Alabama looked primed to win its fourth national championship in five years after an 11-0 start. Those national championship dreams came crashing down however when the Crimson Tide dropped the Iron Bowl to Auburn in dramatic fashion.
The Tide still had the chance to end the season on a positive note in the Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma, but the No. 11 Sooners pulled off the upset, 45-31.
With the disappointing finish now in the rearview mirror, three Crimson Tide lettermen who are participating in the Senior Bowl this week said distractions and selfishness and not doing the little things were a big part of the team’s season-ending losses.
“Coach (Nick) Saban’s a real good coach,” receiver Kevin Norwood told AL.com. “He only wants the best for his players. If the players can stop being selfish and just basically hand themselves over to the team and be committed to the team and be committed to doing what coach Saban wants … because all coach Saban wants to do is win. Everybody wants to win, nobody wants to lose. I think if they buy in, I think they’ll be successful.”
Norwood, a team captain, didn’t get into specifics in terms of players who may not have “bought in,” but pointed to “a bunch of distractions” that have affected the team.
“Not doing the little things right. Not finishing across the line,” Norwood said. “All of it’s going to catch up eventually, and it did.”
Alabama dominated then tenth-ranked LSU on Nov. 9 to improve to 9-0, but followed that win with sluggish performances against Mississippi State and FCS-level Chattanooga before the last-second loss to Auburn. In 2011 and 2012 -- both seasons that culminated in BCS titles -- the Tide suffered a regular season loss, but much earlier in the season.
“I wish we would have prepared more for the Auburn game,” said defensive end Ed Stinson. “I wish my teammates would have been a little more disciplined on defense and on offense. We killed ourselves with penalties. Some players weren’t doing their assignments. I just feel like we could have done better. It’s simple as that.”
The Tide had won 36 of their last 38 games going into the Iron Bowl matchup with Auburn, and linebacker Adrian Hubbard said that there were “just too many guys who were used to winning and they forgot what losing felt like.”
The defeat at the hands of in-state rival Auburn was apparently not enough of a wake-up call for the Tide, as the team played uncharacteristically poor defense in the loss to Oklahoma.
Moving forward though, Hubbard thinks the Crimson Tide will get back on track and the losses will help reinvigorate the team heading into next season.
“I think the people who didn’t buy in are eliminated from our team,” Hubbard said. “At Alabama, we do things a little bit different than everybody else. Our standards are a lot higher than everyone else and next year will be a great year for Alabama.”
“When you lose, it reignites the fire. Everyone hates losing around there, so when it happens, no one’s happy. When you win, everyone’s happy.”
With a top-ranked recruiting class coming in and several key players returning, there’s no reason to think the Tide can’t contend for a national title in 2014. Because the championship teams of 2011 and 2012 both suffered regular season losses before their respective BCS triumphs, the 2013 losses undoubtedly provide motivation going into 2014 but they aren't the end of the world.
- - -