Shane: Crimson Tide in the hunt

By Shane from Centerpoint
After we watched this year’s version of the Alabama Crimson Tide perform in the 2009 season opener one thing is certain – this team can make multiple (normally fatal) mistakes, easily overcome them, and recover quickly to pound their opponent into the turf. Eventually, the Tide offense hammered on a stout Virginia Tech defense until they submitted in the fourth quarter to what should be called the “Elephant Stomp”.

In fact, by the second half the re-vamped Alabama offensive line adjusted well to the first-half confusion created by one of America’s finest defensive minds, Bud Foster, and allowed running backs Mark Ingram and Roy Upchurch to ram the pigskin straight down the Hokies’ throats for the entire fourth quarter.

First time starter Greg McElroy shook off a freshman-like first half, and sliced VA Tech’s defensive backfield to pieces in the second like a seasoned veteran.

Kudos to Coach Nick Saban for starting the season against a top-ten ranked opponent in front of a national audience. In doing so, Saban tossed his new quarterback directly into the spotlight on opening day. McElroy handled his debut well.

By the way, if anybody is interested in knowing how tough Nick Saban’s defense will be, you can just ask Tech’s quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Alabama shut him down. Future opponents can count on an upcoming encounter with one of the biggest, fastest stop–units in the nation.

Sure, Alabama made too many errors, even for the first game. Still, it is hard to find fault when you look at the numbers: Alabama’s offense held the ball for almost 40 minutes, gained nearly 500 yards., and racked up 34 points.

Meanwhile, the defense set the tone for this year’s campaign by allowing VA Tech only 155 yds. of total offense. Honestly, most teams are going to have difficulty this year moving the football against the Tide.

Overall, the proof-in-the-pudding was more than evident last Saturday night. As this team improves in the next few weeks while playing in a couple of glorified scrimmages it will be a formidable force in the national title hunt.

Apparently Nick Saban has the right idea when it comes to scheduling a top-ten ranked non-conference opponent; and by winning the game he shows the pollsters that he will play anybody anytime in order to gain a foothold in the race for the national crown.

There is no doubt that winning an opener and beating an opponent like Virginia Tech will gain the respect of coaches around the country. Besides, the media loves it.

As is always true, time will tell the complete story about this year’s Tide squad. But, it is easy to see that they are tremendously talented and deep. In three short years Coach Saban is putting a product on the field that matches the “traditional” expectations of the Crimson Empire.

He has Alabama fans looking forward to the next big game. His team reflects the confidence level that Saban exudes every day. The players are lock–step in tune with his leadership on the field.

As evidenced by Saturday night’s relentless performance, this 2009 team is on a mission. Adversity does not seem to affect their momentum, nor do they seem to fold when the heat is on.

That fourth quarter in the Georgia Dome was an overwhelming display of dominance that made huge strides toward establishing this team’s identity as a unit that is going to attack its opponent for 60 minutes.

Virginia Tech quit after 45 minutes. The intense pressure applied by Saban’s troops cracked the Hokies, and in the end broke their backs.

How good is this team going to be? We’ll see! However, we do know this: if you come to play the Crimson Tide you’d better be ready. Forget the playbook. Alabama can beat you with superior size, speed, strength and talent. That is a mark of a great football program.

Finally, let there be no doubt, Saturday’s victory propelled Alabama to a place where they belong – in the hunt for the BCS national championship.
—Shane writes a weekly column for the Call News and the Capstone Report.