All Was Not Lost

It's a given that no team at any level would ever admit to having achieved a moral victory. A Vanderbilt can come within moments of pulling off an upset and then insist, "We're not interested in a moral victory." It is even more realistic that a team at the level of Alabama be satisfied only with true victory. Close does not count for the Crimson Tide.

Yes, Alabama could have defeated Oklahoma. To say it would have taken a perfect game might be a bit much, but Alabama played very well and was unable to upset the Sooners. In truth, Oklahoma played the near-perfect game and it took all of that for the Sooners to defeat Alabama.

It was reasonable that Oklahoma was the favorite and no one could reasonably argue that the best team did not win Saturday night. But that doesn't mean there are not situations where progress or achievement can't be realized in defeat, and Bama's loss at the hands of Oklahoma may have been such.

As Oklahoma Head Coach Bob Stoops said after his number one Sooners had held off the Tide 20-13 at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday night, "Alabama is a great program. Places like this, they appreciate good football. They've won enough around here that they are not jealous of anyone else. They're a good team, which doesn't surprise anyone."

Alabama is a good team. More important, indications are this is a team that will improve throughout the season. Every game is an opportunity for a new coaching staff to learn more about its players. And these coaches have demonstrated what they can do. This is a case where time is on the side of the Tide. Each week of work should mean a more efficient team, particularly on offense.

And even though Alabama lost to Oklahoma, Bama should nlot lose any confidence. The Tide played nearly even with the team judged by most to be the best in college football. The game, as Bama's opener a week earlier, provided an opportunity for the Crimson Tide to show poise in adversity, and Alabama was up to the job.

Mike Shula has held up to considerable challenges in his short career as Alabama's head coach. There will be new challenges for many weeks to come, and logic has it that some will get the best of him. He has said that the goal of Alabama's coaches and players is to correct mistakes so they are not made twice.

It might not be possible to tell if the mistakes of the Oklahoma game are corrected against Kentucky this week. Kentucky is not Oklahoma. But there is a new challenge. The loss to Oklahoma is the type game that can drain a team emotionally, keep it from concentrating on the next task. A critical job for Shula this week will be to have his team follow his philosophy of forgetting the past and preparing for the future.

As for the more distant future, dozens of top prospects from around the state and region saw an Alabama team that was not out-played and not out-coached. Those future college stars also saw a Bama crowd behind the Crimson Tide from start to beyond finish. Even after the game was over, the Crimson Tide faithful stayed to share their appreciation for the effort of the Alabama coaches and players, a massive cheer for Bama as the disappointed men in Crimson trotted to their dressing room. Prospects can't help but notice that when compared to, for instance, the stands emptying early when the home team falters.

A loss is always painful. But all was not lost.

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