When watching film in advance of last night’s college football championship game, Alabama head coach Nick Saban noticed tendencies he thought his team could exploit if Clemson lined up a certain way on kickoffs. He even told his kicker, Adam Griffith, before the game that he’d likely attempt an onside kick at some point during the title game. He meant it: After Alabama tied the game at 24 with 10:34 left in the fourth quarter, Saban took a risk and called for one, and it worked marvelously. Griffith’s kick was recovered by Alabama at the 50, and two plays later, Jake Coker completed a pass to O.J. Howard for a 51-yard touchdown. Alabama never gave that lead up and would go on to win its fourth national title in seven years.
“We weren’t playing very well on defense,” said Saban, who could be seen smiling on the sidelines after the Crimson Tide recovered the kick. “It was a tie game. I thought we needed to do something that was going to change the momentum of the game. That certainly did.”
On AL.com, Kevin Scarbinsky called Saban’s decision “[t]he most daring, brilliant, insane call in college football history.” Writing for Sports on Earth, Will Leitch said that while it’s Alabama’s opponents who usually are willing to try unconventional tactics to topple the mighty Crimson Tide, this time it was Saban who “pulled a huge David-thwarting-Goliath move with his most stunning, batsh!t-crazy, evil-genius call in recent memory.”
At SB Nation, Patrick Vint notes while Alabama hasn’t lost often under Saban, when they have, special teams have been an issue. But this time, writes Vint, “[w]ith a national championship on the line, Nick Saban finally flipped the script.” And on SI.com, Pete Thamel writes that “Saban’s savvy led to the Tide’s fourth national title in the last seven years, a stunning run of dominance in the modern era that begs a question that once would have been considered sacrilege: Is Saban the best coach in college football history?”
Saban’s own players agree the decision was a brilliant one: “Desperate times call for desperate measures,” said Alabama center Ryan Kelly. “That’s why he’s the greatest coach, in my opinion.