After decade of misery, Saban returns Alabama to top of SEC

Nick Saban, miracle worker, turned Alabama from punchline to SEC champions in three years.

Nick Saban, miracle worker, turned Alabama from punchline to SEC champions in three years.

As confetti fell and music blared and teammates celebrated on the stage behind him, Mark Ingram had an unexpected reaction. He let out a primal scream, and then he collapsed.

“I don’t know what happened,” the Alabama running back said later, who was treated for cramps and soon revived by, almost comically, the first two on the scene — a team trainer and “Big Al” the elephant costumed mascot. “I was jumping up and down. Maybe I got too pumped up. I don’t know. Maybe it just all hit me. It kind of overwhelmed me.”

Ingram could be excused. A football program and the state of Alabama could be excused if everybody’s knees buckled just a little Saturday.

It was only two years ago when the Crimson Tide lost to Louisiana Monroe. It wasn’t long ago when Nick Saban was handed a 10-year, 10-pound bag of misery and asked to do something that recent predecessors couldn’t come close to achieving: return a once-historic, suddenly lampooned program to the top.

Tuscaloosa had become the dateline for punch lines. NCAA probation. A coach sued for sexual harassment. Another coach who lost his morals compass and couldn’t even make it to his first game, something about too much booze and reportedly a primal scream of “Roll Tide” to a stripper.

Mark Ingram hip-bumped with Nick Saban in celebration as the final seconds ticked off in the SEC title game.

Mark Ingram hip-bumped with Nick Saban in celebration as the final seconds ticked off in the SEC title game.

Saban just completed the cleansing faster than anybody could have imagined. Since that initial 7-6 season with the loss to Louisiana-Monroe, the Tide is 25-2 and has not lost an SEC regular-season game.

The exorcism officially ended in the Georgia Dome. The Crimson Tide body-slammed the Florida Gators 32-13. They physically dominated a team that had been allowing 9.8 points and 233 yards per game (the Tide finished with 490).

Tim Tebow became an afterthought. Greg McElroy became a difference-maker.

“I thought it was going to be a tougher game,” Tide linebacker Courtney Upshaw said.

Ouch.

We were paying attention to the wrong quarterback. We were paying attention to the wrong defense. Maybe we were paying attention to the wrong bit of history.

The Gators entered this game with 22 consecutive wins, a No. 1 ranking and seeking their third SEC and BCS titles in four seasons. A year ago in the SEC championship, they left the Tide doubled over with two fourth-quarter touchdowns and a 31-20 win.

“Since the day we left this place last year, this game has been on our mind,” center William Vlachos said. “It was on our mind every day. It was our motivation every day.”

All credit to Saban. If he is the best coach in college football, this turnaround illustrated why.

“A lot in life comes down to expectations sometimes, and we didn’t come down here looking for a moral victory,” he said. “While I think we were excited about what we accomplished last year, I think we also learned some valuable lessons about resiliency and about the intangibles it takes to not be denied.”

Some built up this game as a chance for Alabama to reposition itself to its rightful place atop the SEC. Understand, that mostly comes from fans and media who still obsess about the Bear Bryant years far more than Saban. When Saban was asked on the eve of the game if he viewed this championship as an opportunity to “toss this usurper [Florida] off the throne,” he stared momentarily and responded, “All of the things that you would assume I think about, I don’t think that.”

He is more concerned about recent history. He was more concerned about how his players would respond in the off-season following the losses to Florida and, subsequently, to Utah (particularly humiliating) in the Sugar Bowl.

He was more concerned about Saturday. How would the team react in that moment when Tim Tebow threatened to take over the game?

Like this: After the Gators closed to 12-10 on a Tebow touchdown pass late in the second quarter, Alabama answered with touchdowns on its next three possessions. Soon, it was Florida that was doubled over.

The result was the Tide’s first SEC championship in 10 years. Given what it just did to the No. 1 ranked team, they’re probably on the way to their first national championship in 17 years.

“Last year’s team wanted to prove it was good,” said Saban. “This year’s team wanted to be something special.”

It is. And if it’s all a little overwhelming, it’s understandable.

313 comments Add your comment

Pi$$onatechie

December 5th, 2009
9:49 pm

first! hahaha really first

ROLL TIDE ROLL!!!

December 5th, 2009
9:51 pm

NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!! NERDS!!! 30-24!!!

JB

December 5th, 2009
9:52 pm

That butt whoopin’ couldn’t have happened to a finer group than the FL Gougers.

BTW, there’s NO crying in football. Sheeesh! Take it like a man!

HBTD!!!

State of Florida: 0-2 Today!

December 5th, 2009
9:52 pm

Florida Gators LOSE!!! ROLL TIDE ROLL!!!

Florida Panthers LOSE!!! LET’S GO THRASHERS!!!

outkasted

December 5th, 2009
9:53 pm

i guess florida won’t be wearing those helments anymore………

PeachJam

December 5th, 2009
9:57 pm

Saban is a dang good coach. A little on edge but a business man winner. Bama is lucky to have him. LSU fans must hate it.

