Hunter Ford on college football

I felt a little off my game last Saturday as I watched Alabama get it’s game on against Western Carolina.

I was very impressed by the increased intensity and enthusiasm of both the Tide players and fans. I wore my Alabama golf shirt in the press box. An acquaintence of mine teased me “I didn’t know you worked for Alabama.” But hey! I was conceived in Tuscaloosa (no kidding) so I can wear Crimson as a member of the working media.

A few observations about my experience Saturday.

Felt “off my game” cause the Birmingham News ran a front page, above the fold story nout the Hoover footbal investigation, and it really bummed me out ’cause I still get the feeling there is a Tom Sawyer style whitewash coming. (Hope someone understands the reference.) It was interesting that Josh Chapman was cleared to play.

I met two families of enthusiastic Alabama fans and nobody in either family had attended the University, although a daughter in one of the families will be attending soon.

One guy was a self described military brat who landed in Montgomery with his Air Force father and never left. He has been pulling for the Tide ever since and makes as many games as he can. His oldest daughter will be a student next fall.

I saw a young father with a small child in tow. They were wearing matching white and crimson jerseys with matching crimson ball caps and grey shorts. Someone asked the father for directions and he said “I’m not from here, I’m from Pensacola. This is our first time to come to a game.” Pensacola…hmmm…where have I heard that before.

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The Quad featured a giant screen TV showing Notre Dame being spanked by Georgia Tech in the home opener for the Irish. Gotta love that. Alabama didn’t get Appie Stated but I saw a few glitches in the Bama hard drive.

Anyway here is the column I came away with for The Western Star.

Nothing should be taken for granted in football

By Hunter Ford

In college football, nothing should ever be taken for granted. Just ask Michigan.

The Wolverines lost their home opener to Appalachian State, a I-AA team that is very good, but still has no business beating one of the most storied programs in all of D-I football. ( I know the jargon has changed but I am ignoring it).

In a 52-6 season opening victory over I-AA Western Carolina, The Alabama Crimson Tide did not fall victim to the same fate as Michigan. Still, the fans and players who wear Crimson shouldn’t be too smug. Alabama started the Nick Saban era by returning the opening kick off to midfield. On the first play from scrimmage, tailback Terry Grant made a weaving path to the end zone to give Alabama a 7-0 lead. The 2007 Tide looked a bit like some of the old teams from the 1970s, scoring at will against an outmanned opponent and going deep into the bench in the process.

Alabama played three quarterbacks and had three different runners score touchdowns.

The Tide got stronger as the game wore on and never let up. But there were a few areas of concern, especially with a match against a strong Vanderbilt team in Nashville looming on the horizon followed by dates with Arkansas, Georgia and Florida State. The Tide officially kept Western Carolina out of the end zone, but was burned in the first period by a 62-yard touchdown pass that was nullified by a holding call.

Leigh Tiffin, who was perfect on extra point attempts, missed two field goals in three attempts.

Tiffin’s first miss was a chip shot that would have given Alabama an early 10-0 lead.

A short kick to give the team a two score lead early in the game will be of much higher value against a strong opponent. Tiffin’s next miss was from a little more than 40 yards out. With a big lead and no pressure it was a kick that should have been made. What happens if he lines up to kick a 47-yarder with 10 seconds left against Tennessee with the game on the line? Overall, however, Alabama fans and players should be very pleased this week. Saturday’s victory ended a four game losing streak for Alabama and comes after one of the most bi-polar (frustrating and enthusiastic) off-seasons in Tide history.

Saban’s team looks well disciplined, well conditioned and well organized. If the Tide plays with the same focus and consistency throughout the season, fans should expect Alabama to knock off a few of the quality opponents down the road.

But, two of Alabama’s recent opening games should be remembered. In 1997 Mike DuBose, who was a wildly popular choice of fans to replace Gene Stallings, won his first game against Houston in a route. Dubose ended that season 4-7. In 2003 Mike Shula began his career with a route over South Florida in the last game Alabama has played at Legion Field in Birmingham. Shula’s first team ended 4-9, losing more games than any other Tide squad since the “ears” Whitworth days.

Alabama is headed in the right direction, but things can go south quickly. Alabama fans shouldn’t take anything for granted.