The Crimson Tide Needed Their Leaders to be Great.
Joel Clatt, a sports analyst for Fox, comments, "great players don't just play great. They play great when their greatness is needed.”
For Alabama to defeat Texas 20-19 on Saturday, greatness was required by its leaders. The greatness of kicker Will Reichard, edge rusher Will Anderson, and quarterback Bryce Young was needed throughout the entire game. Each one contributed to a pivotal moment in Alabama football history.
Under Nick Saban, the Crimson Tide perhaps played its worst game in a long time. Since 2008, a Saban-led team has not accrued more penalties than their 15 for 100 yards total. You could assume that the team should lose after committing so many infractions, and people will make the argument that the Tide ought to have lost this game. The Tide, on the other hand, found a way to win thanks to its team leaders in every part of the game: Young, Anderson, and Reichard.
Young Showed Why He Won the Heisman!
The final 1:23 seconds of the fourth quarter saw a historic game-winning drive led by the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner. Bryce completed 27-of-39 passes for 213 passing yards and a touchdown. To set up Will Reichard for the game-winning goal, Young advanced the offense 61 yards down the field. Young's standout performance was eluding a sack and sprinting 20 yards for a crucial first down.
This is not Young's first rodeo. Last season, he led a game-tying 99-yard touchdown drive against Auburn. That drive was the moment Young needed to secure the Heisman Trophy in 2021. Fast forward to Saturday, with Alabama struggling on offense and the number of penalties mounting up for the Tide throughout the game, Young was relied upon once again to lead Alabama to the promised land, and he accomplished so despite all odds stacked against him.
Will Anderson and the Defense Refuses to Break
Texas gained 371 total yards and 19 points from the Crimson Tide defense. While Alabama's numerous infractions were the result of sloppy play, the defense was headed by Will Anderson, who committed four penalties of his own, would not let his team lose.
Anderson finished with five total tackles, two tackles for losses, and the biggest sack of the game. The Longhorns drove down the field to kill a lot of time after Texas forced a stop on fourth down. Although Anderson's sack resulted in a Texas field goal, it was a huge stop that left time for Alabama's offense to go ahead, it came on a third down at Alabama's 24-yard line.
Last year's team had a lot of questions about leadership. Will Anderson stated that this offseason's leadership has improved. We witnessed that Saturday because when one of your greatest players makes a mistake, such as a penalty, those great players lead by example and rectify them. Will Anderson did it for this defense when it mattered the most.
Will Reichard Saves the Day!
A reliable outstanding kicker has been something for which many Alabama fans have prayed, hoped, and hungered. The Crimson Tide has battled with many painful memories associated with notably kicking the "Kick Six" against Auburn in 2013. Under Saban, Jeremy Shelley had one of the best seasons as a kicker in 2012. He made 11-of-11 field goals and 69-of-69 extra points. Since that time, until the arrival of Will Reichard, the Tide has not had that level of reliability in the kicker position.
The senior from Hoover, Alabama arrived in 2019 and only played five games before being injured. Since then, he has been one of the best kickers Nick Saban has recruited throughout his time at Alabama.
In his career, Reichard has had a 98% extra point rate and an 82% field goal percentage. He's been steady throughout his career, but until Saturday morning, he hadn't kicked a game-winning field goal. Reichard kicked the game-winning field goal in a hostile setting with 15 seconds left in the fourth quarter after Bryce Young drove the team down into field goal range.
Greatness corresponds to leadership, and championship teams require leadership. When things don't go as planned, you look to the team leaders to ultimately lead the squad to victory. Alabama looks to continue that leadership and hopefully better play next Saturday against the ULM Warhawks.