Nick Saban says teamâ€™s legacy is determined by what happens now
Losing is tough. Just ask the 2008 Alabama Crimson Tide. The team won 12 games and lost one, but that loss has created a hangoverâ€”something the players and fans are fighting to overcome as Sugar Bowl preparation begins.
When Alabama entered the fourth quarter of the SEC Championship Game against Florida, fans and players felt a trip to Miami was within their grasp. It took tremendous effort from Floridaâ€™s Tim Tebow to bar Alabama from the BCS Championship game. Since then, this Alabama team has dealt with the disappointment.
All-American lineman Andre Smith said the Sugar Bowl against Utah is a chance for the Tide to find redemption. â€œEvery great team had an opportunity once they failed to try to redeem itself,â€ he said.
Another All-American lineman said something similar.
â€œTo get over a game like that one you have to win the next one,â€ said Alabama center Antoine Caldwell.
It is a message stressed by Alabama coach Nick Saban.
Saban said the team could also prove something about itself by bouncing back from the SEC Championship loss to Florida.
â€œMost good teams can do that,â€ he said. â€œI really do think the legacy of this team lies in what they do from this point on.â€
But the game has additional meaning.
â€œWe are excited with the opportunity that our team has here,â€ Saban said. â€œPlaying in a bowl game is a one game season. Our team has a lot to prove here in terms of what they can accomplish as a team in winning 13 games as well as winning a BCS Bowl game.â€
A BCS Bowl seemed unthinkable last year following a winless November, but a victory in Shreveport sent the Tide in a new direction. It was during the bowl that things begin to change around the team, according to All-American safety Rashad Johnson. Saban spelled out a similar timeline for the teamâ€™s commitment to improvement.
â€œThis has been a great team that changed last year when we finished playing the bowl game we played in last year,â€ Saban said. It was during the off-season when players â€œbought inâ€ to what the coaches were asking during conditioning, spring, summer and then into fall camp, he said.
It was work, but the players are happy about the reward of heading to New Orleans.
â€œIt is real exciting,â€ Caldwell said. â€œWe worked out tails off to get to this point. I think it is an honor for all of us to represent the SEC in the Sugar Bowl.â€