Alabama faced a fourth and 11 from the LSU 38-yard line with 21 ticks of the clock before halftime on Saturday. Nick Saban sent the punt unit on the field but a time out by the Tide may have resulted in a decision that will pay royalties in the future. Adam Griffith was just successful on one of four from the 40-yard line and beyond to that point.
A sideline discussion between Saban and Griffith ensued. “Adam’s range is usually the 35-yard line but it was at the 38 and a little wind helping him,” said Saban during post-game comments. “At first I did not want to give them (LSU) the ball if we missed it there. If they complete one pass they have a chance to kick a field goal.”
The reevaluation exchange with the teams deadlocked at 10-10 was a pivotal moment between the coach and Polish-born specialist. “I looked at Adam and said, ‘What do you think?’ He said I think I can hit it,’” Saban said. “He had a little wind behind him and hit it good. He makes those kinds of kicks a lot [in practice]. So he really did a nice job today. He did a great job on kickoff. That (55-yard FG) was a big kick. He made all his kicks today. We are really pleased and happy with the job that he did.”
Head coaches are constantly confronted with strategic scenarios requiring them to have a pulse on the psychological state of personnel. Griffith’s longest field goal this season was a 40-yard boot in late September against Louisiana-Monroe, seven yards shy of his career best, a 47-yarder in 2014. He had converted on six attempts prior to the 55-yarder on Saturday evening. Saban’s judgement to place faith in Griffith regardless if the kick succeeded was a smart choice.
One reward of accomplishment is Griffith’s self-confidence. Coaches are the gatekeepers to providing a player the opportunity to achieve. A kicker has very few occasions to test his limits. Why wait until a game winning situation to evaluate the execution and competitive spirit of a player? Saban seized the moment and Griffith responded in kind.
Improved technique coupled with a personal transformation since the first game of the season embolden the coach to call on Griffith. “Adam has always had a lot of ability,” Saban said. “He’s done a good job of kicking for us at times in the past and at times he’s been a little inconsistent.
“I think early in the season maybe he wasn’t real consistent in how he was planting before he kicked the ball. It was affecting his accuracy to some degree. He’s worked hard on that. I think now he has doing a little better and I think it’s probably improved his confidence so we’re hopeful that he’ll continue to be able to be a little more consistent.
“We’ve stuck with him and we believe in him. We try to be positive with him and try to help him so that he can accomplish what he wants to accomplish. I do agree the mental approach that you take; I don’t know that anybody knows that a positive attitude works but a negative one doesn’t so we try to stay positive with our guys.”
Griffith’s 55-yard FG before the half tied for the second-longest in Alabama history and equaled the longest made without the use of a kicking tee. Ryan Pflugner hit a 55-yard field goal against Arkansas on September 26. 1998. Van Tiffin holds the Tide mark with a 57-yarder against Texas A&M on September 14, 1985.
Griffith was one of eight “Players of the Week” selected by the Alabama coaching staff. Griffith connected on two other FGs (22, 29) and three extra point kicks. He averaged 64 yards on seven kickoffs with three touchbacks. Griffith, second leading scorer on the team with 74 points, has successfully converted 13 of 19 FGs and is a perfect 35 for 35 on PAT’s for the season. He has 58 kickoffs, 27 for touchbacks and averages 62.7 yards per attempt.
Quarterbacks and kickers can win or lose a game. Adoration and severe criticism are the potential ends of the spectrum reserved for those positions. Managing their mental well-being is paramount to insuring a steady performance. The ramifications and consequences of Saban’s last second change of heart may go down as his most astute football decision in the run for another national championship.
Watch and listen to Adam Griffith discuss the record kick after Alabama (8-1, 5-1) defeated LSU (7-1, 4-1) 30-16 on Saturday evening at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.