By: Sean Cartell
SEC Digital Network
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Let the discussion begin.
After what had been billed in the weeks leading up to it as the “Game of the Century,” it is only natural that the discussion among many fans has turned to the likelihood of a possible rematch, considering the nature of No. 1 LSU’s 9-6 overtime victory against No. 2 Alabama on Saturday night at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
While each team has three regular-season games remaining and anything is possible, it is evident that the Tigers have moved into the driver’s seat for a trip to both Atlanta for the Southeastern Conference Championship and New Orleans for the BCS Championship.
Alabama (8-1, 5-1 SEC) no longer controls its own destiny in either race, but according to senior center William Vlachos, a Birmingham, Ala., native, the Crimson Tide are solely focused on the regular-season games in front of them.
“We still have a great opportunity in front of us,” said Alabama senior center William Vlachos. “That was a great team and our hat is off to them. They beat us tonight and at the same time, we can’t control our destiny, but we can control what we do from here on out. If we continue to keep our foot on the pedal and get better, I think we have a chance to do something very, very special this season.”
The commitment to the future is something that Alabama head coach Nick Saban stressed to his team in the locker room following the game.
“I said, ‘We need to learn from this,’” Saban said. “’We need to make a commitment to the rest of the season, in terms of what kind of a football team we want to be and the way we want to respond to what happened here today. You guys have too much in it, you put too much into it, you have too much character, too much class and too much leadership here not to finish this season the right way,’ and they are all in.”
Despite the three-point overtime loss, Saban said in his postgame press conference Saturday that he was generally pleased with the performance of his team in the nation’s marquee matchup of the season.
“I actually think it was a heck of a football game,” Saban said. “I’m really proud of the way our players competed in the game. I thought we played hard and physical and we played with a lot of opportunities. It was a very physical game on both sides.”
The Crimson Tide created their share of opportunities, picking off two LSU passes to give Alabama at least one interception in eight of its nine games this season and for the 18th time in the last 21 outings. But, when all was said and done, the Tigers were able to convert on more of their chances to come away with the victory.
“We had a lot of opportunities that we didn’t take advantage of,” Saban said. “I can’t really say that I’m not proud of the way our players competed in the game and played in the game. We just didn’t execute well enough in certain situations and did not take advantage of some of the opportunities that we had.”
Instead of dwelling on Saturday’s loss or the implications that it may or may not have, Alabama remains focused on those opportunities and knows that if it does a better job of taking advantage of those chances, the Crimson Tide will be where they want to be at season’s end.
“Having high expectations for what you want to accomplish and what you want to achieve is very important,” Saban said. “I think all our players were doing that tonight. I think that when we look at the film, we’ll all be a little disappointed that we weren’t able to take advantage of some circumstances and situations in the game, but this group of players will push forward and represent this University in a first-class way. It’s important to me and I think it’s important to them.”