Boos bury miserable Alabama
TUSCALOOSA — The boos began midway through the first quarter when Alabama’s John Parker Wilson threw his first interception, a floating pass into double coverage.
They ended with 34 seconds left in the game when Wilson’s fourth-down toss flew off the fingertips of receiver Mike McCoy and hit the grass at Bryant-Denny Stadium, assuring a third straight loss for the floundering Crimson Tide.
Throughout Alabama’s 21-14 loss to Louisiana-Monroe, the 92,138 in attendance smothered an unfocused and embarrassed team with volleys of boos.
“If you want to stop the booing,” Tide receiver Matt Caddell said, “you have to go out and make plays.”
And that’s something the Crimson Tide failed to do time after time, play after play.
Let’s start from the beginning and work our way through what was a stunning day in Tuscaloosa, one coach Nick Saban compared to his loss to UAB during his first season at LSU. Wilson’s interception in that first quarter was a sign of things to come for a team that amassed more than 400 yards but had five turnovers.
He threw another interception minutes later, but this one, although boos again fell on his ears, wasn’t his fault.
Like that final play, the ball hit off receiver Will Oakley’s fingers before being intercepted in midair and returned to the Alabama 1-yard line, leading to a Warhawks touchdown to tie the score at 7.
“He made a good throw, the guy was open, it was a good decision,” Saban said. “You really can’t boo the quarterback for that.”
But they did. The next blunder came on defense.
Cornerback Simeon Castille left his receiver wide open when Warhawks quarterback Kinsmon Lancaster tucked the ball and acted as if he were going to run.
Lancaster stopped short of the line of scrimmage and lofted a 40-yard bomb to a wide-open Marty Humphrey, who was a good 10 yards behind a stunned Castille.
That led to freshman Frank Goodin’s 13-yard touchdown run. He is the Warhawks’ backup tailback, but that didn’t matter as he bulled his way into the end zone.
“The week of practice, we didn’t practice well,” running back Jonathan Lowe said. “Like Coach Saban always says, it shows up on Saturday.”
Alabama got the ball at its own 10-yard line with 1:54 left in the first half. Instead of going into a two-minute offense, Saban called four straight running plays.
Asked about the situation, he said, “I’ve been through that before, where you get aggressive when you have poor field position, you throw an interception and the next thing, they score.”
Sounds like a coach with a lack of confidence in his offense — an offense facing a Louisiana-Monroe defense ranked 82nd in the nation.
The woes and boos continued in the second half.
The Crimson Tide trailed 21-14 with three seconds left in the third quarter when go-to wide out DJ Hall dropped a pass in the back of the end zone. A few plays later, ULM blocked Leigh Tiffin’s 36-yard field-goal attempt.
Finally, the Tide passing game showed some life. Wilson hit Caddell for 25 yards, then Lowe for 18 more, but Jimmy Johns’ fumble at the ULM 13-yard line with 4:41 left ended the drive.
Given one more chance, the Tide couldn’t convert a fourth-and-two at the Warhawks’ 18. Grant hit a wall of his own linemen, who were pushed into the backfield.
“They made a couple of good adjustments,” Tide center Evan Cardwell said. “We just couldn’t adjust as well as we needed to.”
As Alabama headed for the tunnel, the boos were at their heaviest, burying a squad that once held dreams of a New Year’s Day Bowl and now is fighting for a chance at the postseason. “We were 6-2,” Saban said, “and a pretty good football team at one point in time.”