Sports Outside the Beltway

Alabama 2008 Recruiting Class

Dennis Pillion dubs them “Alabama’s $4 million recruiting class,” an allusion to Nick Saban’s handsome salary.

“Ahhh. That’s more like it.” – The Alabama fan base.

For about 14 months now, Crimson Tide fans have rejoiced in the hiring and arrival of Nick Saban as their head coach as if someone had found a way to reincarnate Bear Bryant. And why not?

After all, this wasn’t just a football program with more money than God buying itself a high-profile football coach. This was restoring order to the universe, righting old wrongs (Auburn winning six straight Iron Bowls, no National Championships for Alabama in 15 years). This was Andy Dufresne escaping from Shawshank Prison, only as the Tide fans stood rejoicing in the downpour with outstretched arms, outsiders were lining up to point and laugh.


Julio Jones Headlines Alabama 2008 Recruiting Class And then Wednesday rolled around. Signing Day. Julio Jones day. And around 11:30 a.m. Jones committed to the Tide. At 2 p.m. Gadsden City linebacker Jerrell Harris pulled an Andre Smith and donned a Houndstooth hat at his signing day press conference.

That’s when it started dawning on people how good this class really is. Alabama had long had verbal commitments from stud prospects like Vigor’s Burton Scott, Mountain Brook offensive lineman Tyler Love, Mark Barron of St. Paul’s, Melvin Ray, Courtney Upshaw, Michael Williams. Then came commitments from Star Jackson, Devonta Bolton, Chris Jordan, Donta Hightower, Barrett Jones, Alonzo Lawrence, Mark Ingram, Glenn Harbin. Saban locked up top prospects early and often, as is his habit, and when the last round of blue chippers – Jones, Harris, Marcel Dareus – said they wanted to be part of the class that returned the Crimson Tide to its glory days, the total body of work was outstanding.

It’s not just the few individual talent that makes this class special. The depth is truly overwhelming. Guys like Ray or Upshaw would have been the crown jewels in previous classes, but this year gave higher rankings to eight Alabama signees. The Crimson Tide hauled in a ridiculous 19 four-star prospects by rivals. Last year, with only a month on the job, Saban signed 10 four-stars. In the four recruiting classes before that combined, Alabama signed 23 four-star prospects, and that includes guys like Mike Ford, Marcus Udell, and Chris Felder who never enrolled. This year’s class may have to ask players to greyshirt because too many of them are in good shape academically.

Even if you look past the fact that Alabama is bringing in nearly as many four-star and higher players this fall as it has in a four year span from 2002-2006, there are plenty of reasons to be fired up about the future in Tuscaloosa. In addition to being the most talented class Alabama’s had since services like and started tracking such things, the 2008 group is by far the most versatile.

Players like Scott, Williams, Barron, Bolton, Kerry Murphy, and Chris Jordan could contribute just as easily on offense or defense. In fact, we likely won’t know until fall practice where some of these players will line up. Figuring out where to play your freakishly athletic horses is always a better problem than scratching your head wondering who in the world could play outside linebacker for you.

Oh, and just one more thing for the fans of other schools. The fact that Alabama signed so many top-notch prep prospects means that other schools did not. Auburn coaches and fans are busy claiming that the Tigers got who they wanted, that star rankings don’t mean anything, etc. Which I suppose is the only thing a coach or a fanbase can say when they’ve been completely owned. Auburn offered scholarships to 15 players that ended up signing with Alabama. No player offered by Alabama signed with Auburn. Tell me again fans, which school “got the players they wanted?”


But as a whole, teams that sign top classes win a lot more games than teams that don’t, and the 2008 Alabama team will be a whole lot more talented than the 2007 one. The scary part will be if Saban can continue to be as successful at recruiting in future classes as he was in this one. Then the Tide really will be back on top.

It’s about time.


NCAA Screwed Alabama, Says Former Chairman

Five years after nearly destroying Alabama’s football program, the then-chairman of the NCAA’s infractions committee says the NCAA violated its own rules of procedure, punished the university based on dubious evidence, and issued sanctions far too severe for the alleged violations. Doug Segrest of the Birmingham News has the details:

The longtime former chairman of the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions testified Wednesday that he believed the NCAA went overboard in its 2002 prosecution of the University of Alabama football program.

