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Bama can still celebrate

By Staff
Paul Finebaum
Franklin County Times
Nick Saban made it clear to anyone and everyone following the gut-wrenching loss to LSU that there is no such thing as a moral victory.
Well, he's wrong.
Under normal circumstances, schools like Alabama don't feel good about themselves unless they're winning national championships and stomping opponents into submission. However, times change and this is one of those times – particularly, when you consider where Alabama's football fortunes were exactly one year ago today.
The SEC flipped the LSU game a week earlier this year and the game with Mississippi State was shifted to this Saturday. A year ago, on this date,
Alabama football was at low ebb, having suffered an ignominious 24-16 home loss to Mississippi State, a team that had compiled an 8-23 mark under Sylvester Croom upon entering that contest.
There is a clich/ that goes something like, "a win is a win." Coaches employ it when their teams don't play well or when they catch a lucky break.
And while the antithesis might often be true about a loss, I still maintain that the 41-34 defeat to LSU was something special. Simply to witness how far this program has come under Saban is mind-boggling. To watch Alabama go toe to toe, punch for punch with possibly the most talented college football team in America was breathtaking.
In the parlance of boxing, the Tide may have suffered a late 15th round knockout, but until that final punch was delivered, it was as a sight to behold. Had Saban been the coach on the LSU sideline, instead of the crazy man in the goofy hat, the Tigers would have won by three touchdowns, perhaps more. The game would have been over by halftime. This game should have been over by intermission.
So what happened?
LSU, with its world-class talent, is one of most poorly coached, undisciplined, unfocused and out of control football teams I've ever seen.
They win in spite of their head football coach and the reason is simple: Vastly superior team.
What inspired many Saturday night was the thought of seeing Alabama in a couple of years, stocked with players like Early Doucet and Glenn Dorsey, playing for one of the best college head coaches in America. It looks like the dagger-through-the-heart type losses like we've seen this year against Georgia and LSU will soon be a thing of the past.
One might ask why someone who has watched Alabama for as many years as I have would ever be impressed with a moral victory.
This year, to steal a phrase from Saban, everything is simply part of the process. And the process is recruiting and building from the ground up.
Immediately after Saban met the media Saturday night following the crushing loss to his former team, he didn't go into a padded room and beat the walls and play the "woe is me" game.
Instead, he was smiling and hugging prospective recruits and their families in a meeting room three doors down. And it seems to be working well, based on the recruiting pollsters who currently have Alabama ranked No. 3 nationally (according to Rivals.com).
Do you think Saban wanted this particular game more than any other one? Of course.
But Saturday night in Bryant-Denny Stadium, which on the particular night put fabled Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge to shame in terms of atmosphere, excitement and buzz, was simply another small step back on the road to a national championship.
Regardless of how this season ends the magic Saturday night (have you ever heard a louder stadium in your life than when Javier Arenas returned the punt for a touchdown?) will be replicated many mores times.
Should Alabama celebrate moral victories?
Absolutely not.
However, when you consider where this program was a year ago today, at least savor the moment and accept the reality. As Bob Dylan once sang, "the times, they are a-changin'."
Paul Finebaum is a guest columnist for The Franklin County Times. He can be reached via e-mail at finebaumnet@yahoo.com.

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