By KEVIN LONNQUIST
Big 12 Insider
Well after the matter had been decided, Alabama’s drive to meet the standard never diminished. Midway through the fourth quarter, Crimson Tide center Barrett Jones and quarterback AJ McCarron got into a bit of a scuffle because the play clock was winding down and the two differed on the proper adjustment call to make.
Call it the heat of the moment because McCarron chewed on his travel roommate’s ear when the Tide was penalized for delay of game. Jones reacted by shoving his quarterback. Later, tempers cooled. Hugs were exchanged on the sideline. Everybody moved on.
“We’re just always trying to meet the standard,’’ Jones said in interviews afterwards.
Isolate the moment and this is the culture that head coach Nick Saban has created in his six seasons in Tuscaloosa. Alabama won its third national title in four years under Saban with an overwhelming 42-14 victory over Notre Dame Monday in the BCS National Championship in Miami.
Really, this game was over four seconds into the second quarter. The Irish had no chance as the SEC won the ultimate prize for the seventh consecutive year.
The Jones-McCarron exchange doesn’t promote hostility or vitriol. It summons a mentality that the mission is to always extend oneself to reach a level where settling or “good enough’’ is not acceptable.
It’s been that way with Alabama since the school started playing football in 1892. In this latest mastery of the game, Saban’s demand for excellence speaks for itself. He can justifiably be accused of going over the limits. However, it can be also said that the way he delivers his message resonates with his players.
Of course, playing for a program like Alabama already places a heavy burden on a player as soon as he signs his national letter of intent. He knows what he’s getting into. Saban takes it up a notch.
That’s why Monday became more of a referendum on what this program has become – a dynasty.
It’s McCarron throwing a 29-yard play action pass to Kevin Norwood that set the tone for the game. He completed six of his first seven passes and finished 20-of-28 for 264 yards and four touchdowns.
It’s offensive MVP Eddie Lacy rushing for 140 yards and using his patented spin moves to turn a dunk pass over the middle into a 11-yard touchdown reception and a four-yard run into nine.
It’s Alabama’s offensive and defensive lines enforcing their respective wills and eliminating the energy from of the Irish. Alabama rushed for 265 yards. Notre Dame rushed for 32.
Jones, the 2012 Rimington award winner for the nation’s top center, also won national championships as a tackle and a guard. Defensive end Damion Square called the Tide’s defense the most physical in the country. Except for the first half against Texas A&M, this defense was.
Saban joins Notre Dame’s Frank Leahy and Bear Bryant as the only coaches to win three national championships in four years. And in that time, this program won 49 games and two other SEC championships.
Dynasty is required for moments like this. Whenever this run ends – and that’s a really good question – college football may go another quarter century before witnessing this.
Sure, the angst against the SEC continues to rise. But keep in mind this conference is raising the standard of play.
Saban is right in the middle of it.