David Swank, who held the position of chairman for seven years and served on the committee for nine, testified in a defamation and privacy suit against the NCAA brought by disassociated booster Ray Keller in Jackson County Circuit Court. Swank questioned the NCAA’s finding of three major violations against Alabama and Keller and said the NCAA may have violated its own rules by using confidential sources. The NCAA also violated rules by not turning over all the available evidence to the infractions committee during a November 2001 hearing in Indianapolis.

Alabama lost 21 scholarships as a result of probation.

Swank questioned the finding that Alabama boosters were responsible for paying $20,000 to land blue-chip prospect Kenny Smith for two reasons – the use of confidential sources and the NCAA enforcement staff’s failure to pass contrary findings to the infractions committee.

Included in his testimony were several points of concern:

Swank said investigators did not relay the claim of North Jackson High booster R.D. “Dorris” Hicks that he was the source of the money, and it may have been used to recruit Smith to play at North Jackson. The NCAA said the late Memphis businessman and UA booster Logan Young was behind the payment. “There’s no question (booster) Wendell Smith gave Kenny Smith Jr. $20,000,” Swank said. “But where did he get it? If he got it from Dorris Hicks, there was no NCAA violation.”

Swank said that if Keller bought Kenny Smith and his parents meals after North Jackson football games then he committed a secondary violation, not a major one.

If Keller introduced then-prospect Eric Locke to UA boosters Smitty and Virginia Johnson at an A-Day Game, he committed a secondary violation, not a major one, Swank testified. Swank pointed out that Kenny Smith’s father, Ken, testified in court that lead investigator Rich Johanningmeier actually suggested the NCAA had evidence Keller would “sponsor” his son at Alabama. The sponsorship allegation was “cloudy,” at best, Swank said.

The NCAA should have been more skeptical of linebacker Travis Carroll’s claims that Keller gave him $100 bills in four separate payments. Swank said the NCAA took Carroll at his word about a potential major violation but did not allow Keller to respond to the allegation.

Swank said the NCAA violated its own bylaws on confidential sources by using recruiting analyst Tom Culpepper as a secret witness in the case. Swank said what was presented to the infractions committee “was not the actual conversation” that took place in the NCAA’s interview of Culpepper. Culpepper was identified to Alabama officials but not to members of the committee, who only learned of his allegations when Johanningmeier passed out copies of a summary of his interview at the hearing. “The whole purpose of identifying witnesses is so the committee can judge credibility,” Swank said. “You need to know who the individual is, where he came from and what his background is.”

Culpepper’s claim that Keller disagreed with NCAA rules should not have been considered at the hearing, Swank said. Likewise, Culpepper’s claim that the former booster had close relationships with Alabama players, including former quarterback Andrew Zow, should have been dismissed because of his confidentiality.

Culpepper’s claim that Keller played a role in getting Carroll an SUV was doubly bad, Swank said, because Culpepper said he learned the news from another unnamed source, Swank said.

The NCAA enforcement staff erred in not revealing Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer as a confidential source to the committee. Fulmer accused Alabama of wrongdoing and met with Johanningmeier in 2000 to discuss the case, although his testimony was not considered in the hearing.

Swank said the enforcement staff was wrong in not passing on all information to the committee, and investigators should have followed up with interviews of key figures who could have refuted charges against Alabama.

Swank said the NCAA should have interviewed former Tide player Fernando Bryant, who could have shed light on Carroll’s claims.

The NCAA also failed to pass on a statement to the infractions committee from former Alabama defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, who explained that Logan Young was not the source of a Mercedes Benz that Bryant drove. Instead, Johnson told investigators that relatives of Bryant who played in the NFL bought the automobile.

Attorneys for both sides sparred most of the afternoon over Swank’s testimony, forcing Judge John Graham to send jurors out of the courtroom on numerous occasions.

Swank, a law professor at the University of Oklahoma since 1963, represented the school in one NCAA infractions case and served as interim president during another investigation, which resulted in the resignation of former head football coach Barry Switzer.

There was irony in Swank’s testimony Wednesday. As chairman of the Committee on Infractions in 1995, he was highly critical of Alabama’s handling of Antonio Langham’s eligibility case, which resulted in the university’s first football probation.

When Alabama was hammered again in February 2002, Swank was highly critical of the program in an interview with, telling the Web site, “This is one of the most serious cases I’ve ever seen.”

However, most of Swank’s ire was directed at the NCAA’s finding that Young lured Albert Means into signing with Alabama for payments totaling $115,000. Swank did not address the Means violations Wednesday. NCAA attorneys are expected to cross-examine Swank today.

