Bama Dynasty: The Crimson Tide's Road to College Football Immortality

Bama Dynasty: The Crimson Tide's Road to College Football Immortality

by Christopher Walsh

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Overview


Since Nick Saban was hired as head coach at Alabama in 2007, the Crimson Tide have established a record of excellence that is unparalleled in college football’s modern era. Featuring stunning action photography from all five championship campaigns and expert analysis from author Christopher Walsh, Bama Dynasty is the inside story of Alabama’s era of dominance and the team’s path to its fifth championship under Saban.

This commemorative book takes fans through Alabama’s first four championship seasons as well the exciting journey in 2017. Led by quarterback Jalen Hurts and a ferocious defense, Alabama started the season with 11 straight wins, found sweet redemption against No. 1 Clemson in the Sugar Bowl, and finally topped the college football world by beating SEC foe Georgia in the national championship game. Relive an unforgettable season with this must-have keepsake, which includes features on Hurts, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Levi Wallace, Ronnie Clark, and more. Roll Tide! 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781629374925
Publisher: Triumph Books
Publication date: 02/01/2018
Pages: 128
Sales rank: 1,251,898
Product dimensions: 8.30(w) x 10.70(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author


Christopher Walsh has been an award-winning sportswriter since 1990. He’s been twice nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, won three Football Writers Association of America awards, and received both the 2006 and 2014 Herby Kirby Memorial Award from the Alabama Sports Writers Association. He is the author of more than 20 sports books including Nick Saban vs. College Football: The Case for College Football's Greatest Coach and 100 Things Crimson Tide Fans Need to Know & Do Before They Die. He currently writes for SEC Country.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

College Football Playoff Championship vs. Georgia

Alabama 26, Georgia 23 (OT) January 8, 2018 • Atlanta, Georgia

Crimson Pride Freshmen Lead Crimson Tide to Stunning Comeback Win Over Bulldogs

The emotions were all on display on the floor at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Laughing; crying. Joy; shock. Pride; disbelief.

That was Alabama football team after it pulled off maybe the most stunning, incredible and unbelievable national championship game ever seen. So many words could be used to describe it, yet none of them were good enough.

"Best feeling in the world," was all senior cornerback Levi Wallace could offer while quietly watching the Crimson Tide fans celebrate their 17th national title. "Nothing like it."

Nor was this game, which one simply had to watch to fully understand. After a horrendous first half for the Crimson Tide, in which the offense managed just 21 passing yards and no points, Nick Saban pretty much turned his team over to his true freshman and asked them to win the national championship against Georgia.

As incredible and improbable as that sounds, they did.

It was more than Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback, who sparked the offense after Jalen Hurts was pulled at halftime. Wide receiver Devonta Smith caught the winning touchdown in overtime. Running back Najee Harris led the ground attack and Alex Leatherwood was at left tackle after sophomore starter Jonah Williams left the game with an injury.

There was also a missed field goal at the end of regulation, and Tagovailoa was sacked on the play before he threw the 41-yard touchdown pass down the left sideline. That's what kind of a whirlwind it was with Alabama pulling out the dramatic 26-23 victory.

There was even a postgame marriage proposal by senior center Bradley Bozeman (she said yes).

Meanwhile, lost in the excitement was Saban winning his sixth national championship, his fifth over the last nine seasons at Alabama. He tied Paul "Bear" Bryant for the most ever, but three by the legend were considered spilt titles including the controversial 1973 title when the coaches' poll named the Crimson Tide No. 1 before it lost to Notre Dame.

When it comes to dynasties, though, there's no longer any doubt that this is the greatest that college football has ever seen. Miami (1983-92) and Notre Dame (1941-50) can both claim four titles over a 10-year period, but neither was able to maintain it, or stay on top with this kind of consistency.

"This is a great win, a team win," Saban said. "Someone tried to give me a game ball. I don't think you give anybody a game ball. It has to be a team ball, and that's exactly what we'll do with it."

