Monday, January 5, 2015

Standing on the edge of history, Alabama fell off

clip_image001On January 1 in the Sugar Bowl, Alabama fell off the cliff. Slipped into the Dark Side. Blew it.

Wile E. Coyote style.

You may recall this post from December, in which I explained how the Crimson Tide could make history while sticking a thumb in the eye of the talking heads who were incensed over Alabama’s rematch against LSU a coupla years ago.

You might also remember this post from November, where I expressed discomfort over Alabama’s apparent attempts to match speed and tempo of teams that play basketball on grass.

But my discomfort actually goes all the way back to January 2014, where I first lamented the exasperating tendency of trying the up-tempo style against teams that are designed for it.’s Senior Editor JessN picks up on what happens when a team tries to do what it was never recruited or designed to do:

4. Offensive playcalling got too cute by half. Alabama fell in love with the pass early, likely because defensive scouting told the coaches to do it. Ohio State’s presumed defensive soft spot was a secondary that was short on experience, albeit long on turnover-forcing ability. Alabama got to see too much of the latter. Alabama never tried Tyren Jones at running back, and didn’t use T.J. Yeldon enough even though he appeared reasonably healthy. Derrick Henry only got 13 carries. As talked about in the preview, OSU DE Steve Miller was extremely vulnerable to the run and Alabama had good success going at him, but Kiffin didn’t do it enough. And when Blake Sims did make a mistake throwing the football, Ohio State made him pay, unlike so many other teams before. …

5. Turnovers again come up big. It was touched on above, but this was the season’s real pink elephant and it showed up again in the Sugar Bowl. Blake Sims was picked off three times and the second one was arguably even more damaging than the first, which went for an Ohio State defensive touchdown. Alabama finished the season on the wrong side of the turnover margin, which speaks both to the more chance-taking nature of Kiffin’s offense and the inability of the defense to force turnovers, particularly in the passing game. Cyrus Jones also missed the ability to possibly pick-six Cardale Jones but dropped the pass. For 2015, Alabama has to figure out what went wrong here in 2014, on both sides, and fix both.

When Blake Sims got rattled, he either made a play with his feet, or he tossed an interception. It seemed that there was no willingness to simply throw the ball away, something QB’s have been doing since the inception of the forward pass. I appreciate his competitive spirit and desire to make something out of nothing, but sometimes, you just have to give up on a play and try again.

But you don’t do that 10 seconds after the ball is set and the down marker is flipped. Jess is right—the playcalling was too cute and it was costly. He also correctly points out that some of our most effective offensive weapons watched much of the game from the sidelines. How does Derrick “The Hammer” Henry only get 13 carries? Why is TJ Yeldon watching?

Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson must have been watching that game, shaking their heads in some truly sore WTF moments.

Another point along my line of thinking that this is not Alabama Football: Against Auburn in the Iron Bowl, Alabama had a time of possession of 26:06 versus Auburn’s 33:54. Against Mizzou in the SECCG, it was 23:17 to 36:43. And against Ohio State, it was 28:14 to 31:19. Those numbers mean something—and what they mean to me is that slowing down and playing smashmouth football produces more wins than not. We went 2-1 in those games, but I’m not comfortable seeing my team’s offense on the sidelines more than the other team’s offense. That’s… well… just not right.

Jess however is right—changes need to be made, and my opinion is that the changes need to include a serious examination of what has made Alabama such a dominant program in the conference and in the country, and see if that style of play can be implemented as successfully as it was beginning with Saban’s first step on the campus in Tuscaloosa.

As far as I’m concerned, Alabama had a great season. Blake Sims  turned out much better than many people expected. Amari Cooper deserved the invitation to New York. Landon Collins proved equal to the hype. Lane Kiffin turned out to be a gifted—even if aggressive—playcaller and QB coach.

In 2014, the Tide got yet another SEC Title and had yet another shot at the Crystal. We’ve got a great team coming back in 2015 by any measure.

But it could have been better, and it could have been historic.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Y’all, please… “Golf” is not a verb

clip_image001There is a recent article from the New York Times describing how President Barack Obama plays Golf. In essence, it seems that the semi-retired President has a game that is not all that good, despite his well-publicized and multiple attempts to practice it. Well, mine isn’t all that hot either; primarily because I don’t have time to hit the links as much as I used to. But the point I’m trying to make here is that “Golf” is no more a verb than football, basketball, hockey or soccer.