Unfortunately, Alabama has no remedy here. Five seasons are forever lost, coaching careers ruined, and several classes of players had the chance to compete for SEC and national titles taken away.


Franchione Out at Texas A&M

Dennis Franchione‘s days as head coach of the Texas A&M Aggies appear to be numbered, ESPN reports.

Texas A&M is talking about buying out Franchione’s contract, sources have told ESPN college football analyst Andre Ware. Texas A&M said Monday it would wait until the end of the football season before deciding Franchione’s fate. At least one national Web site reported that Franchione had already accepted a buyout before backing off the story.

“There are several false rumors circulating regarding the Texas A&M football program,” the school said in an e-mailed statement. Athletics department spokesman Alan Cannon said athletics director Bill Byrne would wait until the end of the season to evaluate Franchione, as he does with all coaches. Cannon added, “I have received no indication that he has changed his stance.” Cannon said Franchione is still A&M’s coach and is preparing the team to play Missouri on Saturday.

Franchione has been in hot water with the university for a newsletter he was sending out to donors willing to pay $1,200 for inside information. In mid-October, Texas A&M officials admonished Franchione for his secretive, for-pay newsletter and said the embarrassing episode would be a factor in deciding whether he returns next season.

The school said it would report the results of an internal investigation to the NCAA because of possible rules violations, and Franchione was ordered to shut down his Web site, He also will receive a “letter of admonishment.”

“The Aggies are embarrassed right now,” athletic director Bob Byrne said in October. “This has been a very unfortunate incident we do not want to experience again.”

Texas A&M is reportedly researching whether Franchione violated his contract with the income he received from the newsletter. If he is found in violation of the contract, the Aggies may not have to pay the coach anything upon firing him.

Franchione’s contract pays him $2 million per season and runs through 2012. A buyout will be $141,667 per month for the remainder of the contract, or about $8 million. Ware reported Monday that Texas A&M is looking for a buyout in the $2 million range.

Ware reported that Texas A&M wants to talk to Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville for a potential vacancy. He reported that the school is working with Chuck Neinas, who runs a consulting firm specializing in hiring coaches.

Franchione’s case isn’t helped by the fact that he’s underperformed since taking the gig.

Franchione came to A&M from Alabama, where he went 10-3 in 2002. He was never a perfect fit at A&M, where he replaced the popular R.C. Slocum.

Oklahoma humiliated the Aggies 77-0 in 2003, the first of three consecutive losses to end the season. The Aggies went 7-4 in 2004, but lost again to Texas before Tennessee’s 38-7 win in the Cotton Bowl. A&M lost its final four games in 2005 and finished 5-6, its second losing record in Franchione’s first three seasons.

The Aggies won nine games last season, but narrowly beat Army in San Antonio. They beat Texas 12-7, snapping a six-game losing streak in the series and getting their first win in Austin since 1994. But California ripped A&M 45-10 in the Holiday Bowl last December, rekindling A&M fans’ discontent.

Texas A&M is 6-4 this season, and Franchione is 31-28 overall with the Aggies. He is 2-12 against main rivals Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma.

As an Alabama fan left in the lurch by Coach Fran when he bailed on his team in order to pursue his dream, all I can say is Bwaaaaa ha ha ha.


Upset Saturday in College Football

It was a bizarre weekend in college football, with eight ranked teams losing to teams ranked below them — seven to teams not ranked at all.

    #3 Oklahoma lost to unranked Colorado, 24-27.
    #4 Florida lost to unranked Auburn, 17-20.
    #5 West Virginia lost to #18 South Florida, 13-21 (Thursday night).
    #7 Texas lost to unranked Kansas State, 21-41
    #10 Rutgers lost to unranked Maryland, 24-34
    #13 Clemson lost to unranked Georgia Tech, 3-13
    #21 Penn State lost to unranked Illinois, 20-27
    #22 Alabama lost to unranked Florida State, 14- 21

This was on top of several other close finishes.

ESPN’s Pat Forde dubs it “Insanity Saturday” and observes that this throws the whole season out of whack.

Just that fast, the college football landscape shifted seismically beneath our feet.

Just that fast, the Red River Shootout game Saturday between Oklahoma and Texas was dropped to undercard status. For the first time in years, it’s not the marquee game in the Big 12. And for the first time in years, the league’s maligned North looks more compelling than the South. If you can believe it, the biggest game in that league next week might be unbeaten Kansas at 3-1 Kansas State — either that or 4-1 Nebraska at unbeaten Missouri.

