The big moment was after the game, not during. Not when Nick Saban called the fake punt that turned all momentum. After the game, Saban ran over to his quarterback, AJ McCarron, and jumped into his arms.
Yes, Saban was showing his human side after No. 1 Alabama beat rival LSU 38-17 Saturday.
“AJ and I have been through a lot,’’ Saban said. “Some of it you have seen on TV, and some of it you have not.’’
Saban is just such a curiosity that seeing a human celebration like that is almost shocking. Seeing Alabama win a big game is not.
In some ways, an Alabama win is just another widget coming off the assembly line.
That’s basically McCarron’s problem, too, as Saban calls him the most underrated player in the country, and even the best. And McCarron admits that he’d like to be considered for the Heisman, when he knows well that it’s going to go to the flashiest quarterback, probably Jameis Winston, maybe Johnny Manziel again.
McCarron comes across as a cog. And that’s why it was such a nice thing to see, Saban and McCarron celebrating. They surely have had their ups and downs over the years, their good and bad, like any other actual human beings.
I still remember Saban winning the national championship last season over Notre Dame, and then trying to smile with the trophy in hand. Really trying to smile. But it took a long time to come to his lips, and only got as far as a sneer.
It’s the unknown about Saban that makes him so interesting. He openly complains about Alabama’s own students leaving the games before they are over. He says that if the players are putting in the work, then they should be rewarded by fans staying to the end.
He has not heard the expression: “The customer is always right.’’ No, Saban is always right. And by the way, many of those students presumably are not on full scholarships like the players, and maybe have to scrape up money to go to games, not to mention to come up with tuition.
They do not necessarily have it easier than the players.
But, whatever. Seats were taken from several student groups for violating Saban’s rule.
And reports are out that Saban’s agent told Texas that the Longhorns’ job is the one that would make his client consider leaving Alabama. The agent wrote an email to bigshots representing Texas. The email, obtained by the Associated Press, said Saban feels “special pressure’’ from all the national championships he has won at Alabama.
Is that what that leap into McCarron’s arms was about? Is that why Saban granted so much time and openness to "60 Minutes"? Is he mellowing because he’s seeing a big good-bye coming?
Hell, who knows with Saban?
It’s almost stunning to know that he feels any pressure at all, frankly. It’s stunning to know that he even can.
But the Tide have won two straight national titles, and Saturday’s game against LSU was seen as the biggest hurdle to another BCS Championship Game.
The odd thing is that LSU coach Les Miles is known for tricky plays, and creative measures. That seemed sure this time, as LSU isn’t as good as it has been recently. It lost way too many players off last year’s defense.
But this time, Miles had no tricks. And playing straight-up was working, thanks to quarterback Zach Mettenberger. If LSU hadn’t fumbled while going into the endzone early in the game, or later on a snap, then the Tigers might have taken a big lead.
By the third quarter, the game was tied at 17, but LSU still seemed to have the momentum. That all changed on a trick play. But this one was called by Saban.
The Tide ran a fake punt from their 41. Snap to the up-man who leaned left, then handed off to Jarrick Williams, who ran right for the first down.
After the game, Williams told me that he thought he was going to break a long run.
How close was he?
“A shoestring,’’ he said.
From there, McCarron started to take over, and then in the fourth quarter, Alabama’s offensive line wore down LSU’s defense.
Alabama shouldn’t have another challenge until Nov. 30 at Auburn. Then, the Tide figure to play in the SEC title game before playing for the national championship.
The BCS is giving one farewell chaotic moment. Oregon lost to Stanford, and Ohio State and Baylor are undefeated in easy conferences. And Florida State looks awfully strong now, but who knows about its strength of schedule?
The BCS is going to have to figure out which one of those teams will play for the title. At this point, it looks like Florida State, and Winston.
But the story lines keep churning out, and the mess, too. And basically, everyone forgot about Alabama. As usual, it just keeps humming along.