Alabama's Dream Lives
Two dreams collided, one of which would become a nightmare.
In sports this happens all the time, it's one of the main reasons we watch, for the collision of dreams. And in classic games these collisions are so vivid, violent, and explosive that we remember them for the rest of our lives.
On Saturday night in Baton Rouge we all witnessed a great collision, one six years in the making, the return of the nation's greatest current sports rivalry, a football game between LSU and Alabama with everything at stake in the nation's best football conference.
Last season Miles was humiliated by the effort of his team in the BCS title game, vanquished by the man he replaced. For ten months LSU players, coaches, and fans had waited for their redemption. At Walk On's, the best sports bar in Baton Rouge, pre-game revelers received one of two stickers to put on their gold and purple clothing, "We've waited ten months for this," and "We got your Krystal burger."
This wasn't just about a football game, it was about defending LSU pride, responding to one of the worst efforts of the Les Miles era, making Bama submit to the Tiger will.
For nearly fifty-nine minutes LSU did more than respond, snatching control of the game and driving it right at Alabama. With 1:34 left LSU lined up for a field goal that would extend the Tigers lead to 20-14. The Tigers were tantalizingly close, on the verge of icing the game away, teabagging the Tide's national title hopes.
Alabama's dreams had come to Tiger Stadium and were just about to die.
The kick was wide left.
Even still Alabama was 72 yards from the win, trailing 17-14, with a cacophony of noise raining down upon them, the loudest any fooball stadium can possibly be. So loud that my ears literally hurt standing on the sideline. But the Tide was calm. Center Barrett Jones said the conversation in the huddle was confident, "Who wants to make history tonight?" the Tide players asked.
The answer was AJ McCarron.
And T.J. Yeldon.
Whatever McCarron and Yeldon do for the rest of their lives, the initialed duo will be connected in Crimson Tide history, they'll be forever crimson in the moment of victory, a true freshman and a junior muting as wild a crowd as has ever been seen in the South, thunderous sound to complete silence in the amount of time it took to run 28 yards to the yellow Tiger stadium end zone.
Even Nick Saban, a man not exactly known to wax eloquent, was visibly moved by the win. That is, he smiled. After the game Saban was even reflective, "That last drive was something I'll never forget," Saban said. "I've never been prouder of a bunch of guys."
Later, after he'd finished shedding his tears, showered, and had some time to reflect upon the win, AJ McCarron stood in the corner of a completely empty Tiger Stadium, a football temple devoid of its zealots. Asked what his thoughts were about Les Miles's comments that Tiger Stadium was a place where opponent dreams went to die, McCarron looked skyward toward the empty upper deck, stadium lights reflecting off empty bleachers, the slightest hint of a smile playing at the corner of his mouth.
"It's not reality," he said.
"It's like a dream come true," he said. "It really is."
And so Alabama's dream lives and LSU's dies on a wild night in Baton Rouge.
What. A. Game.