Just that fast, the upcoming LSU-Florida showdown Saturday in Baton Rouge lost half its helium when the Gators were shocked in The Swamp by an Auburn team that had lost at home to South Florida and Mississippi State on consecutive weekends.

Just that fast, the three Big East teams that began the season in the Top 25 all have at least one loss. Louisville went down first, then West Virginia, now Rutgers. Suddenly South Florida, Connecticut and Cincinnati are the unbeaten teams in the Big East. Honk if you foresaw that in August.

Just that fast, Illinois is 4-1 and tied for first in the Big Ten at 2-0. That’s the same Illinois that went 2-10 last year, with only one victory over I-A competition.

Just that fast, we have an ACC plot twist that leaves Virginia and Boston College well out in front in their respective divisions at 3-0 in league play. Virginia was left for dead after a Week 1 blowout loss to Wyoming. Boston College was picked last in its division by at least one preseason magazine.

And just that fast, USC and LSU put that much more distance between themselves and what’s left of the pack.

The object lesson here is that no favorite is safe. Not at home, not on the road, not in league play, not out of league play. If those lessons hadn’t already been learned by Appalachian State 34, Michigan 32, and Syracuse 38, Louisville 35, they were reinforced on Insanity Saturday.

And no lead is safe. You’d think the Sooners getting up 24-7 would be enough to make Colorado quit. You’d be wrong. The Buffaloes scored the final 20 points, winning on the last play of the game — a 45-yard field goal by Kevin Eberhart.


Underdogs aren’t scared right now, by much of anyone. Players and coaches are shrugging off past history, blowing off bad losses, not worrying about falling behind and regrouping to pull upsets nobody saw coming. Nobody’s rolling over.

I’ve seen this sort of thing in college basketball before but never to this extent in football. The bottom line, though, is that Notre Dame and Alabama and Michigan no longer have an automatic recruiting advantage over South Florida and West Virginia and Georgia Tech. There’s a wealth of talent out there and plenty of television exposure to be had in the realigned conference structure. Players would rather go to a program with less prestige and start than sit on the bench and one of the Big Boys.


ESPN Football Coverage Sucks

About a year ago, I explained why Monday Night Football on ESPN Sucks. After watching the network’s college football coverage the last two weeks, though, I think we can strike the “Monday Night” from that: They suck all the time now.

The last two Saturday nights, the Alabama Crimson Tide has been on ESPN. Since I don’t live in Alabama any more, that used to be a good thing, since it meant I got to see the games. Unfortunately, that’s not necessarily true anymore, since ESPN is apparently now run by the people who bring us the Olympics and decided long ago that people aren’t actually interested in the sporting events being covered but, rather, other stuff.

Last week, Alabama played Arkansas in a roller coaster game. Alabama went up by three touchdowns, let Arkansas back into the game, went up by three touchdowns again, and then collapsed to give Arkansas a big lead. Alabama fought back, though, to a thrilling victory with just 8 seconds left on the clock.

A pretty exciting game, right?

Apparently, though, ESPN didn’t think people tuned in late on a Saturday night to watch a college football game would find that stimulating enough. So, they brought in some gal from the women’s soccer team, which were in the middle of a big tournament overseas. And they yapped with her, via telephone no less, for several minutes right during the most critical part of the first half game action. No play-by-play of the game. Often, no cameras on the game, either, since fans would obviously rather see close-ups of the idiot game announcers and a picture of the head of the woman’s soccer player who wasn’t even in the damn booth.

And it got better.

We got to hear about Todd Blackledge’s adventures eating barbecue in Tuscaloosa. With actual footage of him looking at the menu and ordering food. While the game was on!!!

And, to top it off, they brought the annoying woman soccer player back in the second half to interrupt yet more game action.

Last night, Alabama and Georgia played in another close, exciting game that went into overtime.

Again, however, the cameras were on the announcers almost as much as on the game action. Again, we got treated to watching Blackledge eating grilled meat, this time at the pre-game tailgating parties. And some old announcer guy who’s so frail he can’t actually travel one state over to watch a football game was on the telephone for like half an hour yapping about his career while we were missing live football action.

The producers are also too inept to manage game breaks and commercials. Several times, we missed kickoffs, major plays, and other game action because they switched over to show ads or update us on other games and didn’t get back in time. And, each time, they pretended that it hadn’t happened, blithely carrying on as if we hadn’t missed anything.

