Alabama coach Nick Saban came to Tuscaloosa in 2007 inheriting a program that was coming off a 6-7 record and a 34-31 loss to Oklahoma State in the Independence Bowl. After one season of growing pains, the Crimson Tide started a run of dominance that no team has been able to match since.
Through five national titles, five SEC Championships, and a historic start to the 2018 season, the Alabama Crimson Tide are on a collision course with another berth in the College Football Playoff. But of all of those titles, and more than 130 wins, which one is the most memorable for the Hall of Fame head coach?
The 66-year-old football coach dished on his most memorable game during his weekly Thursday night radio show.
“If I had to pick one, it would probably be the Rose Bowl game, the first national championship game in 2009 against Texas. Only because in just the third year of being here, we took a not-so-good team, a 6-6 team, and all these players – some were here, some were new guys, some came here like Julio Jones and Rolando McClain and a bunch of guys, Mark Barron – they all came here when we weren’t good. But they were highly-recruited guys and they believed in what we were trying to do and what we were going to.” — Nick Saban
That 2009 Alabama team was Nick Saban’s only perfect team during this historic run, finishing with a 14-0 record that was capped by running all over the Texas Longhorns.
Running backs Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson both ran for over 100 yards and each scored two touchdowns in a dominating 37-21 BCS Championship win in Pasadena, California.
“The Rose Bowl was a great atmosphere,” Saban said. “And that’s probably, if I had to pick one, not that all the championship games aren’t special. And the one I think about the most and the one that bothers me the most is the one that we lost. But if you want a best memory, I guess it would have to be the first one.”
Fortunately for Alabama, Heisman Trophy finalist quarterback Colt McCoy suffered a shoulder injury on the Longhorns’ opening drive and was replaced by true freshman Garrett Gilbert, who was eaten alive by the Tide’s top-ranked defense, completing 15-of-40 passes and tossing four interceptions in that game.
The Crimson Tide were national champions once again, and that team boasted one of the most insane rosters in college football history that laid the foundation for the decade-long dynasty that followed.
QB Greg McIlroy
RB Mark Ingram (2009 Heisman Trophy Winner)
RB Trent Richardson
WR Julio Jones
OL Barrett Jones
DL Marcell Dareus
DL Terrance Cody
LB Rolando McClain
LB Dont’a Hightower
LB Courtney Upshaw
DB Mark Barron
DB Javier Arenas
DB Kareem Jackson
There may never be another team as special as the 2009 Alabama Crimson Tide in Nick Saban’s mind, strictly because of the nostalgia of that first title game they bring to the table.
Then again, that undefeated team might have a run for their money with what the Tide team a decade later is doing so far in 2018.