If there’s any doubt -- and there really shouldn’t be -- in addition to all his technical coaching prowess, his ability to recruit, his intensity, that Nick Saban also desires to dominate, impose his will, that doubt was dispelled last night in Orlando.
Before the kickoff.
The Alabama coach, a master of details, is obviously aware of Bobby Petrino’s habit of always wanting the ball first, going against convention by choosing to receive when he wins the toss.
So Saban, as mean a competitor as Bill Belichick if not quite as reviled, went et tu brute when the Tide won the toss, not deferring, receiving the kickoff and sending his O on the field.
As if to admonish the Louisville sideline: Anything you can do, we can do better.
Which they did. Starting with a no muss, no fuss, no problem seven play, 65 yard drive in 3:05 for Roll Tide’s first of many TDs on the evening. During that opening offensive clinic, future Heisman winner Tua Tagovailoa connected on all four of his passes for 60 yards.
At the end of the opening half, Saban again proved his willingness to stomp his heel on an opponents throat as an exclamation point.
Alabama was securely in control, up 21-0. Jalen Hurts had been inserted midway through the 2d Q, and proved why, despite his oft mentioned 26-2 record as starter, there really has been no QB controversy in Tuscaloosa. The Tide failed to roll with Tua on the sideline.
With the game firmly in hand, Saban still reinserted his starter when Bama got the ball back with :27 to go until halftime and a short field. After a couple incompletions, the wunderkind signal caller hit Jerry Jeudy in the endzone. 28 zed at the half.
Then, of course, there was Saban going frothing at the mouth, bulging eyeballs Ralph Steadman during the second half, at the few moments when the Crimson Tide ventured away from absolute perfection.
Which is why Alabama -- Sigh -- has been the best team in the sport for the last decade, and shall remain the gold standard as long as You Know Who is coaching there.
* * * * *
That’s a lot of verbiage about Alabama in this Louisville-centric recap.
For good reason.
In many ways, this is simply a throwaway game for the Cardinals, an outlier.
There is no reason to dwell on last night’s performance.
To quote one pal, who texted me an hour into the proceedings, “We need to schedule Austin Peay for the first game. Not Bama. Not ever again.”
So dominant was Alabama, it’s hard to really get a handle on this edition of the Cardinals.
Despite the reality that Louisville was getting whipped from the get go, there were some positive signs.
At least on offense.
Puma Pass is going to be good. More correctly, Puma Pass is going to be really good.
His presence in the pocket is, frankly, eery. His offensive line was holding strong early on. The Tide was coming with significant pressure. Yet, Pass stood strong, never flinching, never getting jittery, calmly (or so it seemed) dialing through his reads.
He was generally on target. His demeanor never revealed any panic.
Despite Alabama’s prowess at getting the ball into paydirt, Louisville’s D, at least initially, played with considerably more passion than last year, was quicker in pursuit to the ball.
The offensive line, at least when pass protecting, remained sturdy. Puma wasn’t sacked in the opening half.
* * * * *
In the second half it all started deteriorating for U of L. As my texting pal stated, it got “FUGLY.” As appropriate a portmanteau as has ever been concocted.
Alabama was better. Alabama was relentless. The Tide rolled. Louisville simply wore down.
U of L netted only 16 yards on the ground, on 26 attempts. 0.6 yards per carry on the night. The Cards biggest gain was an 11 yard Puma scramble. No RB broke loose for more than 7 yards.
What we will learn in the weeks to come, surely by the first weekend in October, is how much fortitude this Cardinal team possesses? Will this gang put this game aside, learn from it, as their coach said after the game?
What we will learn is how much better is BVG’s defense than that of his predecessor?
What we will learn is whether the offensive line is indeed more than more experience, whether it is improved when competing against more reasonable competition?
What we will learn is whether Bobby Petrino can rally these troops?
-- Seedy K