Steve Spurrier's Gator teams rarely fail offensively, but his lone national title came when he had defensive strategist Bob Stoops on staff. Then Stoops went to Oklahoma and won a title of his own.
Defense wins championships.
Alabama has a long history of dominant defenses. People who are supposed to know such things say the 1992 defense, which ‘just happened' to win a championship, was one of the best ever.
This year's defensive unit, however, has caught more than its share of flak. Some criticism was no doubt warranted, but even valid criticism hurts when you're a young man reading the state newspapers, and everyone from columnists to fans writing the sports editor is calling for you to be drawn and quartered. Or worse yet, they're questioning your heart.
In the win over Auburn Saturday, the Tide defense went a long way toward proving they have both heart and talent. They held Auburn to seven points, and they gave the ball back to the Alabama offense in short order--time after time, notching five sacks and recovering a fumble.
Junior safety Waine Bacon said that the Tide defenders reached inside themselves for some motivation Saturday. "We challenged ourselves. We've been beat up by the media, and we feel like we let ourselves down. So we challenged ourselves to play a big game and to play good defensively in pass coverage."
Junior tackle Jarret Johnson, whose hit on Auburn quarterback Jason Campbell led to Reggie Myles' fumble recovery, echoed Bacon's comments. Asked if the defense was motivated by the prevailing wisdom that Alabama didn't have a chance, he said that it provided "A ton of motivation.
"We'd read the newspapers and everything saying that they're better at us at that and this and we knew that we had more heart and will. We knew that was more important than talent. We weren't really worried about the talent side of it, and we just came out and executed and played really well."
Golfers, baseball pitchers and even sportswriters know that if you lose your confidence, you're shot. It might be cliché', but it's true.
According to Bacon, the defensive unit hasn't played confidently until late in the season. "I believe we had the confidence in ourselves, but I also believe we were a little timid, and the last couple of weeks, we've just put it all on the table. We're going to take chances, and we did today. We made big plays."
Bacon also says that playing in Jordan-Hare stadium wasn't intimidating. "You can't go into a game being intimidated by anyone. Football is football. You're going to face good players. If you're intimidated, then they're going to get the best of you."
So if the setting wasn't intimidating, was beating Auburn on their home field important?
Johnson says, "It's a huge win. For anyone to beat Auburn like this, it really doesn't matter what your record is. So this is a huge win for Alabama."
And while some players took home pieces of Jordan-Hare shrubbery as souvenirs, Johnson has something better--bragging rights. "I'm two and one against Auburn, and that's something I can brag about."