From New Orleans -- Alabama’s Crimson Tide football team had been hearing the song all week, at every rally and on every street corner of this LSU hyped-up city. Hold that Tiger. Hold that Tiger.
And so it did.
The Crimson Tide’s 21-0 victory, the first-ever shutout in a national title game, got Alabama the $30,000 crystal bowl with the Bowl Championship Series’ initials on it, and the final No. 1 ranking too.
It will get the Tide little more, certainly not any sort of national groundswell of support as a team of legendary greatness. Half a team, maybe. The defensive team.
Don’t be fooled by the normal-looking 21-0 score. The Crimson Tide didn’t score a touchdown until 4 minutes 36 seconds remained in the game, well after Louisiana State’s Tigers could be expected to care, what with their offense producing about as much effective attacking as the Mater Dei junior varsity. That touchdown was the first between these teams in nearly eight quarters and one overtime period. LSU had won their previous game this season, back on Nov. 5. That one was a scintillating 9-6 in overtime and featured five field goals.
Alabama’s 21 points came on five of seven field-goal attempts and Trent Richardson’s late 34-yard scoring run. Fittingly, Jeremy Shelley, who kicked the five field goals, missed the extra point after the touchdown. You could almost imagine LSU Coach Les Miles huddling with his team after that miss and telling the boys, “O.K., all we need is 11 safeties.”
This was to be a showcase game for the mighty Southeastern Conference. Now that the entire country got a second look, before grabbing the remote for something more compelling, such as “Antiques Roadshow,” millions are left to wonder what all this SEC noise and Southern drooling and drawling is about. If Alabama and LSU are No. 1 and No. 2, where does one rank Oklahoma State, Stanford and Oregon? Even USC, had it not been banned from the club the last two years?
How about a tie for 1-A? At least those teams have some semblance of offensive magic. Yes, LSU is strong defensively, but can anybody imagine Brandon Weeden, Andrew Luck, Darron Thomas or Matt Barkley needing nearly eight entire quarters to score a touchdown?
Alabama’s AJ McCarron was the offensive player of the game, deserved it, and is going to be good. But the quarterback on the No. 1 team in the country needs to lead a better offense than the Crimson Tide showed Monday. Alabama moved the ball well around midfield all night, then stalled. Its game plan, well executed, seemed to be getting in position for field goals.
Boring. Not a national championship pedigree.
LSU’s Miles, who had predicted that the game would feature “big boys’ football,” was half right. He got that from his defense. His offense was dreadful, led by his quarterback, Jordan Jefferson, who was the same. The first time LSU crossed into Alabama territory was with about 71/2 minutes left in the game. LSU managed five first downs and 92 total yards. Yes, LSU was playing a tough defense, but Alabama isn’t the Green Bay Packers.
It will be interesting to see the TV ratings for this one, especially in parts of the country where fans are used to seeing things such as scoring drives. One local columnist, Scott Rabalais of the Baton Rouge Advocate, wrote Monday morning that the rest of the country looks at the SEC and, given its run of national titles, “gives the devil his due.” He also said he understood all this SEC success and hype made Monday night’s game, for much of the rest of the country, “a jealousy-fueled turnoff.”
He was close. All he had to do was omit the middle two words.
The attendance was 78,237, in a Superdome used to the offensive flashes of Drew Brees. To have these two offenses use the same field, especially LSU’s, seemed almost sacrilegious.
So a college football season that could have used a grand conclusion of excellence and drama stumbled home instead, with BCS officials perhaps wishing, in their most private moments, that they had just called this one a season after the Rose and Fiesta bowls.
The season of horrors at Penn State, alleged cheating at Miami and sanctions for the deceitful behavior of Jim Tressel at Ohio State could have used a nice smiley face at the end.
It was poised for that.
The game was so big that one local paper led its front page Monday morning with the headline “Joy in Streets as Game Day Arrives at Last.” It was so big that they rescheduled the inauguration ceremonies for Gov. Bobby Jindal, who, it was breathlessly reported, had his “first opportunity to meet former Gov. Edwin Edwards, who was in federal prison when Jindal took his first oath of office for his first term four years ago.”
Sadly, the product did not meet the promise. Certainly not for a country of TV-watchers who, depending on individual tolerances for boredom, may have hung in there to the end. At least there was the driving drama of whether one of these teams would ever score a touchdown.
One area of the country will see none of this objectively, nor would it be expected to. Its team won a national championship, style points won’t matter to such folks, and they will have their own rallying music to ignore the negatives and relish the night.
Sweet home, Alabama.