I’ve been watching football on television for more than thirty years now. I’ve watched local games sponsored by local insurance companies that were better. I’ve literally never seen coverage as bad as what ESPN has put on the last two weeks. It’s absolutely frustrating.

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Alabama Loses to Georgia in OT

Well, so much for Nick Saban restoring Alabama to glory in his first year. Neither the offense nor the defense were very good last night in regulation but they managed to capitalize on some Bulldog receivers who couldn’t catch the ball to limp into OT tied 20-20. They finally fell to Georgia in overtime after a pitiful offensive showing forced them to kick a field goal while an even worse defensive performance gave up a 25-yard TD on the very first play.

Alabama - Georgia Photo 2007

Georgia halts Alabama’s run at comeback with TD pass (Paul Gattis, Huntsville Times):

The 22nd-ranked Bulldogs on Saturday night handed the Crimson Tide its first loss under coach Nick Saban, getting a 25-yard touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford to Mikey Henderson for a 26-23 overtime victory.

“Obviously, we’re very disappointed about the outcome of the game,” Saban said. “There are a lot of lessons about the way we played in the first half. I was concerned with the intensity we prepared for and the focus and the concentration we had in practice. We harped on it and I think it showed in our first-half performance.”

Georgia led 10-3 at the half and dominated the game over the first 30 minutes.

“That was the worst we’ve played all year long,” Saban said of the first half, “not only in terms of our ability to execute but also the intensity and the toughness. The look in our eye wasn’t what it needs to be.”

No. 16 Alabama tied it at 20-all on a 6-yard touchdown run by John Parker Wilson with 1:09 left to play to overcome a 20-10, fourth-quarter deficit. But the Tide offense could manage only a 42-yard field goal by Leigh Tiffin in overtime for a 23-20 lead and Georgia immediately went for the win.


So, just a week after its last-second touchdown that beat Arkansas, the Tide (3-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) tasted the bitter side of such a loss as a stunned sellout crowd of more than 92,000 at Bryant-Denny Stadium looked on.

Loss to Bulldogs should snap Tide fans back to reality (Ian Rapoport, Birmingham News)

It was a week filled with boundless optimism from fans and seemingly endless national attention.

All the while, in his quest for realism, University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban used every opportunity to deliver his message: Don’t pay attention to any of it.

Assume players and fans understand now.

All it took was the 16th-ranked Crimson Tide’s 26-23 loss to No.22 Georgia in overtime Saturday night in front of a soldout crowd of 92,318 at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The image of Bulldogs receiver Mikey Henderson beating UA cornerback Lionel Mitchell for a 25-yard touchdown pass in overtime will contribute to Saban’s message. Not that it makes a loss like Saturday’s any easier to swallow.

“I always talk about getting better when you win and not getting distracted by external things like where you are ranked or what people are saying off talk radio,” Saban said. “Sometimes you get a little relieved and satisfied with what you’ve done and you’re not as willing and as hungry to do it the next time.”

With Georgia up 20-10 in the fourth quarter, Alabama marched back with a Leigh Tiffin 22-yard field goal with six minutes left and a 6-yard scramble by quarterback John Parker Wilson with 1:09 left. When a 47-yard field goal attempt by Georgia’s Brandon Coutu went wide left, it was on to overtime.

Alabama had the ball first, but managed only a field goal. Henderson’s catch, on Georgia’s first play, ended it.

“That’s the advantage when you play defense first, you know what you need,” said Saban, after his first loss at UA. “Their guy made a good throw and they beat us one-on-one. It wasn’t bad coverage, but it wasn’t good enough.”

Not by a long shot.

It was too much to expect for Saban to come in and fix all that ailed the Tide in one season, especially since he came in near the tail end of the recruiting cycle. Still, the nature of college ball is that you can dream about championships until losing the first game.

Of course, the down side of the college game is that one loss, even early in the season, effectively ends any hope of a title, mythical or otherwise. If the team learns from the loss and gets better, they could conceivably play for the SEC title, which would be an awesome consolation prize. They’ll have to knock off LSU to do that, however. After last night’s performance, that sure doesn’t seem likely.


Alabama Blows Lead, Comes Back to Beat Arkansas 41-38

Nick Saban Celebrates After Arkansas Win 2007 Photo Nick Saban got his first significant win as coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide. It didn’t come easy though. He watched his team march to a quick 21-0 lead and then force a turnover. Just as it looked like the Tide was going to go up by four touchdowns, they coughed the ball up and gave up an easy 7. They followed this up with another interception another easy score.

