AP photo by Butch Dill|
Alabama’s Matt Caddell can’t believe his team lost to Sun Belt Conference team Louisiana-Monroe 21-14 in Tuscaloosa on Saturday. The Tide has lost three straight games and is 6-5 on the season.
Nick Saban apologizes to Tide nation for loss to ULM
By Josh Cooper
TUSCALOOSA — As Alabama receiver Matt Caddell walked off the Bryant-Denny Stadium turf for his last time as a player, the Tide senior saw one sight that will stick in his mind for the rest of his life:
The scoreboard: Louisiana-Monroe 21, Alabama 14.
“It’s kind of crazy,” Caddell said afterward, still in a daze. “I don’t know. It’s just real crazy.”
In a game billed as a tune-up for Saturday’s Iron Bowl against Auburn, everything went horribly wrong for the Crimson Tide as boos rained on Alabama all day long from the stands. When the clock struck zero after Tide quarterback John Parker Wilson threw incomplete on fourth down, the Louisiana-Monroe fans cheering “ULM” barely cut through the derisive sounds coming from the Tide faithful.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban didn’t seem to appreciate his team’s effort any more than the Bryant-Denny crowd did.
“I’m embarrassed for all of our fans and everybody we represent with how we played today,” Saban said. “That is my responsibility.”
A member of the Sun Belt Conference, Louisiana-Monroe last defeated an SEC opponent in 1995 when the Warhawks beat Mississippi State 34-32. On Saturday, they provided Saban with arguably his worst loss as a collegiate coach, and gave ULM coach Charlie Weatherbie a career highlight.
“This has been the No. 1 win since I’ve been here in five years,” Weatherbie said.
Alabama’s last loss to a non-BCS conference opponent came in 2003 at Hawaii during Mike Shula’s first year as the Tide’s coach. Alabama fired Shula 11 months ago, but even after hiring Saban, it couldn’t dodge a loss like Saturday’s.
“I was very disappointed and I apologize to the people who support this program,” Saban said. “We didn’t represent it with class today, and we will continue to work to get where we want to go.”
For a coach who constantly refers to “the process” of winning, this loss to Louisiana-Monroe severely detoured Saban’s plans.
With the team now sitting at 6-5, the same record the Crimson Tide had last year at this juncture, the term “one-game season” seems appropriate. A win over Auburn in six days would make Alabama’s year.
“By winning next week, a lot of people will forget about this loss,” Tide senior cornerback Simeon Castille said. “So we just have to go back to work and get better.”
Just three weeks ago, Alabama’s season rode high. A win over Tennessee had players talking about the possibility of an SEC championship. Now saddled with a three-game losing streak, the Crimson Tide players spoke Saturday of simply making a bowl game.
Alabama’s first sign of trouble came at the end of the first quarter. With the Tide winning 7-0, Warhawks cornerback Quintez Secka intercepted Wilson at the Alabama 43-yard line and returned the ball to the Tide 1. One play later, Calvin Dawson rushed over left tackle for ULM’s first score.
If that touchdown wasn’t a sign of things to come, the Warhawks showed their staying power with their next score.
With the Tide up 14-7 after a Terry Grant 12-yard run with 12:42 remaining in the second quarter, the Warhawks went on a 10-play, 80-yard drive that lasted 5 minutes, 5 seconds to knot the score at 14 with 7:37 remaining in the second quarter.
Alabama couldn’t move the ball, and the Warhawks took advantage with another long drive, this time in the third quarter. Louisiana-Monroe’s final scoring drive lasted 10 plays and 4:16. The Warhawks got their points when quarterback Kinsmon Lancaster hit Marty Humphrey on a third-and-10 from the Alabama 11-yard line for the eventual game-winning touchdown.
As the game wore on, the Crimson Tide defense did its part, forcing the Warhawks to punt four times during the fourth quarter, but Alabama’s offense couldn’t convert.
With time running out in the fourth quarter, Alabama drove to the Louisiana-Monroe 19-yard line, only to see little-used running back Jimmy Johns lose a fumble.
After stopping the Warhawks on their next drive, Alabama got the ball at the ULM 26 and moved to the 18. However, the Tide couldn’t convert on third-and-two and fourth-and-two plays. Alabama went with the 5-foot-10, 188-pound Grant both times instead of the 6-2, 237-pound Johns and failed to gain anything.
“It’s hard to put (Jimmy) back in. We didn’t have any choices,” Saban said. “We need to block the plays well enough to where we get the opportunity to get the fourth-and-one or third-and-one.”
Alabama got the ball back again with 56 seconds left, and on the first play from scrimmage, wide receiver Keith Brown ran down the sideline wide open. But Wilson’s pass to Brown sailed out of bounds. The Crimson Tide gained four yards on that drive.
Wilson completed 21 of 31 passes for 246 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Grant had 96 yards on 21 carries, and Johns, seeing his first action at running back in eight games, had 34 yards on four rushes.
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