Against Northern Illinois a botched extra-point kick allowed NIU to return the football for its own two-point conversion. The margin of that game was just three points. Bama could have beaten Arkansas in the first overtime period, but poor play on the field goal attempt led to disaster. And two weeks ago against Tennessee proper placekicking execution would likely have won the game.
Special Teams Coordinator Dave Ungerer has given the problem plenty of attention. "We've been practicing other holders in there," Ungerer revealed Tuesday. "For the most part our snaps have been pretty good last week."
Fifth-year seniors Gabe Giardina and Nick Ridings have handled placements and long-snapping duties all season for the Tide. This past week junior Alex Fox has also worked extensively holding. "Possibly he could see some action," Ungerer said. "Spencer Pennington had been working there, but with his shoulder (injury) we haven't been able to work him as much."
"Coach Ungerer has put a little confidence in me, and I've tried to respond," Alex Fox said. "The decision is going to be up to him. If it comes down to it, I'm ready to do whatever needs to be done."
Placekicker Brian Bostick has been the easy target for criticism. After all, he's the man responsible for booting the ball between the uprights. But Ungerer believes that blame is misplaced.
"Brian has missed four extra points, and none of them were his fault," Ungerer said. "He's missed four field goals, and three of them have not been his fault. Out of eight (missed) kicks, seven of them have been either the snap or the hold."
Earlier in the season Ungerer had to "fix" Bama's punting, sitting down with punter Bo Freelend to study tape and staying late after practice for extra work. This time it was placekicking's turn.
Ungerer explained, "We've been working at practice to get more reps and get more time together. We brought all the guys in individually and watched the tape together to get reaction from them on what happened."
A kicker since joining the team three years back, Fox isn't new to the job. "I've been a kicker since I've been here," he said. "Kickers hold for each other in practice, so you get plenty of work in. Last year the coaches found out I played receiver in high school and suggested I try holding. I did well and got to dress for some games last year because of that. This year I'm back in the mix. We'll find out if I get in the rotation."
When Freelend had his troubles, it was basically a one-man problem. But placekicking is more complicated. "It's a three-man operation, so each of the guys has a chance to mess up," Ungerer said. "In the Tennessee game one time it was the holder, and the other time the snap was a little bit inside. But I still think it was a snap that should have been put down and kicked.
"Two out of three guys isn't good enough."
Fox says they've made a lot of progress the past two weeks. "The snaps have been perfect. The kicks have been perfect. My job is important, but it's all interconnected. We're all a group. We've had good reps this week."
An NFL coached faced with a similar problem would simply bring the athletes in early in the morning and stay late at night, working out the kinks. But college coaches must deal with strict limitations on practice time.
"It's frustrating, but you do the best you can," Ungerer said. "You try to make sure that you cover and get the proper amount of work at practice. I think we have had enough practice. I don't feel that any of our (mistakes) this year have been from a lack of preparation. It was just a lack of execution on that play."
And as Ungerer pointed out, just because things work perfectly in practice does not always mean it will translate to the playing field on Saturday. "They've worked well in practice. It's kind of like Bo Freelend at punter earlier in the year. He practiced well but didn't kick well in games. We've gotten Bo straightened out, but now our execution on placekicks isn't good."
Without benefit of spring practice, Ungerer has been playing catch-up getting to know his personnel all season. "Part of it was getting here late," he acknowledged. "The kids that we were told were the best are the ones we went with. This next spring coming up I'll have my own ideas and my own guys I'll want to work. But when we got here last fall it wasn't a time to try guys out.
"This group worked together all summer, so you would think that the operation would be smoother and you would not have the problems that we've had in the last month."
Even the best athletes make mistakes sometimes. When a snap is bad, coaches expect the holder to jump up and at least be a threat to make something happen.
"I'll jump on it," Fox said. "If it comes down to that, you've got to be an athlete. You've got to make plays. If that happens, all three of us are ready. Right now Nick is doing a good job snapping, so all I have to do is catch the ball. I don't see that happening, but if it does we're ready."
Along with Tide fans, Ungerer hopes for better execution on game day. "We had a good off week," he said. "And Sunday was a good day. We put more time into it last week, and hopefully that will pay off for us."
EDITOR'S NOTE: Ideally, we would have preferred to include a photo of Alex Fox, but his mug shot wasn't on the disc provided by Media Relations. Our apologies to any friends or family of Alex.