After seeming to get their act together and going up 31-10, they gave up four unanswered touchdowns.

The final outcome was still in doubt until, with 8 seconds left on the clock, quarterback John Parker Wilson found receiver Matt Caddell in the endzone to regain the lead.

Other reports:

Wilson hits Caddell in final seconds to keep Saban’s Tide unbeaten, Ian R. Rapoport, Birmingham News

University of Alabama coach Nick Saban is already beginning to wipe clean the memories of the previous four years. Former coach Mike Shula went 49 games without a fourth-quarter comeback. In Saban’s short tenure, that devastating statistic is gone after three games.

With 8 seconds left Saturday night, quarterback John Parker Wilson found senior Matt Caddell in the back of the end zone for a 4-yard score to cap a 73-yard drive and give Alabama a 41-38 win over No. 16 Arkansas.

“Exciting, huh?” Saban said.

Even after allowing the Razorbacks 28 unanswered points, and even after taking the ball with 73 yards to go and 2 minutes 13 seconds left, Alabama was still able to march down for a win.

Four years without a fourth-quarter comeback? Old news.

“Been a loooong time,” said Wilson, who finished 24-of-45 passing for 327 yards with four touchdowns. “It’s good to fight like that. To be up, to be down, to come back and win, it says a lot about our football team. We spent all spring, all summer, all fall talking about the fourth quarter, and we pulled it out.”

On that final drive, Wilson was 7-of-10 for 73 yards, and he was helped by two Razorback pass-interference penalties. It ended with Caddell leaping over Arkansas defender Jamar Love in the end zone, sending the Alabama players toward that end of the field to create a dog-pile around Caddell and sending the 92,318 fans at Bryant-Denny Stadium into delirium.

As for Saban, he calmly held up one finger, signaling an extra point. Leigh Tiffin – last year’s goat for his three missed field goals and a missed extra point – knocked it through. Tiffin also made a 42-yard field goal with 4:20 left to keep his team alive.


Heisman Trophy hopeful and Arkansas running back Darren McFadden gained 195 yards on 33 carries with two touchdowns, while sidekick Felix Jones had 106 rushing yards. The duo left the defense ragged, but happy. “I feel pretty good,” safety Rashad Johnson said. “We came out with a win.”

The Tide controlled the game from the outset, scoring first and building a quick 21-0 lead. In the process, receiver DJ Hall became the program’s all-time leading receiver by breaking a record of 2,070 yards held by Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome. Hall had 172 yards on six catches with two touchdowns for the game.

Alabama made one final stop before halftime, leaving the Razorbacks to settle for a field goal. The half ended 21-10 Alabama.

Coming out of the locker room, Alabama caught a break when Arkansas receiver London Crawford fumbled after a 22-yard reception. Ezekial Knight recovered it and that turned into a Tiffin field goal to make it 24-10. No game has been complete without a big play from the punt-return game and Javier Arenas. This time, Arenas fielded a 34-yard punt on his own 40, stepped out of a tackle, then raced to his right down the sideline. The result was a 58-yard return to the 2. Wilson rolled left and found tight end Nick Walker for a 2-yard touchdown to make it 31-10.

Then it came crashing down.

The Hogs marched it right down the field in five plays, as Jones and McFadden combined for 59 yards, and quarterback Casey Dick found Andrew Davie for a 2-yard score.

That made it 31-17 late in third, then a fumbled quarterback-center exchange and an interception by Wilson were costly. Suddenly, with 12:05 remaining, the game was tied at 31. When Dick found Peyton Hills on a 7-yard touchdown, Arkansas led 38-31.

“The fumbled snap, that’s a basic fundamental,” Saban said. “The interception was not a good throw. Those are the kinds of things we need to learn from and grow from and eliminate.”

No matter. On its first try to tie the game, Alabama found itself with fourth-and-6 from the 25. Saban opted for a field goal. “It was the right thing to do,” he said. “I asked the defense, `Can you stop them?’ They said they could.”

All the defense had to do was stop Arkansas – without McFadden, who had a slight concussion – one more time to give the offense the ball back. “We do that in practice,” Johnson said. “It’s called, `Get the ball back.’”

The result was the game-winning drive.

