But former Crimson Tide long snapper Carson Tinker recalled the Monday before the Tide’s “Game of the Century” with LSU in 2011 having a different tone.
Tinker said the players were told “don’t watch TV this week, don’t buy into the hype, don’t drink the Kool-Aid and don’t get caught up in all that other stuff.”
The buildup began weeks before the actual game kicked off and eventually engulfed everyone. Even the players to an extent.
“It was impossible not to (get caught in it),” Tinker said. “It was on every TV channel. Every time you went to ESPN, that’s all they talked about for a week straight. I think they showed every single clip they could find on Alabama. They were in the complex all week. There was so much hype and it was impossible to ignore it. … So much hype.”
Added former kicker Jeremy Shelley, “I wouldn’t say it was hard to stay focused on the games before that one, but at the same time, every time you turned on the TV they were talking about it. Then game week came and the hype got even bigger and bigger and bigger. It was unbelievable to think that we’d be playing in the game that people regarded as the game of the century.”
Depending on one’s perspective, the actual game may or may not have lived up to the mammoth size hype. It was a defensive struggle that ended 9-6 in LSU’s favor. Neither offense was able to sustain drives.
“We just kept shooting ourselves in the foot once we got in scoring range,” former Tide offensive lineman Alfred McCullough said. “Bad penalties and missed field goals killed us.”
The Tide entered the red zone multiple times, but it’s offense became stagnant. The game turned on an interception in which former Tide wide receiver Marquis Maze dropped back and lobbed a pass to former tight end Michael Williams that was snatched away by former LSU safety Eric Reid.
“I don’t think it was an interception, but the refs made the call and we had to live with it,” McCullough said.
McCullough felt the outcome didn’t tell the entire story.
“Physically, I think we won the game,” he said. “But it went into overtime and we couldn’t get anything done and they took it from us.”
The 2012 clash didn’t produce the same level of buzz with LSU coming in with a loss, but the game was an instant classic.
Staged in Baton Rouge, La., Death Valley flexed its muscle and showed why it’s considered one of, if not the loudest places in all of college football.
“Florida in 2011 in the Swamp was comparable, but it wasn’t as loud as LSU that year,” Tinker said. “LSU is such a cool place to play, a real hostile environment. I get goosebumps now just talking about it.”
Alabama had an opportunity to put the game away, but its offense fell flat in the second half and allowed the Tigers to take a late lead.
Just when it appeared the Tide would be defeated, its offense pulled some last minute heroics with quarterback AJ McCarron finding running back T.J. Yeldon for the go-ahead touchdown. The Tide escaped with a 21-17 victory in one of its more thrilling contests to date.
Tinker and Shelley were on the sideline preparing to kick the game-tying field goal, but didn’t get the chance.
“A win beats a tie anyday,” Shelley said.
All the coaches and everyone on the staff were “dumbfounded,” Tinker said.
“Not because they didn’t believe in us, but because they couldn’t believe what had just happened,” Tinker said. “Coach Saban had a little bit of that. He was so proud of us and the fact that we fought through adversity.”
Tinker said there was “a big party” on the plane ride home.
“We weren’t doing anything stupid. We were just having a great time,” Tinker said. “We were so emotional after a victory like that and we were happy to be able to celebrate with each other.”
For some reason, this game hasn’t garnered the attention of the two previous matchups.
“I haven’t had the same feeling about this game as I did the last two years,” Shelley said.
Tinker said with both teams having great talent, every game with LSU comes down to “who works harder in the offseason and who wants it more.”
All of the former players expect a tough, physical game, but there’s no surprise who they want to win.
“I got Alabama though,” Tinker said, “you know I got Alabama.”