But no one was talking about that after the game, or that how Saban was arguably two plays away, against Clemson a year earlier and the Kick Six game in 2013, from having two more titles.

This was oh-so-close to being a third near-miss, only Alabama rallied in the second half from down 13-0. Tagovailoa's first possession didn't go anywhere, but his second did as four straight completions peaked with freshman Henry Ruggs III snaring a 6-yard touchdown.

Alabama seemed to finally be on its way, but Georgia quickly countered with a controversial 80-yard touchdown pass to Mecole Hardman, who had fans and officials zooming in to try and see if he stepped out of bounds at the 16.

It could have ended Alabama, especially when Tagovailoa answered with an interception on a play where there was a missed signal. Yet somehow it didn't.

Not the team that had lost so many players to injuries, and had gotten to back into the College Football Playoff.

The comeback was anything but pretty. It seemed like after junking the original game plan offensive coordinator Brian Daboll was all but diagramming plays in the artificial turf. A key turnover in the second half happened when a pass deflected off senior defensive end Da'Shawn Hand's head and to sophomore lineman Raekwon Davis for an interception.

"All I know is that it hit my hand and I caught it," Davis said. "It was crazy, but I did it. I didn't know I could run like that."

He returned it 19 yards to help set up an Andy Pappanastos 43-yard field goal to bring Alabama within 20-10.

But the fourth quarter was all Alabama. A 71-yard drive resulted in a 30-yard field goal, and with the defense forcing a three-and-out, a 66-yard drive resulted in a 7-yard touchdown catch by junior wide receiver Calvin Ridley — who until that point had been outperformed by his brother Riley, who had six catches for 82 yards for Georgia.

Tied at 20, Alabama had a golden chance to win the game after the defense forced another three-and-out, with Tagovailoa leading a drive from his own 35 and putting Alabama in place to win in the final seconds. Only the 26-yard attempt sailed wide left.

Georgia, which beat Oklahoma in double-overtime at the Rose Bowl to advance, could only get a field goal during its turn in the extra frame. The Bulldogs thought they were on the cusp of victory following the sack, only to see the perfect throw into the end zone.

"When they called the play I looked at Tua and I said, 'Trust me,'" said Smith, as the team that lost in the final second the previous year was both dumbfounded and overjoyed when it sort of turned the tables.

"I think everyone had turned their TVs off," said junior defensive lineman Isaiah Buggs, who didn't know yet that President Donald Trump had left the game at halftime.

"This is amazing," exhausted senior linebacker Rashaan Evans said while slumped in front of this locker. "We went through so much."

"They said we weren't supposed to be here," junior running back Damien Harris yelled. "Now look."

That was after Harris had shed a few tears on the field only to later run out of the locker room yelling to reporters, "I love you. I love all of you. Thank you!"

He didn't care that Alabama had outgained Georgia on the ground 184-133, or that his offense had only converted 3 of 14 third-down opportunities. Tagovailoa going 14-for-24 for 166 yards raised a lot of questions about the quarterback position moving forward, but those were things to be figured out another day, along with how Saban might be able to top this.

"We're national champions!" Davis screamed into the night. "We're No. 1."

CHAPTER 2

Tagovailoa Ignites Alabama Offense

True Freshman Comes Off Bench, Passes for Three TDs in Comeback Win

It was the call that Nick Saban had to make.

Down 13 points at the half, his offense was more than struggling, it was stagnant. Four straight three-and-outs, and going 1-for-6 on third-down conversions, had put his team in a vast hole, and Alabama had just 21 passing yards against Georgia in the National Championship Game.

"We needed a spark," Saban said.

To ignite one, he benched the 2016 SEC Offensive Player of the Year, a quarterback who was 25-2 as a starter. With sophomore Jalen Hurts watching from the sideline, Saban inserted true freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa into probably the most high-pressure situation imaginable in college football.

It ended up winning him and the Crimson Tide another national championship.

