Rivalry games never fail to deliver. The game had all the drama one could ever ask for, from the fiery temperament of the players (which resulted in three ejections) to Brady Hoke’s gutsy call to go for a two point conversion to win the game that was unsuccessful (the man gets bonus points for asking his senior’s if they should have done it though). Also you had the high powered Oregon Ducks having to hold off a late charge from their in state rival, the Oregon Beavers, to squeeze out a victory. Then the Iron Bowl between Auburn and Alabama had a finish that is the stuff of NCAA lore.
The highlights of Chris Davis’ return at the end of the game matched up to the Auburn radio call have been played at nauseum since Saturday evening. The surprising thing that no one has really talked about is Nick Saban’s decision to attempt the 57-yard field goal that led to the touchdown return.
Let’s look at the information that Saban had to process prior to choosing to kick:
The Crimson Tide’s starting kicker Cade Foster had been 0-3 up to this point in the game, including a 44-yard attempt that had been blocked earlier in the 4th quarter.
So Saban reasonably chose to put the strong-legged redshirt freshman Adam Griffith in to try the 57 yard boot instead of the struggling Foster. But this is still an absurd gamble. Say it out loud, “We just had a 44 yard field goal blocked, now let’s try a 57-yarder! It’s going to have an even lower trajectory than the last one, but who cares!”
By all accounts the Tide should have been afraid enough of a blocked kick to keep the special teams unit off the field. But Nick Saban was either too ballsy or too foolish to roll the dice. I hate to call one of the greatest college coaches of all time stupid, but his decision was nothing less. So he choose to roll the dice and he got burnt, but not by a block.
Now, I don’t want to take anything away from Chris Davis’ ability, but it wasn’t like he was running past Ha-Ha Clinton Dix out there. Alabama’s field goal unit consists of offensive linemen, a kicker, a punter (who’s the team’s holder) and a pair of tight ends. So you can now add this to the ever-growing list of reasons that Saban was wrong to take a chance on a 57-yard field goal.
Low Trajectory with a chance of blockage.
No one who can tackle with gusts of Chris Davis’ speed.
And a freshmen kicker with a career long of 20 yards.
Was having A.J. McCarron, who had a 99-yard TD early in the game, trying a hailmary such a bad idea? What was the worst that could happen in that scenario? A sack or maybe an interception in the endzone? Both result in you going to overtime against a team with inferior depth to you. How did Saban not see that?
I guess the genius got a tad too cocky with his choice at the end of the game and paid for it. Not just in his loss to a hated rival, but losing out on his chance to three peat as national champions. It’s okay though, the Texas Longhorns would still welcome him with open arms.
By James Hadley