The 2013 Iron Bowl still is — and will continue to be — a sore spot for many Alabama fans.
There was only one second left in the game, and all No. 1 Alabama needed was to make a 57-yard field goal to win the game, but Alabama’s Adam Griffith missed the field goal short, and Auburn’s Chris Davis scored a touchdown on a 109-yard return.
History was made that day with the play dubbed Kick Six, and since then, special teams seems to have been a sore spot for the Crimson Tide faithful.
Two games into its season, Alabama has already seen two gaffes by its special teams. The special teams bruise that remains from that Iron Bowl is being poked, and fans can only hope that the third game of the season this Saturday against Ole Miss will reflect the phrase, “third time’s a charm.”
Mishap No. 1:
With 4:42 left in the fourth quarter against Wisconsin, wide receiver Chris Black was ready to return the kickoff for Alabama, or maybe he wasn’t.
Black caught the ball in the end zone and looked ready to go for it; however, he took a knee only seven yards out of the end zone.
Running back Kenyan Drake said he was blocking and missed the play when it happened. It was the Wisconsin player he was about to block, he said, who told him that Black took a knee. Drake said he responded, “Oh wow.”
But, he’s not going to give his teammate a rough time about such a thing. Drake said he knew Black already felt bad about the situation, but he also knew mistakes happen.
“We all have those types of plays, so [we] just try to pick him up,” Drake said.
Coach Nick Saban, during a press conference days after, said the coaches are to blame for the situation.
“We had not gone over that situation with him where there’s more than two minutes to go in the game and he had to get what he could get,” Saban said. “So it wasn’t a bad conversation; it was a teaching moment. It’s unfortunate that it happened, but we’ll take the blame for that one.”
No harm, no foul, however. Alabama still prospered and won, 35-17.
Mishap No. 2:
Kicker Adam Griffith was given two chances to make a field goal during Alabama’s home opener against MTSU.
He missed both.
Before Saturday, Griffith was asked where he feels confident with his field goals. He said 55 yards and in.
“For me, I want to be really consistent 40 and in, 45 and in, too,” Griffith said. “I feel pretty confident from 50, 55.”
The field goals on Saturday were for 24 and 49 yards, but still, his teammates and Saban are not worried.
“We obviously need to get more production there, but we also have confidence in him,” Saban said. “We think he can get the job done, but there may come a point some times where we give somebody else an opportunity.”
Since his back injury, Griffith hasn’t been the same kicker he once was. He’s had a rough start in kicking the ball as desired, but he’s not alone. So far, punter J.K. Scott hasn’t performed consistently at the level he did last season.
Despite the missed field goals, Alabama defeated MTSU, 37-10.
“I’m fully confident in Adam and J.K.,” linebacker Reggie Ragland said. “So when the time comes, they’re big-time players and they always show up in the big-time games. So I’m not worried about that.”
Saturday’s game against Ole Miss will be that big-time game.
Third time’s the charm:
Regardless of what already has happened, there’s no doubt or lack of enthusiasm within the Alabama special teams, and where there’s bad, there has been good.
During the MTSU game, special teams had a blocked kick by defensive back Ronnie Harrison. After the game, Saban said he was happy with that.
Cyrus Jones is another option for punt returner. While Black said he’d take on that role whenever it’s his time, Jones is also there and ready. Saban said Jones played consistently for the team last year and that the more he plays, the more experience he gains.
“I think he has a good understanding of what we expect from him,” Saban said. “He’s done a good job so far in the return game for us as well, and he sets a good example in terms of how he works and what he does.”
Jones is excited for the opportunity he has at punt returner.
“I came in here a kind of offensive-minded guy, at first,” Jones said. “I like the ball in my hands. It’s definitely an exciting thing for me to get a chance back there this year to show what I can do.”
He’s not the only one who is excited over the thought of catching and returning punts, though. Wide receiver Richard Mullaney had never returned a punt in college until the MTSU game.
“That was really fun,” he said. “Just the reaction of the guys on the sidelines and stuff like that, that was really cool.”
This isn’t baseball, where after three strikes the player is out. There is one opportunity after another. Mess up one or two, and come back stronger next time and learn from the past–that’s how Alabama is looking at its mistakes.
It’s better that the special teams make mistakes early on in the season rather than later in order to learn and grow–and keep a Kick Six out of the record books.
Source:: The Crimson White Sports