With Tagovailoa completing 14 of 24 passes for 166 yards and three touchdowns, Alabama pulled out a dramatic 26-23 overtime victory at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

"We've had this in our mind that if we were struggling offensively, we would give Tua an opportunity, even in the last game," Saban said. "No disrespect to Jalen, but the real thought was that, you know, they came into the game thinking we were going to run the ball and be able to run quarterback runs, which we made a couple of explosive plays on. But with the absence of a passing game and being able to make explosive plays and being able to convert on third down, I just didn't feel we could run the ball well enough.

"I thought Tua would give us a better chance."

Coming in, Alabama's offense had struggled in November, especially in the loss at Auburn, and again against No. 1 Clemson in the Sugar Bowl. When Hurts had missed a couple of days of practice due to illness, Tagovailoa filled in and looked good.

At first it didn't look like he would be able to replicate that. Tagovailoa's first possession went nowhere, and two plays after Georgia regained the momentum and went up 20-10 on an 80-yard touchdown, he threw what could have been a back-breaking interception.

"The issue was we missed a signal," Saban said. "In other words, everybody was running a running play, and he thought it was a passing play. So it causes a problem when all the receivers are blocking instead of running a pass route, and then it sort of quadruples the problem when the quarterback throws to him anyway.

"But we learn from those things, right?"

"Yes sir," Tagovaiola responded during the postgame press conference.

After Hurts completed 3 of 8 passes, Tagovailoa had touchdown strikes to three receivers: freshman Henry Ruggs III, junior Calvin Ridley, and freshman DeVonta Smith to lead the comeback. The last for 41 yards was the game-winner.

"Smitty was wide open," said Tagovailoa, the offensive player of the game. Junior defensive tackle Da'Ron Payne landed the defensive honor.

As for Hurts, he was supportive and answered every question from reporters in front of his locker after the game.

"That's what teammates do," he said.

CHAPTER 3

Defining a Dynasty

Saban Era Ranks Among Greatest in College Football History

What's a dynasty in college football?

It's generally considered three championships in six years, although even that's not as clear-cut as most fans would expect. There are different definitions by era, as there weren't that many programs in existence before the polls were created, and subsequently most titles were shared until the Bowl Championship Series and College Football Playoff were devised.

Not surprisingly, the game's most dominant programs all arguably came before the poll era began in 1936, including Yale (1874-1909), Michigan (1901-05), and Notre Dame (1918-30).

Since the advent of the Associated Press college football poll, there have essentially been four different types of dynasties over the years, with some obviously more legitimate than others.

For your core dynasties, featuring programs that dominated for multiple seasons or years, you're talking Army (1944-50), when many of the best athletes enlisted and transfer rules were waived during World War II, Florida State (1987-2000), Penn State (1967-70) and Southern California (1962-72).

Asterisk dynasties, those influenced by NCAA penalties, include Miami (1983- 94), Oklahoma (1971-80), and, most recently, Southern California (2002-08).

True dynasties, which meet the standard of three championships over a span of six years, are made up of two by Paul "Bear" Bryant (1961-66 and 1971-80), Nebraska under Tom Osborne (1993-97) and Oklahoma (1948-58) during Bud Wilkinson's reign.

All are impressive, but the pure dynasties are the ones that really stand out. Not only did the programs win at least three consensus championships over a span of six years or less, but they also faced quality competition.

Only three programs belong in this exclusive club: Minnesota under Bernie Bierman (1934-41), Notre Dame under Frank Leahy (1941-49), and Alabama under Nick Saban.

Alabama has accomplished this while facing tougher opposition, if only because players are considered bigger and faster nowadays. For many years it wasn't uncommon to see a team win the national championship while only playing a couple of ranked opponents.

Alabama faced six in 2009, five in 2011 and six in 2012. It set a record with nine in 2015, and played 10 ranked opponents in 2016 but lost the title game.

Yet the dynasty has continued …

2009

As football seasons go, it was quite an ending.

The setting: The Rose Bowl, where the University of Alabama football program first made a name for itself in the 1920s and won its early national championships.

The opponent: Texas, which the Crimson Tide had never defeated before in eight attempts including five bowl games.

