TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Maybe Alabama is a second-half team.
It was close in the first half; too close for the 101,000 fans who braved the 40-degree, drizzly Tuscaloosa autumn night to watch their Crimson Tide eventually beat LSU 38-17.
Initially, the offense looked out of sorts, scored only three points and went 0-for-3 on third down in the first quarter. The defense couldn’t stop LSU’s passing game, and if it were not for a few fumbles, LSU might have led by two touchdowns. But after the lull in the first half—which ended 17-14 Alabama—there was a momentum change.
The communication of Alabama’s recently gelling offensive line returned, the power run game solidified, and the defense decided to not allow anything other than a field goal from LSU.
“I was really proud of our players in the second half, said Alabama head coach Nick Saban. “I thought they did a fantastic job and probably played our best half of football. It wasn’t perfect, and we didn’t play great in the first half, but there was a lot of character out there in the second half to control the line of scrimmage the way we did on offense.”
For the team that has been No. 1 the entire year, they still live by the mantra of their perfectly quaffed head honcho, constantly driving towards improvement even where improvement may not be attainable. Maybe changing the mindset of another team is an improvement in itself.
“We changed the way they thought,” defensive lineman Jeoffrey Pagan said. “They came in here thinking they would be more physical than us, I think we changed that.
“The start of the fourth quarter was when we felt like we had control of the game. This win shows that we’re getting better, and each week we’re showing improvement.”
And the success of a dominant win, whether it is a complete game or dominating second half, is the breaking of your opponent’s spirit. Saturday was the first time that Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley actually saw the breaking point of the players on the other side of the field.
“I could tell in some of the player’s eyes that it was about over for them and after that we started making play, after play, after play,” Mosley said.
Maybe the sign of a true No. 1 isn’t to simply dominate every team on every down—like Saban would like them to. Maybe it’s the ability to get down in a game, not play flawlessly, and still win the game.
This year’s Alabama team may be Saban’s best during his tenure in Tuscaloosa, and they’re not done yet. With three regular season games left and a few presumable postseason games, Alabama has shown that it can respond to any adversity and that no team can outlast them for four quarters. This win against LSU made that obvious.
“We’re a team that likes to start fast and finish strong,” Mosley said. “When we put our minds to the task, we can do great things.”