The University of Alabama is still celebrating its 17th National Championship Monday, thanks to Devante Smith’s 41-yard touchdown in overtime, but one year ago there was a much different mood among the Tide nation. When Clemson walked off with its stunning victory, football head coach Nick Saban chalked it up to “lack of finish.”
But this year, there was one word still playing over and over in the players’ minds since that heartbreaking 35-31 loss: Finish.
“We knew the game wasn’t over,” said senior linebacker Rashaan Evans. “We had to play four quarters. I feel like that’s something we kind of lost last year. I feel like we did it this year. It was kind of like redemption almost.”
Junior linebacker Jamey Mosley agreed.
“I’m just glad that this team got what it deserved,” he said. “They deserve this. We worked for this, I’m just so thankful for it.”
Senior defensive back Levi Wallace said the late-game victory makes the win even sweeter.
“This is a different feeling rather than just blowing someone out,” he said. “Fighting for it, coming back from behind in an overtime game. It’s a dream come true.”
Junior linebacker Christian Miller said the team isn’t adverse to overcoming some serious issues.
“We’ve had so many obstacles along the way, we’ve learned how to adjust and keep fighting,” he said. “And that’s what this whole team was built on, that’s what this whole program was built on. But this team, this specific team, we learned how to fight. And that’s what we did tonight.”
Saban said even he had his doubts.
“At halftime, there were very few people who really thought that we had a chance at all to win,” he said. “If we just focus on the execution and having the discipline to do your job and do it with great effort, toughness and being more physical than the other team, we just need to execute and play our game. If we do that, we’ll give ourselves a chance to win, and the players did.”
It’s the fifth title for Saban in nine years and his sixth overall. That puts him at a tie with Paul W. “Bear” Bryant, a feat that many say puts him in the running for greatest college coach of all time. But while that’s up for debate, the Alabama dynasty lives on, and the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates being National Champions once more.