Special Teams Aid Special Tide Win
Had the Alabama special teams not performed as they had, the game would likely have been a tad closer. To wit:
All season, LSU and star punter Brad Wing had allowed but six net yards on returns. Monday,
Alabama totaled 67 yards - 52 by Marquis Maze and 15 by freshman Christion Jones, who replaced Maze when the senior pulled a hamstring during a 49-yard return in the first quarter.
"When I caught it, my eyes lit up. I saw the opening and I only had the punter (Wing) to beat, and I knew I would beat him," Maze said, "but when I felt it pull, I just ran out of bounds."
Enter Jones, who seemed comfortable back on punts in a high-pressure situation.
"It was just about practicing every day and being ready to go," Jones said. "I just took the challenge that was given to me and helped the team out to win a national championship."
Of the return game on both sides, Jones said, "That was our biggest challenge coming into this game. People were talking about the Honey Badger (Tyrann Mathieu) doing this and that on punt returns, but we held them down and we made plays on our punt returns."
Tide tight ends/special teams coordinator Bobby Williams gets few chances to talk to the media, but Monday he was more than happy to sing the praises of his troops.
"Those kids did a great job. We had an excellent plan, and they executed very well," Williams said. "The big thing is our specialists. They showed up tonight. There was a pretty big deal made of their special teams, and they have great special teams, but we're the ones that played well tonight."
Then there was Jeremy Shelley, who set an all bowls record with five field goals and scored the only points of the game until late in the fourth period. This after Alabama's kicking game was a disaster last time these teams played.
"I'm very proud of Jeremy and all the specialists because they went through a tough time after that first ball game," Williams said. "For them to respond the way they did, you have to feel pretty good for them."
Shelley was glad he could do his part. "It feels great to have such an impact on this game and to do it the way I did," he said, sporting a huge grin. "We've really been looking forward to this game and for another chance for some time now. But I never would've imagined I would've had that many attempts. I wish my percentage was even better actually, but it worked out for us."
Between them, Shelley and long-range kicker Cade Foster missed four of six field-goal tries on Nov. 5 in a 9-6 overtime loss to LSU. This time, Shelley made 5 of 7.
Said Shelley: "I didn't expect this many field goals. I thought I might get an opportunity where it would come down to us like last time, but nothing like this. It's a great feeling to come out on top. I felt like it was a proving ground to show what we could do.
"It takes off that tarnished look we (kickers) had after the last game. And Cade (Foster) had an awesome game kicking off, too."
Shelley added that moments like Monday night were a big reason he decided to walk on at Alabama. "You come to Alabama to win championships," he noted. "That's what it's all about here."
Much of Shelley's success came due to the true snaps of junior Carson Tinker, a tornado survivor who accepted the Disney Team Spirit award on behalf of his teammates a few weeks ago.
"I know everybody has their own reasons, but this is really special to me," said Tinker, who lost his girlfriend Ashley Harrison to the April 27th Tuscaloosa tornado and suffered a broken wrist himself. "I know right now they're dancing in the streets in Tuscaloosa. This team, and this town have been through a lot. We really wanted to win this for them."
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