It’s kind of a pet peeve of mine. Another one is that I don’t think “text” is a verb, either. That battle I’ve already lost, apparently. I won’t dwell on the fact that I’m an analog boy in a digital world.

But anyway…

Ever hear of someone going footballing? Nope. Me, either. How about someone going basketballing? Uh uh. Me either. Football is a sport. Basketball is a sport. And Golf is a sport. So when even the Grey Lady uses the word “Golf” as a verb, I haz a face palm.

I’m gonna keep this post short and simple by saying that if you enjoy the sport, you don’t “Golf.” You are not a “Golfer.” You don’t go “Golfing.” what you do is tee the ball up and play Golf. Just like you tee the ball up and play football, or tip the ball off and play basketball.

Okay? Okay.

Happy New Year, and may your New Year’s resolution to improve your Golf game take your handicap to a happier and more productive level.

Friday, December 19, 2014

One of the last of “Bear’s Boys” goes bowling

clip_image001The University of South Alabama, in only its second year of Division I bowl eligibility, has made it to the Camellia Bowl. With a 6-6 record for the 2014 season, coach Joey Jones is taking the Jaguars to Montgomery for what could be an interesting matchup against Bowling Green.

Joey Jones and I were classmates at Murphy High School. Although we ran with different crowds, I remember Joey as an affable, polite but competitive fella. Another thing about him was his popularity, especially among the girls. To put it bluntly, you had to wait until he’d decided who was going to the dance with him before you asked a pretty young lady for the pleasure of her company.

Oh, and he could run like the wind. I’ve never seen a white boy run that fast (that’s not racist; it’s the truth and the truth is never racist). My bet is that at age 52, he can still probably outrun most of his players.

Jones is also the last of a dying breed—coaches with ties to legendary Alabama coach Paul W. “Bear” Bryant. Coach Bryant recruited Jones as a wide receiver, and he lived up to the hype. He lettered for four years, graduating in 1983. While you might look at 71 catches for 1,386 yards and 15 touchdowns as somewhat pedestrian given the work of men like Julio Jones and Amari Cooper, consider the fact that Jones was playing in the Wishbone system, which rarely featured the pass catching ability of a 5-9, 165 lb speedster. He averaged nearly 20 yards per catch, which means that every time he touched the football it was First Down Alabama.

Coach Bryant referred to him as something of a secret weapon—a player that no one would pay much attention to until he was beating every defender to the end zone for the score. He did that 15 times in his career at Alabama in a system that emphasized the ground game.

As a coach, he’s pretty much doing the same thing at South Alabama. No one paid much attention to USA until they started beating more established FBS schools like Troy and Kent State, Nick Saban’s alma mater.

A 6-6 record is certainly no world beater. USA has taken its share of beatings in so-called “paycheck games,” where a team travels to a major program’s home field, takes a whoopin’ and collects a nice fee from its host. This is the same thing Southern Miss, Florida State and others have used to build their college football programs.

But through his time at USA, Jones has served with class, dignity and integrity. There are butts in the seats at every home game, and USA doesn’t have to print tickets in the local newspaper to get them there. People in Mobile eagerly pay to go to Jag games because… well… it’s a Jag game. He’s taken a brand new program to heights that make UAB fans gasp in horror. UAB is giving up its football program, while the nascent Jags program is making gains no one really believed to be possible so early in the program’s life.

One thing about the crowds you see at Ladd Peebles on game day: There are Alabama fans, Auburn fans and LSU fans sitting right next to the fans and alumni wearing red white and blue. This is a football program embraced by the entire community.

Consider this as well: Only five years into college football, USA is actively considering probably not if, but where to build an on-campus stadium. Could this sort of speculation be happening if it weren’t for Joey Jones? I’m laying odds on “no.”

One of the great things about college football is history and tradition. You build things one brick at a time, and before you know it, you have something standing before you that is legendary and remarkable.

Coach Jones is on his way to doing just that and on December 20 in Montgomery, a very important step will be taken with the Jags first ever bowl game. Win or lose, Coach Bryant must surely be smiling from Heaven over this. One of the last of his boys stands on the edge of greatness, and the future looks quite bright.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

US to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba. Democrats can kiss Florida goodbye for 2016

This is no small tremor. This is quake with a magnitude of 8.5 on the Richter Scale. As somebody who previously lived and worked in South Florida for years, I can attest to two irrefutable truths: One, that the large Cuban expatriate community in that part of the state bitterly opposes any normalization of relations with the Castro regime. Two, that anyone (or party) who proposes or moves forward with such “progress” will be punished on the first Tuesday in November.

