On The Money

Maybe Jamie Christensen's final field goal was symbolic of the entire body of work put forth by this edition of Alabama football. It wasn't struck perfectly–would you like some cowhide with your turf toe, Mr. Christensen?–and it sure wasn't an object of beauty while in flight. Texas Tech fans cheered as the field goal struck out on its wobbly course. But the sidewinder sailed just into the left corner of the goal post. The end result was on the money, much like most Crimson Tide results in 2005.

This wasn't the flashiest of Alabama outfits -- though it had some shining moments along the way -- but it's 10 wins were legitimate and hard-earned.

A large round of kudos is due to the class of seniors, headlined by linebacker DeMeco Ryans, quarterback Brodie Croyle, defensive backs Roman Harper, Anthony Madison and Charlie Peprah, and defensive end Mark Anderson.

This group kept the faith through well-documented strife, always believing they could rise to the top. They gave Crimson Tide fans a wild ride to a 9-0 record and a number three spot in the Bowl Championship Series rankings before finally showing their mortality against a loaded LSU team.

Those who don't believe JaMarcus Russell's sudden death dart to Dwayne Bowe had no carryover effect for Alabama on the Auburn game are naive or dim, or they had no contact whatsoever with the Tide players who agonized over the loss of their perfect season.

Now that the season is in the archives, let's put some thoughts down for posterity with the best, the most memorable and the worst of Alabama football, 2005.

Play of the year: Tyrone Prothro's almost incomprehensible grab behind the back of Southern Miss' Jasper Faulk for a 42-yard catch at the USM one-yard line. Don't forget, it was fourth down and Alabama trailed 21-10 at the time. Game-changing performance, indeed. The play salvaged that game, which in turn salvaged the season in week two. They'll be playing that one on highlight reels until the end of time.

Offensive play of the year: Prothro again. Welcoming Florida's man coverage, Prothro sprinted past Vernell Brown, grabbed a Croyle laser, shucked off Brown's tackle attempt and raced 87 yards for a tone-setting touchdown on the Tide's first snap against Florida.

Defensive play of the year: Some plays defy description. When Tennessee fullback Corey Anderson grabbed that screen pass deep in Alabama territory, he looked like an unstoppable 245-pound Mack truck rumbling for the end zone. Roman Harper's appearance on the scene looked like a blur, and he unintentionally head-butted the ball around the three-yard line. What happened next was pure bizarro. The ball amazingly squirted forward with such speed and such english that it careened through the end zone for a touchback, setting up Alabama's game-winning drive in a 6-3 win.

Special teams play of the year: We've got three Christensen field goals to consider here, and since they were all game-winners, it's tough to choose. Curveball. Instead of more ink for Christensen, let's pick the opening kick of the second half in Starkville. Freshman Jimmy Johns, going up against the team that thought it had secured his services, wrenched the ball free from Derek Pegues, and the Tide's Matt Miller scooped and scored from 16 yards out to give Bama some breathing room in a tight one.

Offensive plan of the year: Alabama had the answer for South Carolina's stand up and stroll defense: hammer it. Three players had season-best rushing totals, led by Ken Darby (20 for 145) and Glen Coffee (15 for 75). Prothro's versatility really began to shine here, as he took three snaps at tailback and broke them open for 64 yards. Croyle scrambled for a rushing touchdown and Keith Brown grabbed a pair of air scores. The Tide's effort led to this immortal line from USC coach Steve Spurrier about his defense: ``I'm not sure standing around and moving is scaring people.''

Defensive plan of the year: Joe Kines and his staff conducted free clinics all year, punctuated by its snuffing of Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl. But the most notable master scheming against a quality opponent was the dissection of Florida's spread-option offense. The Tide whipped Florida up front and rattled Chris Leak from the jump, with Anderson's sack causing a fumble on the first play. Alabama led 17-0 before Florida notched its initial first down on a fake punt. The Gators managed 326 yards, but most of it was in the second half with Alabama firmly in control.

Best call: Third and 8 from the Bama 22 with time running out in a 3-3 tie against Tennessee. Croyle hauls off and fires a 43-yard bomb to D.J. Hall, who makes the catch falling backwards on the Tennessee sideline. After Darby's fearless, hard-charging running produces another first down, Christensen is in range to win another one.

Worst call: Fourth-and-5 from the Florida 27, Alabama up 31-3 with less than 10 minutes to play. A long throw for the end zone and Prothro comes down wrong on his left leg. The Alabama offense is never the same.

Extra-effort offense: Two plays on the same drive at Ole Miss. Croyle scrambles for 20 yards on third-and-9 from the Tide 25, then Darby takes a little dump pass and breaks tackles for 16 yards on the final offensive snap to turn what would have been a difficult 47-yard field goal into a 31-yard chip shot.

Extra-effort defense: Anthony Madison and Ramzee Robinson, playing without fellow corner Simeon Castille and challenged with game-long man coverage against Texas Tech's tall and talented wideouts, scored a resounding win by throwing a virtual shutout against the Red Raiders' fade pass.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Thomas Murphy is the Alabama beat writer for the Mobile Register and a contributor to BamaMag.com and ‘BAMA Magazine.

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