Tide blows big lead, but thrives, survives with late TD drive, Paul Gattis, Huntsville Times

“I’m proud of the way our players competed in the game,” Saban said. “We always talk about playing 60 minutes and to score with 8 seconds left, it’s an easy way to reinforce a point.”


It was Alabama’s first last-minute touchdown for a win since the 1996 win over Auburn.

Tide comes back to upset Arkansas 41-38, Christopher Walsh, Tuscaloosa News

It went from there’s no way the University of Alabama football team was going to lose, to there was no way it was going to win, to how on earth did the Crimson Tide pull that off?

Although Coach Nick Saban didn’t want Saturday night to be about absolution or an attempt to get even for last year’s double-overtime loss to Arkansas, that’s exactly what happened despite his best efforts.

After blowing a 21-point lead, when the offense self-destructed and the defense apparently could no longer slow down the Razorbacks’ running game, the Tide had one final chance with 2 minutes, 13 seconds remaining and 73 yards to go. Amazingly, it came through, with senior wide receiver Matt Caddell making three of his nine receptions to help set up his clutch 4-yard touchdown catch in the back of the end zone for an unbelievable 41-38 victory.

“Exciting night, huh?” Saban said after his first SEC home game at the Capstone. “I’m certainly proud of the way our players played. You always talk about playing 60 minutes.”

In many ways, it was a typical Alabama-Arkansas game, hard-hitting with injuries and helmets flying off people’s heads, not to mention last-minute dramatics. Only this time the Razorbacks felt the heartache, while the Tide improved to 3-0 overall, 2-0 in the SEC to likely secure at least an inside track to a Jan. 1 bowl game.

“I knew if I could get up there … ” Caddell said of his leaping catch that sent both the Bryant-Denny Stadium faithful and the Alabama sideline into pandemonium.

“Amazing,” said sophomore Javier Arenas, who had a 58-yard punt return, after the locker room. “I can’t describe it.”

Caddell TD caps wild finish as Bama upsets Arkansas , AP/ESPN

Welcome to the Nick Saban era, Bama fans.


After twice blowing 21-point leads, Alabama marched down the field from its own 27 over the final 2:13, mostly on the Wilson-to-Caddell connection. Wilson hit Caddell across the middle for a 19-yard completion and two 9-yarders to move the ball across midfield. Kevin Woods and Matterral Richardson were both whistled for pass interference, Richardson on a third-and-9 play, to set Alabama up with a first down at the 13. After Wilson hit Keith Brown for a 9-yarder, he found a leaping Caddell in the left side of the end zone two plays later, sending the crowd into a frenzy and prompting a celebratory pileup on the receiver.

Alabama-Arkansas Scoring Summary 2007

“I knew if I got it up there and gave him a chance, he’d make a play,” said Wilson, who was 7-for-8 for 56 yards on the final drive. “I got the ball outside and gave Matt a chance to make the play, and he did.”

Alabama didn’t manage a come-from-behind win in the fourth quarter during Mike Shula’s four-year tenure.

The Tide’s decision to settle for Leigh Tiffin’s 42-yard field goal to make it 38-34 paid off when Arkansas was stopped on its next possession. McFadden sat out the series with a a slight concussion, coach Houston Nutt said.

“I did have confidence that we could stop them,” Saban said. “I asked the players on the sidelines, ‘Can we stop them?’ They said they could, so I believed them. And they did. “It was the right thing to do.”


“I felt like our team did not play in the second half like we needed to play,” Saban said. “We melted down a little bit, which to me is you drop your guard psychologically.”

Alabama-Arkansas Statistics 2007


Alabama-Clemson 2008 Georgia Dome Game

Talks are heating up for a matchup between Alabama and Clemson to kick off the 2008 season.

If a few things fall into place this week, Alabama and Clemson could open the 2008 season at the Georgia Dome.

Gary Stokan, president of the Atlanta Sports Council, confirmed that discussions are taking place with the two schools to play on Aug. 30, 2008 in Atlanta. “With all of the Georgia kids that these two teams have, its obvious that both want to recruit heavily over here,” Stokan told the Journal-Constitution. “It would be a great way to kick off the 2008 season.”
Alabama has 11 Georgia players on its 2007 roster.

New Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban has indicated he would be interested in the move. The Tide already have seven home games scheduled for next season and still needs to add another non-conference game. Western Kentucky is currently in that Aug. 30 slot, but could be moved to either Sept. 13 or Nov. 22 if this deal comes together. Alabama’s other non-conference games in 2008 are with Tulane (Sept. 6) and Northern Illinois (Nov. 1).