SEC Fan

December 5th, 2009
10:00 pm

History will show Danny Wuerfell as the greatest SEC QB ever. Danny’s record is far superior to Tim Tebow.

Danny Wuerfal started at QB for 4 years and won 4 SEC Championships.

Tim Tebow started for 3 years and won 1 SEC Championship.

Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss and Tennessee and even Georgia Tech all have QBs that have won 2 SEC Championships as starting QBs.

Jack Lambert Dawg

December 5th, 2009
10:00 pm

Congratulations Alabama.. Great game. Hope we get a chance to play you next year for the title.

Tim Tebow

December 5th, 2009
10:00 pm

I’m not going to get a bedtime story and goodnight kiss from Daddy Urban tonight. WAHHHHH!

Dawgs2009

December 5th, 2009
10:01 pm

No More Tebow!!!!!! What a crybaby!!! and his parents looked like they were served bad mayonnaise,

UGA Grad

December 5th, 2009
10:01 pm

41-17, you can’t take that away from this team.

BOOGIES THE MAN FROM HARTWELL GA

December 5th, 2009
10:02 pm

JEFF————– HOSTILE BUNCH ALREADY ………………
WAIT UNTIL CLEMSON UPSETS tekkies………………

BOOGIES THE MAN FROM HARTWELL GA

December 5th, 2009
10:02 pm

SEE YALL IN THE AM………………..

Dawgs2009

December 5th, 2009
10:03 pm

The past two weekends have been AWESOME! Last week we beat Tech and this week the mighty GATORS went down!!!! Hahahahhahahhahahahhahahhahahah

Pit Bull

December 5th, 2009
10:03 pm

Leave Timmy alone, Leave Timmy alone, cry cry, Leave Timmy alone lol.

b g r

December 5th, 2009
10:04 pm

Congrats to Alabama. After the Auburn game being so close, I was afraid Teblow was going to roll all over them. Glad it turned out differently.

Oh, and did you guys happen to catch the ACC version of the ‘DR Pepper Challenge’ a few minutes ago? Kinda pathetic compared to the SEC contest…

GooseDawg

December 5th, 2009
10:05 pm

0 wins in a row for the gators–where are all the obnoxious gaytors now???

Nice win Tide–Congrats!!!

uberVU - social comments

December 5th, 2009
10:06 pm

Social comments and analytics for this post…

This post was mentioned on Twitter by rosamondChristi: After decade of misery, Saban returns Alabama to top of SEC – Atlanta Journal Constitution: After decade of mis.. http://bit.ly/83fYI5…

SEC Enlightenment

December 5th, 2009
10:06 pm

Two things that struck me in the last few minutes of the game, including the post-games:

1. I understand that the UF QB is a great competitor, and a winner. But isn’t crying after a bad performance at age 20-something a little immature? Is he emotionally strong enough to play in the NFL?

2. I had to laugh about the UF QB’s statement after the game about AU having class. I guess he was impressed that The Tide took a knee at the end of the game instead of calling time outs in order to run up the score. And I also didn’t notice any eye-gouging or punk-hits in the pile by Alabama players. Must have been an eye-opening experience for the Gators.

SEC Enlightenment

December 5th, 2009
10:07 pm

Make that UA, not AU

Jeff Schultz

December 5th, 2009
10:08 pm

Keep the comments clean folks, esp. regarding Tebow. I’ve already deleted a few.

Pit Bull

December 5th, 2009
10:08 pm

Newsflash, Gators got the *hit kicked out them. No nat. Champs, No SEC champs, but they are eastern division champs. Big *hit! Their whole season right down the drain. Urban and crybaby (Leave Timmy alone), got what they deserve. What goes around comes around! I don’t see Urban and Crybaby laughing NOW!

Timmy Tebow

December 5th, 2009
10:09 pm

I TOLD mom and dad we should have gone with a different Bible verse on my eye black! How hath I offended thee, oh Lord?

Dawgs2009

December 5th, 2009
10:10 pm

Poor, poor little Timmy. Nite Nite Timmy Boy. “Hush little baby don’t say a word, Papa Urban will buy you a mockingbird….”

Tim Tebow

December 5th, 2009
10:12 pm

My first pre-season game with the Jaguars will be brought to you by Johnson and Johnson baby shampoo.

The King of Jorts

December 5th, 2009
10:14 pm

Sorry, gaytards! Looks like your Superman can’t fly!

Suckers.

Ed

December 5th, 2009
10:14 pm

I haven’t seen little Timmy shed tears like that since Georgia sacked him 6 times in ‘07.

KD

December 5th, 2009
10:16 pm

There ain’t no crying in football.

GooseDawg

December 5th, 2009
10:16 pm

Gators and Timmy Tebow had a great run, no doubt about it! But seriously, crying EVERY time you lose…guess they don’t teach how to handle adversity in home school!

