Calling for Confidence

Frustration, and the story play calling versus execution versus whatever else we think might be behind Alabama's inability to win those crucial situations that determine the outcome of college football games, were all at play Saturday night after Bama's disheartening loss to Tennessee.

Saturday's 16-13 Tennessee victory over Alabama, unlike last year's 6-3 Bama win when Roman Harper made a miracle save to keep UT out of the end zone, wasn't one where Bama's defense was quite good enough to win all by itself. Simeon Castille was tripped at the eight-yard line as he tried to score a touchdown in the second quarter, but he was tripped up by Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge and the offense couldn't finish.

And the Bama offense couldn't finish it for him.

"For them to come out and play this great game and for us not to hold up our end of the bargain, it's really tough," Tim Castille said.

It wasn't clear this Alabama defense could do as well as they did, but opportunism (three interceptions) and effort was almost enough. The Crimson Tide defense entered tied slightly above average in scoring defense (33rd nationally, 6th in the SEC), rushing defense ( 4th, 47th), passing defense (4th, 16th), pass efficiency (7th).

Tim Castille and the rest of the offense, which hasn't impressed anyone this year, wanted to go for it on fourth and one just before the half, but Head Coach Mike Shula opted for the field goal instead.

"To me, what we needed to do is come up here and get a win," Tim said. "If we can't get a yard then we don't deserve to be in the race for the SEC. If we've got me and Le'Ron (McClain) in the backfield and we've got our offensive line playing as well as they do, if we can't get a yard that's on us. We don't deserve to be playing with these teams if we can't do that."

But don't blame Shula for making a bad decision, he said.

"Everybody on the team was like go for it," Tim said. "That's why he's the head coach. That's why he's paid the money to, when our emotions are in it, to make the right decision."

"We have to get his confidence," he said. We have to get his confidence for him to make that decision and go ‘it's fourth and one on the one, y'all go.' We have to make it as an offense where it's not a decision for him."

It appears Castille assessed the situation correctly. Shula said he wanted momentum going into halftime and to be stopped would have been awful. Offensive Coordinator Dave Rader also expressed doubt.

"It was a good solid 36-38 inches," Rader said. "For a game like this that's a long way to go."

With another close loss the vicious cycle of decisions and executions, at least one part of which by definition of losing the game is flawed in retrospect, continues.

"It hurts," Simeon Castille said, "but all I can say is we'll try to do it again next week and I think the outcome will be different. It's hard for us to have the lead and play as well as we did for the first three quarters and give up the lead. It hurts. We want to beat Tennessee. We had a chance and we let it slip away."

For the offense, back to work, and back to trying to build confidence in itself.

"It's not a decision," Tim said. "Fourth and one, at home, on the road, wherever. At the one -- at the one! We have to show him somehow that it doesn't matter. If it's just a yard that we can get a yard, and the only way we can do that is at practice over the next few weeks, so hopefully we can get that confidence back where he can trust us to do it."

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