"I gathered everyone up and told them, ‘The defense is not going to be the reason we lose this game," Rasheed related in the locker room, following the Bama win. "It was right after the offense scored and tied it up 17 to 17. We were getting ready to go out and take the field. I gathered the guys up and told them, ‘We're not going to give up any more points. We're going to make the plays we need to make.'"
Mississippi State had just finished dominating the third quarter, scoring 10 unanswered points to seize momentum. Even though the game was tied when Rasheed held the impromptu team meeting, few Tide fans had much confidence their previously beleaguered defense could hold. After all, in four conference losses Alabama was either ahead or tied late in the game, only to break down defensively.
But this time something was different.
"It was a spontaneous, spur-of-the-moment speech," Rasheed said. "I just wanted to get my point across, and I was going to say what it took. I told them, ‘We're going to get off the field when we need to get off the field.'"
Obviously someone was listening, because State's next two possessions were both three plays and a punt. On the Bulldog's final offensive effort, two passes did net a single first down. But that turned out to be just a tease, as the Bama D quickly slammed the door shut.
And Rasheed put his personal stamp on the defensive stop. On third and ten from the State 18-yard line, he and Brooks Daniels closed with a vengeance on a short underneath route, ripping their man to the ground. And on the final fourth-down play, Rasheed broke up the attempted crossing pattern himself. "The quarterback rolled out," he related. "I had the No. 3 man (in the pass pattern). I saw the throw and got a good break on the ball. It was a good pass, but I got a great break on the ball, and I was able to knock it down."
Earlier in the season, Tide Defensive Coordinator Carl Torbush moved from the press box to the sideline, for the express purpose of providing face-to-face communication with the Bama defenders. But this was one time when he chose to walk away from his troops.
Torbush explained; "I saw them gathering up over there. And when they gathered up, I knew it was time for me to leave and let them talk. I overheard enough to know that they were challenging each other.
"They knew that they were up against it. They were saying ‘It's up to us to get it done.' Sure enough, they got it done."
Of course it's the staff's job to provide direction and encouragement to the athletes. But all coaches understand that on-the-field success only comes when the players take personal responsibility for what happens. "That goes back to developing leadership," Torbush said. "And obviously several of the players stepped forward today. I'm very proud of that."
Rasheed was elected by his teammates last summer to serve on the team's Leadership Council, demonstrating their trust. However, prior to Saturday he would invariably describe his style as ‘leading by example.'
But obviously, when it comes to a football team, providing a good example only goes so far. "I believe that speech touched a lot of guys," Rasheed said. "It was an enthusiastic speech. I was determined to get my point across to the older guys and younger guys that we weren't going to be the reason for another loss.
"We were going to go out there and fight, fight, fight until it was 0:00 on the clock. That's what we did. We gave it all our effort in the fourth quarter."
Mississippi State had controlled the clock for more than 10 minutes of the third period, totaling seven first downs and 137 yards of offense. But Alabama owned the final stanza, limiting the Bulldogs to a paltry 51 yards of offense en route to the victory.
"After (the talk) I saw determination in their eyes," Rasheed said. "I saw a fight--that they were going to go out there and give it their all. That was good to see, because that's what I wanted to accomplish.
"I saw in their eyes that they were going to go out there and fight as hard as they could and do as much as they possibly could to win that ball game for us."