarron] plays well, we’ll have an excellent chance in moving the ball. And if he doesn’t play well, we probably won’t have much of a chance to be successful offensively. But if we don’t do it, we may not have a chance either.”
Saban praised outgoing offensive coordinator Jim McElwain – who will now take over as head coach at Colorado State – for his ability to have McCarron and the offense ready to roll. They picked up areas to focus on from the first meeting in November, Saban said, and that led to the decision to air it out more. Although, he was insistent that, despite having two of the nation’s best running backs the past three years, he would prefer to put the ball in the quarterback’s hands.
“I just want everybody to know, I’m not conservative. I want to throw the ball all the time,” Saban said. “The interception we threw in the first game, I said: Throw the ball on first down. I wanted to throw the ball on first down in that game because of the way they play. And we didn’t do it enough.
“But I think we learned in the first game that’s what we needed to do to be successful against the style of play and the good football players that they have on their defensive team. They’re a good secondary. But they put pressure on their secondary [because] they have a very good front.”
The pressure Alabama’s offense created was too much for the Tigers, and the first of five Jeremy Shelley field goals was enough to nail down the title. The rest were icing on the cake, one fans in the state of Alabama are going to be happy to share until we do it all again in Miami next January.
Time-lapse highlights from title game
BCS championship postgame reaction
• Alabama blanks LSU 21-0 for BCS crown
• Alabama defense shuts down LSU
• Tide uses aerial attack in victory
• Alabama voted No. 1 in final AP poll
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