Again, congrats to Bama!

KD

December 5th, 2009
10:17 pm

That wasn’t a Bible verse, that was the game score.

Rock Hard Çocks Fan

December 5th, 2009
10:19 pm

Good call, KD!!

Tim Tebow is G@Y

December 5th, 2009
10:23 pm

Tim Tebow is G@Y

Epiminondas

December 5th, 2009
10:25 pm

Did you see what Tebow had written under his eyes? “John 32-13″ I looked it up: “And Tebow lost, and he did cry out, ‘Lord, why hast thou forsaken me?’”

Pit Bull

December 5th, 2009
10:25 pm

Leave Timmy alone, leave Timmy alone, why do you say these things. Please Please leave Timmy alone! crying crying….

SEC Enlightenment

December 5th, 2009
10:27 pm

Hey you guys(?) who are so focused on homosexuality, can we please discuss FOOTBALL on here?

Pit Bull

December 5th, 2009
10:28 pm

Yeah I agree, no gay bashing, that is classless and mean as well. Kepp it clean everyone.

SEC Enlightenment is G@Y

December 5th, 2009
10:29 pm

SEC Enlightenment is G@Y

master chief

December 5th, 2009
10:31 pm

I think Tim Tebow is a pretty cool guy. eh cries in football with his glbt friends and doesn’t afraid of anything.

NEXT#13

December 5th, 2009
10:32 pm

1 MORE WIN AND I’LL PROMISE TO CHANGE MY NAME!!!

SEC Enlightenment

December 5th, 2009
10:32 pm

Ahhhh, I hate to disappoint the previous poster but, unlike him, I am:

1. Heterosexual
2. Sober

Might I suggest you surf some underground “closet” sites?

Where's the GatorNation???

December 5th, 2009
10:32 pm

Congrats to Alabama! Florida has looked human since Tebow went down with that concussion. Speaking of Tebow…

I think Tim should have changed the Bible versus on his eye black to John 11:35… Its the shortest verse in in the Bible: Jesus Wept.

GatorNation

December 5th, 2009
10:34 pm

We’re still here and just as G@Y as ever.

Gainesville P.D.

December 5th, 2009
10:34 pm

Whew, I’m glad the Gators lost. If they had won, we were going to have our hands full. Players firing AK’s into the air, stealing dead girl’s credit cards, falling asleep at green lights behind the wheel and begging us not to tase them.

dan

December 5th, 2009
10:36 pm

In regards to Tim Tebow: the guy has won 2 National Titles, a Heisman Trophy, and has absolutely kicked UGA’s tail the last 2 seasons! He came back from a freakin concussion and got his team to the SEC title game! Say what you want about Tebow, but the guy is a winner, period.

Does the media over-hype him? Yes. Is he a great pocket passer? Not particularly. Is he a great pro prospect? No. But would I take his passion, leadership and work ethic over Matt ” I’m more concerned about playing for my draft status” Stafford and Knowshon ” I’m too busy shacking up with Co-eds” Moreno? Absolutely! Because if Moreno and Stafford had 1/3 of Tebow’s heart and character, they would have won back to back National Titles.

Herschel Walker carried himself the exact same way that Tebow does on and off the field, which is why they are winners in football and life. I’m just as tired of the Tebow media love affair as any Bulldog fan. But that shouldn’t cloud the fact that he has been a phenomenal college player. You can have respect for an opponent without liking them. So let’s have a little more class Bulldog fans! Because as a UGA fan, I can only wish our program was at the same level as Florida and Alabama’s.

SEC Enlightenment

December 5th, 2009
10:37 pm

I was pulling for Bama in this one, but not really just to see UF lose. I like the way this sounds…”SEC has three DIFFERENT teams winning the past four National Championships.”

Not a TEAM dynasty, a CONFERENCE dynasty…

Riley Cooper

December 5th, 2009
10:38 pm

Win or lose, I’m still Tim’s favorite receiver. If you know what I mean!

Michael

December 5th, 2009
10:39 pm

Well said, Dan. Very intelligent and much needed comment!!!

Vince Dooley

December 5th, 2009
10:41 pm

But Dan, Herschel never cried. He was a real man.

SEC Enlightenment

December 5th, 2009
10:41 pm

I’m with you on most of your comments dan. But I don’t consider Teebow to be the winner of 2 NC’s. He was a bit player on the “06 team.

I also think that you’re a little too rough on Stafford and Moreno, a little….

Epiminondas

December 5th, 2009
10:43 pm

Jeff, why not let us make fun of Tebow’s silly religious inclination? He has made religion an issue by putting it out there in everyone’s face. Seems to me he should take the flack when the rest of us normal people get sick of it. God doesn’t take sides in sports, or anything else. By using football as a means of promoting his idiotic fundamentalism, he has been asking for it. So here it is: Timmy, God won’t change that score!!!! And you’re no closer to Him than a street tramp.