Clemson currently has seven home games and four non-conference games scheduled, but one of those is with The Citadel, a Division I-AA team, on a date that has yet to be determined. Clemson’s other non-conference games are with Louisiana Tech (in Shreveport, La), Central Florida and South Carolina.

Like Alabama, Clemson recruits heavily in Georgia, with 12 Peach State players on its current roster. Tigers athletics director Terry Don Phillips is scheduled to meet with head coach Tommy Bowden this week to discuss this possibility.

The Atlanta Sports Council is trying to set up college football games in the Dome for 2008, 2009 and 2010. Stokan has been negotiating with Florida State in hope of bringing the Seminoles to Atlanta but those talks have bogged down because of the inability to find a high-profile opponent. There were also talks with West Virginia about the possibility of playing Florida State, Stokan said.

Duke is strongly considering moving its 2010 home game with Alabama to the Georgia Dome.

Two friends with Clemson ties have forwarded this story to me and they’re more excited than I am.

At Alabama, the expectation remains the same as it was under Bear Bryant: Winning the national championship. That’s true even though the program has been mostly mediocre since winning its last national championship after the 1992 season. Since there’s no playoff system, the way to accomplish that is to go undefeated throughout a brutal SEC season, including a championship game, and hope to get enough votes to be in the top two in the BCS at the end of the year and then win one last game. Adding another tough game to the schedule does nothing to accomplish that, except maybe giving the winner a few bonus points with the voters.

For Clemson, a winning season capped off with a victory over Carolina is a good year. Winning the ACC is enough to keep the fans happy for a decade or two. They last accomplished that feat the year before Alabama’s last national crown. Indeed, Tiger fans are still riding high from their last national title in 1981, well before any of their current players were born.

The bottom line for Alabama is that losing a neutral site game with Clemson to start the season would effectively end it for ‘Bama fans. For Clemson, a loss would hurt but not have any impact on its goals.

As to recruiting Georgia players, all Alabama needs to do is get back to winning games. If they’re contending for a championship on a regular basis, most of their games will be on national television.


Nick Saban- Still full of it

The University of Alabama Football Coach spoke again about his departure from the Miami Dolphins.

“I have been criticized for that and maybe rightfully so, but it’s not really who I am, and I do care about what people think,” Saban said. “I am responsible for how I handled [leaving the Dolphins for the Alabama job] and I tried to handle it in a way that was going to be the best for our team.

No Nick, you handled it in a fashion only suited for yourself. That’s why you got my much coveted Knucklehead award last January. Yes some people consider it a reward or honor.

Rick at SOTP wrote-

Nah, you think so coach? Let’s see, you jumped out of a sinking ship after making some of the biggest holes, captain. Add public flip-flopping, equivocating or outright lies and a big Alabama-rolling-billboard moving truck and I’d say you did as much as you could to ensure an ungraceful exit.

It was both classless and ungraceful. Nick Saban will get his due one day. Coaching the Crimson Tide hasn’t been a pleasant experience for most of Bear Bryant’s successors. Saban could well find it just as unrewarding and when it does there will be cheering in South Florida.


Nick Saban Recruiting Violations?

Nick Saban may have violated NCAA regulations, ESPN reports.

Alabama officials would not comment on reports that coach Nick Saban might have violated NCAA rules limiting contact with potential recruits.

The Miami Herald and reported that three south Florida junior prospects described conversations with Saban during his recruiting trip last week that might have exceeded NCAA rules limiting face-to-face contact with recruits to “exchange of a greeting” between April 15 and May 31. Coaches are allowed to evaluate high school players at their schools during that period.

If violations occurred, they were likely secondary and wouldn’t lead to significant penalties. Alabama spokesman Doug Walker said Thursday the university would not comment on the reports.

Miami Krop junior linebacker Etienne Sabino said Saban told him he’s “the big physical type of linebacker” Alabama needs. Miami Northwestern High junior Brandon Washington said Saban asked if “my heart was in Miami.” He has verbally committed to playing for the University of Miami Hurricanes. Northwestern teammate Marcus Fortson said he spoke to Saban for “a few minutes” and that the coach told him Alabama “is a great place to get a degree.”

This sounds incredibly minor, indeed, and if these things are in violation of NCAA rules, they ought be changed. That said, Saban has been around the block once or twice and ought to know the rules and play by them.


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