Alabama naturally expected an onsides kick with just over four and a half minutes to play and had its “hands team” in for the return. That means wide receivers and defensive backs rather than big men on the front line.
Black seemed distressed at his mistake, and made his way towards Alabama’s sideline, where he was met by Alabama Coach Nick Saban, who seemed to be in quite a foul mood.
On Wednesday, though, Saban gave Black at least a partial reprieve.
“In his defense, in all honesty,” Saban said, “that was our fault.
“This is a situation that we practiced and we have always practiced in camp. When there are less than two minutes [to play] in the game and the other team doesn’t have any timeouts, you don’t want to take a chance on getting hit and fumbling.” The plan is to take it out, but to take a knee before the cover team arrives.
Black’s mistake was that there was four and a half minutes to play.
And as Saban pointed out, “First of all, they do you a favor when they kick it into the end zone, which they did.
“So he shouldn’t have brought it out.
“That’s number one.
“But number two, with that much time left in the game, he needs to to and get as much as he can.
“We didn’t do a very good job up front, which we have coached and we have done, of the hands team blocking the [coverage] people when it’s not an onsides kick. They didn’t do a very good job.
“So it wasn’t all Chris Black’s fault. It was our fault as coaches. We had not gone over that situation with him where there was more than two minutes left and he needed to get what he could get. And the hands team knows they need to do a much better job of blocking so we can get better field position.
“But if they kick it in the end zone in a situation like that when you have the hands team in, they’re doing you a favor and you never want to bring it out.”
As for Saban’s meeting with Black as he came off the field, the coach said, “It wasn’t a bad conversation. It was a teaching moment.
“It’s unfortunate that it happened, but we’ll take the blame for that one.”