Resilient Alabama gets it done ... again

November, 7, 2009
11/07/09
11:30
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Derick E. Hingle/US Presswire
Nick Saban and Alabama are in control after clinching the Western Division title Saturday.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- This is Alabama’s last shot.

That is, the Crimson Tide’s last shot to do something that nobody else in the SEC has done -- win at least one SEC championship in every decade since the league was formed in 1933.

Go back and check the records. Alabama won two in the 1930s, one in the 1940s, one in the 1950s, four in the 1960s, eight in the 1970s, two in the 1980s, two in the 1990s and … well, you get the idea.

After Saturday’s 24-15 win over LSU at Bryant-Denny Stadium, we now know the Crimson Tide (9-0, 6-0) will get their chance to extend that streak in the 2000s. They clinched the Western Division title and will get another shot at Florida in the SEC championship game on Dec. 5.

It would be a stretch to call this a great Alabama team, and there have been games this season where the Crimson Tide looked like a flawed team.

But as they roll along (sometimes plod along) toward a rematch with the Gators, there’s no debating the fact that they’re a resilient team.

And this time of year, the combination of resilience, perseverance and a little luck can go a long way.

“We’re going to do whatever it takes,” Alabama running back Mark Ingram said. “We’ve worked so hard to get to this point, and we don’t want to let anything get in the way. We’re focused. We have each other’s backs, and we’ve overcome adversity.

“We just have to keep doing that, keep getting better as a team and finish strong.”

Finishing wasn't a problem Saturday.

Trailing in a game for the first time since the Florida International contest in the second week of the season, Alabama responded like a champ.

The Crimson Tide dominated the fourth quarter, leaning on their offensive line, leaning on Ingram and getting a 73-yard touchdown catch from Julio Jones to take the lead for good.

Alabama kept the ball for just under 11 minutes in the fourth quarter and scored 14 unanswered points to prove yet again that this team has cornered the market on winning.

Ugly. Pretty. Lucky. It doesn’t matter.

They just keep winning.

Two weeks ago, they needed a last-second block of a Tennessee field goal attempt to hold on.

On Saturday, they got what appeared to be a break from the officials. Replays showed that LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson got a foot down inbounds after intercepting a pass with 5:54 to play and Alabama trying to protect a 21-15 lead.

The play was called an incompletion on the field and turned over to the replay official in the booth. After a lengthy review, it was determined that there wasn’t sufficient video evidence to overturn the play and the call on the field stood.

The Crimson Tide took full advantage of their new life and promptly moved into position for a Leigh Tiffin 40-yard field goal that iced the game.

The call was clearly a dicey one, and given all the controversy this season in the SEC about officiating, it’s one of those things that you almost go into a game now expecting some drama.

But before the conspiracy theorists get too loud, keep in mind that the Tigers mustered all of nine yards of total offense in the fourth quarter.

“No matter what it is, this team steps up,” Alabama senior linebacker Cory Reamer said. “That’s our motto. We’ve tried to establish that as our identity, and we’ve done a good job of that throughout the season.”

And back to the lucky part of that equation, when’s the last time a championship team hasn’t had a little luck along the way?

The Tigers played a large chunk of the second half without starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson, who left the game with an ankle injury, and starting running back Charles Scott, who broke his collarbone on the tail end of his 34-yard run in the third quarter and had to leave the game.

If that’s not enough, the Tigers’ best cornerback, Patrick Peterson, battled cramps all day and wasn’t on the field when Jones broke loose on his 73-yard touchdown.

But it was that kind of game, one of those physical, bone-crunching affairs that saw LSU players limping to the sideline one after another.

“We’re extremely pleased that we won the West and now control our own destiny in terms of what else we can accomplish and what else we can do,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “It was a tough, physical game, and man, those games are fun to be a part of.”

Especially when the winning part of it becomes contagious.

“We’re going to keep grinding, keep grinding and keep working,” Jones said.

So far, that’s been good enough.

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