Alabama and Arkansas's first real tests in the 2007 SEC season would come against each other. Who would have guessed that the game would parallel the last half century of Alabama football. A new group of coaches and a young defense would relive The Crimson Tide's very interesting modern history on September, 15 2007.
In 1958 a man named Paul "bear" Bryant walked on the campus in Tuscaloosa taking over the football team from J.B. Whitworth to begin a tenor that ended with thirteen conference titles and six national championships. The first quarter of the 2007 Arkansas was very similar to the success Bryant had in his years. Alabama dominated on both sides of the ball. They stretched the field made catches in the end zone stopped Arkansas's prolific running game and capitalized on turnovers. The team looked great, efficient, and well organized. Nick Saban's defense looked very strong they played there positions and stayed on there assignments, it felt good, it felt right, and it was all coming together Saban was proving himself to Alabama fans and for the first time in several years of average unsuccessful football they looked good. However, the following two quarters of football would look like the 1983-2006 seasons.
In the last half of the first half Arkansas showed up after an exchange of meaningless unproductive drives The Razorbacks started to rip Bama's defense with a series of designed intermediate plays. Nine yard pass to McFadden, then five yards on the ground twenty one yard pass to Hillis then a couple of short runs to lead up to a touchdown pass from Casey Dick to Crosby Tuck. Much like the deterioration of Alabama football throughout the 80's it was slowing being picked apart every short yard gain represented the decline of talent coming though the Alabama locker room doors. As the hogs drained the energy out of the 2007 Bama defense it reminded us of the energy taken from Bama's nation wide fan base the years following the passing of Bryant.
The third quarter had a few high points just like the 90's and early 2000's a touchdown and a field goal, similar to a national championship and a 9 win season. When Lee Tiffin went wide on the missed field goal it rang a bell. The athletic department had missed a few kicks so to speak to in the form of bad coaching hires Dubose, Franchione, and Price were all kinda missed kicks in one way or the other.
The end of the third and first ten minutes of the fourth felt like so good old fashion Shula football. You know frustrating, a very tired over used defense, and a offence that keeps shooting its self in the foot. It just didn't feel right the stadium was quiet Arkansas had the lead and were making defensive stands but then the light got brighter. A field goal with four minutes left felt ok but turned out to be brilliant kinda like the Shula firing as the news first broke of it felt bad, but when the rumors started flying the next day about Rodriguez, Stoops, and Saban the seemingly knee jerk reaction started to seem brilliant. John Parker Wilson began the final drive with uncertainty from the fans, but when Matt Caddell pulled down that touchdown pass to win the game it felt like the day Saban landed in T-town. Finally after all the greatness followed by all the average, unsuccessful, mediocre, and frustrating football there was something to get excited about.
Its funny how college football is so controlling of the fans emotions this week will be great for Bama fans and disheartening for the fans that the Tide Nation argues with all fall. In Miami the pro fans hate Saban but outside of Dan Le Batard their hate could never exceed the amount of love that Bama fans have for him, last nights game was good for the state of Alabama, but more importantly it was good for football because when big time programs appear to be getting better not worse we all win as college football fans.