Ms. Clinton, Ms. Warren, or any other Democrat seeking the presidency in 2016 can officially kiss the state of Florida goodbye.

In a nutshell, US contractor Alan Gross, who has been jailed on espionage charges for nearly six years, is being released by the Castro regime in exchange for three Cuban nationals convicted of spying on anti-Castro activists in Florida. The Obama regime claims that this is a humanitarian exchange, but let there be no doubt: this is no quid pro quo deal in any way, shape or form.

Contrary to what Ed at believes, the Cuban ex-pat community in Florida is monolithically opposed to any actions that take pressure off of the banana republic regime that has enslaved millions, jailed thousands and continues to oppress the Cuban people. If they were predisposed to violent uprisings (they’re not), the ex-pats could make the Ferguson riots look like a peace march.

Back to my point of the post’s title, it’s important to note that two men of Cuban descent are considering a run at the White House in 2016. These are Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida. Another man considering a run is former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, a man that the Cuban ex-pat community named an “Honorary Cuban” in 2007.

Expect all three of these distinguished gentlemen to denounce today’s developments, and if one of them should gain the GOP nomination, the monolithic Cuban ex-pat electorate south of I-4 will crawl naked over broken glass to vote for the guy who opposes normalized relations with the regime that has bloodied and impoverished one of the most beautiful islands in the Caribbean..

Update: right on cue:

Update: And Mr. Bush:

"I don't think we should be negotiating with a repressive regime to make changes in our relationship [until Cuba changes]," Bush said at an event in Florida on Wednesday morning,according to USA Today. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Crimson Tide standing on the edge of history

imageOn January 1st 2015, Alabama plays Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl, the first round of the first ever College Football Playoff. If the Tide can defeat the Buckeyes, then on January 12 they will face the winner of the Rose Bowl’s Oregon – Florida State battle in Arlington’s AT&T Stadium.

History can be made here. If Alabama defeats the Rose Bowl survivor and takes Title 16, it will forever erase the memory of the Miami dynasty of the 1980’s and make the Capstone the most storied football program in the history of storied programs.

Y’all know I’m a homer. I don’t hide that fact. I wear it like a badge of honor. But I am not an in-your-face Bammer either. I don’t dress up like a clown on game day. I don’t have a home with every corner decorated in Crimson and White. Hell, I don’t even have a Bama room.

But I know history unfolding when I see it, and folks… this is history unfolding.

Since his arrival in Tuscaloosa, head coach Nick Saban has led the Crimson Tide to three national titles, including two in a row. No one in the BCS era had ever repeated as BCS Champions and now that the BCS era is over, that feat can never be repeated. So there’s one angle on the “making history” narrative.

How’s this for making history: What team has the opportunity to claim both a BCS repeat and the first ever CFP Championship? Well, there’s only one, silly. And that’s Alabama.

Anyone who thinks this will be a cakewalk to glory is delusional. Ohio State is a worthy opponent, coached by a man who has beaten Alabama on his own way to a national title. Neither Florida State nor Oregon—two teams with quarterbacks and offenses that have given the Tide trouble in the past—aren’t slouches, either. The CFP committee made the right selections for the four team field. Saban and his brain trust have their work cut out for them, but no one thinks that Bama doesn’t have the tools to get it done.

That said, how prescient was the post from June 2012 from KrAzy3? The man laid out an argument that makes many people squirm, and he’s probably right that at some point in the future, the dropoff in quality between the No.3 team in the field and the No. 4 team will be significant enough to make people wonder why we went to a four-team field.

But a key point he makes is that the CFP is the direct result of the BCS pairing SEC West runner-up Alabama against SEC Champion LSU in 2011, which led to the historic BCS repeat. The talking heads and pundits at ESPN and Sports Illustrated were outraged, and the powers that be in college football went from being apathetic towards a playoff to rushing headlong towards one so that such an absolute tragedy never happens again.

This should make even the most casual Alabama fan laugh his or her ass off: Alabama is poised to ruffle the feathers of those little biddies all over again.

Win two more admittedly challenging games, and become the first team to win a championship in a playoff system that resulted from you winning a championship that almost no one outside the friendly confines of the Heart of Dixie thought you deserved.

If Alabama brings home the hardware on January 12, 2015, the Tide will have the last laugh, will have made college football history, and it will have Bama fans cackling in delight at the irony of it all.

An earlier version of this post had the CFB Championship game on January 14.