The command of battle: Roll Tide Roll

By Hunter Ford

“Then arose that do-or-die expression, that maniacal maelstrom of sound; that penetrating, rasping, shrieking, blood-curdling noise that could be heard for miles and whose volume reached the heavens–such an expression as never yet came from the throats of sane men, but from men whom the seething blast of an imaginary hell would not check while the sound lasted.” -Colonel Keller Anderson of Kentucky’s Orphan Brigade

“It paragons description, that yell! How it starts deep and ends high, how it rises into three increasing crescendos and breaks with a command of battle.”-New Orleans Times-Picayune reporter.

Colonel Keller and the reporter were describing the famed “Rebel Yell” employed by Confederate soldiers of the Civil War to intimidate opponents. Saturday night as Alabama burned Clemson in Atlanta, the battle cries and hymns of Tide fans were shouted and sung with a passion and confidence not seen since the Gene Stallings era.

Roll Tide Roll, Yeah Alabama and Rammer Jammer never sounded so sweet to the ears of Tide fans, or rankled the nerves of Alabama haters as much.

It has been a long time coming for those that bleed Crimson. One has to go back to the 1992 Sugar Bowl to find a game that Bama fans could be as proud of. It won’t surprise me if we see DVDs of the “Clemson Crush” on sale before the season is over.

You would have to go back to the Kickoff Classic of 1986 to find an Alabama opening game victory over an opponent (Ohio State in ’86) with the clout ninth ranked Clemson brought to this year’s opener.

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You might have to go back to Alabama’s 1971 opening game win over USC in Los Angeles to find an Alabama win that resonates as loudly.

A friend of mine commented that Alabama against Clemson looked like one of Nick Saban’s LSU teams from his championship seasons.

To me Alabama, on Saturday in Atlanta, looked like Alabama. The Tide played with methodical precision on offense and intense domination on defense.

The post Bryant era of Alabama football has been a mixed bag.

Ray Perkins and Bill Curry had some successes in the 1980s. Perkins scored big victories over Auburn, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Washington, SMU and USC. Curry had three nice wins against Penn State and Tennessee, but was shut out by Auburn.

The third decade of the post Bryant era has been a miserable one for Tide fans. From the 2000 season to the present, Alabama has posted only two seasons with fewer than five losses. There were three losing records 3-8 in 2000, 4-9 in ’03 and 6-7 in ’06.

In the 1990s, Gene Stallings brought Alabama back to where its fan base expects to be.

Stallings had an overall record of 70-16-1 in seven seasons. It was the period from 1991 to 1994, however, that was the most glorious. Those Tide squads posted respective records of 11-1, 13-0, 9-3-1 and 12-1. That is an overall record of 45-5-1 in four seasons.

Alabama achieved that stellar record with a great offensive line, good running backs, a competent but not flashy quarterback, a play making wide receiver/kick returner/ situational QB and a smothering, attacking defense that scored its own points in many games.

In 2008 on Saturday, August 30 in the Georgia Dome, Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide looked as good as any that Bryant, Stallings, Wade or Thomas ever put on a field.

Coach Saban will no doubt try and control the swell of outrageous fan expectations. It is a long season. There are many good teams on the schedule. Two opponents, Georgia and LSU are almost certainly better than Clemson. Auburn and Arkansas may be better.

But it looks as if Saban has all the ingredients to keep the Tide rolling. His recipe for success (the famous process) appears to be working like a charm.

The Alabama team, to a man, looked as if it experienced a monumental attitude adjustment from the end of the 2007 season when it fell to Mississippi State, La. Monroe and Auburn to ruin a promising 6-2 start.

Is Saban poised to make a run similar to Stallings’ 91-94 campaigns?

Maybe or maybe not, but Alabama truly gave ‘em Hell Saturday.