Monday, September 7, 2009

Bama Back Where They Belong

by K. L. Smith

I watched enough football from Friday to Sunday that I may have radiation burns and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from flipping channels (God bless those folks at DirecTV). This kickoff weekend has been exciting. And it ain't over yet. As I write this, I am looking forward to the Bearcats of Cincinnati taking on the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers and Bobby Bowden's Seminoles versus the once mighty Hurricanes of Miami.

But this little roadside sports grill on the information superhighway is serving up some Crimson Tide piled high on the Hokies of Virginia Tech. Saturday night's Chik-Fil-A Kickoff Classic (I should get paid for these shameless plugs) was all that it was billed to be, and maybe more. Defense wins championships, and Alabama showed a defense that may gel into something unstoppable in the next few weeks.

Alabama's 800th win (Bama joins Michigan, Texas, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Ohio State and Penn State with 800+ wins) came with a few silly penalties and some miscues on offense, but provided a satisfying start to the season. Hokies head ball coach Frank Beamer may have summed it up best. "They've got it. We played one of the great teams in the country and just didn't play well enough to match 'em."

"IT", in case you were wondering, is that intangible, unmeasurable, elusive thing known as a winning spirit. Every matchup, weather you're talking about bar room brawls or pillow fights, has it. But only one side can grab it, claim it, and hold on to it. And to be able to keep it through an entire season is something that only a few can boast about.

I am reminded of Alabama's 1979 unstoppable behemoth that shut out 5 teams, hung 383 points on the season's opponets while allowing only 67, and letting only 2 teams (Tennessee and Auburn) to score more than 10 points on a 12-0 Championship Team. That is championship spirit. And it is rare indeed. The only missing ingredient in this years team may be a high powered offense. But as Lee Corso would say, "Not so fast, my friend". We saw a power runner in Mark Ingram and true freshman Trent Richardson stepped in late to pop a bruise or two on the Hokie defensive line. The "Rudy" award for the most heart should go to Brandon Deaderick. (If you are not familiar with the movie "Rudy", you cannot call yourself a fan of college football and must head to Blockbuster immediately) Not even a crackhead's bullet could keep him from playing in Atlanta on Saturday night. That is true grit, even by John Wayne's standards.

The surprise of the night may be reserved for last years backup QB and this years future star Greg McElroy. Making his first start since he hit the dance floor at the '07 Carroll Senior High school prom (I'm guessing he impressed some folks that night, too) Southlake, Texas' McElroy threw for 230 yards, a touchdown and 1 interception. Of course his dance partners Saturday night were a little bigger, smelled of Icy Hot instead of Coco Mademoiselle, and did a little more than step on his feet when he wasn't paying attention. Virginia Tech's defense sacked McElroy only twice, but put him down after nearly every pass attempt.

Bama fans should be thrilled about Saturday nights outcome. It is an improved team that Nick Saban has begun to mold. A team that showed some championship spirit in the first game of 2009 and hopefully, one that will bring Alabama some championships very soon.

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