Joe Medley: When that close game comes, will the Tide roll on?
by Joe Medley
Sep 26, 2012 | 5768 views |  0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Alabama Coach Nick Saban talks to the Tide during the game against Florida Atlantic. (Photo by Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star)
Alabama Coach Nick Saban talks to the Tide during the game against Florida Atlantic. (Photo by Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star)
TUSCALOOSA — Things are going so well for top-ranked Alabama. It’s only natural to ask what can go wrong, even after LSU’s scare at Auburn made it look less likely something can.

There are injuries, and we’ve seen that with role-playing running back Jalston Fowler.

There are the dreaded external factors that even Nick Saban can’t completely control. They just might tell this team it’s good, and the Tide just might believe it.

Or Alabama players might just do the one thing their coach tells them never to do — notice the scoreboard.

So far, the ultimate measure of performance has said 41-14, 35-0, 52-0 and 40-7. By halftime, it said 31-7, 21-0, 24-0 and 30-0.

The Tide has had such an easy time of it that reserves — the guys about which media dare not ask Saban — are scoring touchdowns. Hello, Kenyan Drake.

So, where’s the peril in all of this, one asks?

Where’s the hint of a landmine on Alabama’s ever-clearing path to the BCS title game?

The peril is that it’s only human nature to ask, and a nagging sense of history says championship teams always have a scary Saturday or two along the way.

Alabama’s 2011 title team lost to LSU before blanking LSU in the BCS final.

Alabama’s 2009 title team had to block two Tennessee field goals and mount a late drive at Auburn.

This season’s Alabama team looks good enough to break with history, and the teams that possibly could test it keep looking more beatable, but history says that scare is coming.

And how will a Tide team with so many new starters handle it?

How will guys used to easy and even restful second halves respond when they have to work a full Saturday shift?

There likely will come a day when there’s good reason to notice the scoreboard and even the clock, and how will a young team deal with the temptation their coach always tells them to avoid?

For starters, the new Tide starters can talk to old hands who have been there.

“It was the Arkansas game of 2010,” senior safety Robert Lester said, referring to Alabama’s 24-20, come-from-behind victory after trailing 20-7 in the third quarter. “That’s when I first discovered that, things aren’t going to always go our way, and we’ve got to execute what we do to actually play our best and be able to win.”

Since then, guys like Lester have seen a few more. Besides LSU in 2011, they lost to South Carolina, LSU and Auburn in 2010.

There’s no more classic of an example than the 2010 Iron Bowl, where Alabama rolled to a 24-0 lead then got rolled by Cam Newton en route to a 28-27 loss.

Alabama fell behind at 11:55 of the fourth quarter but never recovered.

“It brings adversity to the game,” Lester said. “It presents challenges.

“As a DB (defensive back), I’ve learned through my career that, when something goes wrong or something is bad or you’re losing or down or give up big plays, you’ve got to forget about it and keep playing. That’s the only way you’ll have a chance of making plays or winning the game.”

That’s what Lester and others have learned from being there. Other players, including the 12 true freshmen who have seen action this season, haven’t been there.

They haven’t been close.

“I don’t want our team to get complacent by what it’s done,” Lester said. “We’re a good team, but we haven’t really had THAT game to face adversity yet or overcome challenges.”

Sports Columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter @jmedley_star.
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