The prize: Much more than a crystal football.

At stake was an end to years of anxiety, wondering if the program's rollercoaster would ever stop, a lot of mediocrity, being two years removed from playing in back-to-back Independence Bowls, and lingering doubt as to whether one of the most storied programs in history would ever be able to reclaim its proud status.

"We back," sophomore running back Mark Ingram proudly said after the decisive 37-21 victory in the BCS National Championship Game.

With four turnovers created by the defense, which also knocked Longhorns senior quarterback Colt McCoy out of the game with a shoulder injury, and both Ingram and freshman running back Trent Richardson tallying more than 100 rushing yards, the Crimson Tide celebrated in the same place where it won its first crown 84 years before in similar fashion against Washington.

But never before had an Alabama or Southeastern Conference team gone 14-0 to win the title, much less beat the previous three national champions along the way. The program's first Heisman Trophy and second Butkus Award (Derrick Thomas, 1988) were nice bonuses.

Alabama won its 13th title by doing what it does best, playing physically, despite numerous injuries including quarterback Greg McElroy having cracked ribs. Ingram and Richardson gashed and grinded away at the nation's No. 1 defense against the run, with Alabama more than doubling in the first half what Texas had allowed per game (62.2 yards).

Also reaching the end zone was defensive lineman Marcell Dareus in spectacular fashion. After Texas took a timeout with 15 seconds remaining, he snared the subsequent shovel pass off a deflection and made a spin move before running over Texas freshman quarterback Garrett Gilbert.

"My first reaction was grab the ball, and then after that I blanked out," said Dareus, who scored the 28-yard touchdown just three seconds before halftime. "All I was thinking about is Mark Ingram and Javier (Arenas) and just doing moves I didn't think I could do."

Although Alabama had scored 24 unanswered points, Texas wasn't ready to concede and was able to pull within three points in the fourth quarter before the Tide got to Gilbert again. A fake blitz left senior linebacker Eryk Anders unblocked, and he caught the quarterback on his blind side to force the ball loose with sophomore linebacker Courtney Upshaw recovering the fumble at the Texas 3. Ingram punched in the touchdown, and Richardson another for the new kings of college football.

"It is really difficult to express just how proud I am," Director of Athletics Mal Moore said. "This team, these coaches and in particular Coach Saban, the effort he's put into this program in the three years he's been here, and to reach this level and this peak, and win the national championship, is quite remarkable. I think it's just so fitting that we were honored to play in the Rose Bowl for the national championship and win it here."

Texas outgained Alabama 276-263 yards, was more successful on third downs and notched five sacks against a unit that had yielded only 15 all season. None of that mattered. Ingram was named the game's offensive MVP and Dareus took home the defensive award despite having just the interception and one tackle — when what appeared to be a routine hit ended McCoy's collegiate career. They, along with senior guard Mike Johnson, kissed and cradled the crystal football when it was handed to them on the victory platform.

"I feel like I've played an entire career, it's been one heck of a season," McElroy said. "This team is just so special. I've been a part of a lot of great things. I've been in a lot of football locker rooms, a lot of hockey locker rooms and things like that, but this team has the heart.

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Bama Dynasty"
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Copyright © 2018 Triumph Books LLC.
Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books LLC.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments,
Introduction,
College Football Playoff Championship vs. Georgia,
Tagovailoa Ignites Alabama Offense,
Defining a Dynasty,
Alabama vs. Florida State,
Alabama vs. Fresno State,
Levi Wallace,
Alabama vs. Colorado State,
Alabama vs. Vanderbilt,
Alabama vs. Ole Miss,
Ronnie Clark,
Alabama vs. Texas A&M,
Alabama vs. Arkansas,
Alabama vs. Tennessee,
Need for Speed,
Alabama vs. LSU,
Alabama vs. Mississippi State,
Playmakers,
Alabama vs. Mercer,
Iron Bowl vs. Auburn,
Jalen Hurts,
Sugar Bowl vs. Clemson,

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