TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — We should always’ve recognized all alongside that Nick Saban wasn’t going to overlook a day’s work. He has at all times appeared extra machine than man throughout his time within the public eye — a creature of routine and course of who’d barely carried out worse than sniffle throughout his six nationwide championship runs. He had hip alternative surgical procedure final yr, and the day after he went beneath the knife, his spouse discovered him standing within the driveway, wanting to get again to the workplace.
No, Nicholas Lou Saban wasn’t going to overlook a soccer sport, and particularly not one the magnitude of Saturday evening’s. At dwelling, in opposition to No. 3 Georgia and its coach, Kirby Good, Saban would discover a approach to get to Bryant-Denny Stadium. He examined constructive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, and three days later he had the three adverse assessments he wanted to return to motion. He grabbed a state trooper proper after that third check got here in, and in lower than half-hour he was on the crew resort for pregame conferences.
And later that evening, after Saban led his crew onto the sector to a raucous applause, he did what he has at all times carried out, besting a former assistant for the twenty second consecutive time in his profession. After a so-so begin by which his protection struggled with plenty of uncharacteristic errors, Alabama discovered its footing and wound up beating Georgia convincingly, 41-24, to stay the one undefeated crew within the SEC.
It did not take lengthy to know Saban was feeling like himself once more as he tore into freshman linebacker Will Anderson after a landing within the first quarter and screamed bloody homicide at a referee after a name for intentional grounding a couple of minutes later. When a defensive lineman jumped offside on fourth-and-1, triggering an computerized first down, Saban was completely beside himself, placing each arms out as if to ask why.
The perfectionist was again in all his glory.
At halftime, no matter changes Saban and his assistants made labored, as a result of the protection went from wanting misplaced to being in complete management. After forcing back-to-back punts, freshman nickel again Malachi Moore picked off Stetson Bennett, and operating again Najee Harris gladly exchanged the turnover for seven factors and a double-digit lead. Then, moments later, security Daniel Wright picked off Bennett once more. And, once more, the offense did the remainder, as Mac Jones furthered his Heisman Trophy marketing campaign with a fourth landing cross, really placing the sport to mattress.
Security DeMarcco Hellams stated the protection wished to make a press release within the second half. He stated Saban careworn this was going to be a 15-round struggle and to complete the sport. And so they did, surrendering zero factors within the third and fourth quarters.
No, it wasn’t Saban pulling Jalen Hurts in favor of Tua Tagovailoa, however it was a heck of a halftime turnaround nonetheless. And if Saban wasn’t there, if he hadn’t cleared COVID-19 protocol with hours to spare and was watching on TV like the remainder the nation, who is aware of if Alabama figures issues out?
No disrespect to Steve Sarkisian, who known as a superb sport as offensive coordinator, however he isn’t Nick Saban. Nobody can fill these sneakers.
Afterward, when Saban spoke to reporters, he did not dwell on a shaky first half or no matter imperfections there might need been. As an alternative, he stated it was an “apparent nice win” and that he was happy with his crew’s struggle.
Largely, he was happy with how his gamers dealt with the distraction of his absence. When he wasn’t on the observe discipline Friday, when his straw hat was so noticeably lacking, a source told ESPN it was bizarre and that it felt like an episode of “The Twilight Zone.”
Saban appeared wholesome throughout his Wednesday information convention and his radio present the next evening, however for 3 days, the school soccer world obsessed over Saban’s situation and whether or not he might return.
Saban tried to arrange his gamers for both eventuality. He instructed them he hadn’t caught a cross or made a sort out in 40 years, so what good was he to them throughout a sport anyway? From afar, he tried to maintain them centered on the duty at hand.
When Saban confirmed up on the crew resort earlier than kickoff, the gamers weren’t ready. Jones stated the response “was fairly loopy” when Saban stepped into the quarterback room unannounced.
Senior linebacker Dylan Moses stated Saban being there for walk-throughs introduced an added vitality to everybody. Seeing Saban stroll via the door, he stated, “Our confidence went via the roof.”
And that, possibly greater than any in-game adjustment or halftime speech, is the true worth of getting Saban on the sideline: the boldness his presence brings. For 14 seasons now, he has been a fixture at Alabama. Because it seems, not even a constructive COVID-19 check can cease him from exhibiting up.