29 August 2008
| To be "on the schneid" means to be on a losing streak, racking up a series of losing, and especially scoreless, games. "Schneid" is actually short for "schneider," a term originally used in the card game of gin, meaning to prevent an opponent from scoring any points.
I don't believe that what an announcer says has anything at all to do with whether a pitcher throws a no-hitter, nor even with whether a basketball player will hit his next free throw shot. Not only do I leave pennies lying on the ground when I spot them, but I love Friday the 13ths and will go out of my way to walk under a ladder or cross a black cat's trail.
So I'm going to go ahead and say what no one else has dared to say: we're doing an awful lot of good things with our football program, but there's one thing yet undone, and only the players can do it.
We haven't gotten off the schneid yet.
To be particular about my definition of "schneid," I mean that Alabama has been, for the past few years - and it really pains me to say this, but not 1% as much as it has pained me to see it happen - a team that is particularly inclined to fold like an accordian in the clutch. Bama teams have dependably wilted in fourth quarters the last few years, like dead daisies in the desert heat.
Depending on your definition of "stomped," there's an argument to be made that we haven't really been stomped this century. But we have sure lost a lot of close games.
In case you're doubting me, let me list some of the daggers to the heart Bama fans have endured over the past few years. The trend really started, I think, in 2001 (in 2000 we were bad the whole game, not just in the 4th quarter):
9/29/01 - Bama led 23-10 at the half and took a 36-24 lead on a 9-yard Tyler Watts run with 9:01 left in the 4th. But two late TDs gave Lou Holtz's South Carolina Gamecocks a 37-36 win.
10/13/01 - Bama led 24-14 at the end of the third, but two Eli Manning TD drives gave Ole Miss the 27-24 win.
10/20/01 - Bama led 24-21 at the end of the third, but two Casey Clausen TD drives gave UT the 35-24 win.
10/27/01 - On Homecoming at Tuscaloosa, LSU took the lead for good on the last play of the third quarter, and cruised to a 35-21 win.
Notice that's four fourth-quarter let-downs in a single month. The one week not on this list was a 56-7 blowout of UTEP, and even that game was 7-7 in the fourth. Overall for the five games, Bama was outscored 54-7 in the fourth.
11/10/01 - I don't want to paint a misleading picture here, so I'll point out that it was actually Bama coming from behind against a mediocre Mississippi St. team here, trailing 14-10 at the end of the third and coming back for a 24-14 win. No more come-from-behind wins after this one for way too long.
8/31/02 - Bama held on for a 39-34 win over Middle Tennessee St., but giving up 20 points in the 4th quarter to the whatever-their-mascot-is(es) was, in retrospect, a very bad sign.
9/7/02 - Trailing 23-3 at the half, Bama came roaring back in Norman to take a 27-23 lead on a Michael Ziifle field goal with 3:11 left. Despite not having scored in the 2nd half to that point, OU closed with 14 late points and a 37-27 win.
10/5/02 - Georgia kicked a field goal with 38 second left to win 27-25.
11/30/02 - Bama gave up 14 4th-quarter points but held on to beat Hawaii 21-16.
9/20/03 - Bama led Northern Illinois 9-5 at the half and lost 19-16.
9/27/03 - The Tide blew a 31-10 lead to Arkansas en route to a 34-31 OT loss. The Hogs outscored us 14-0 in the 4th.
10/25/03 - Bama gave up the infamous 4th-and-19 to allow Tennessee to drive for a tying TD late in the game and lost 51-43 in a multi-OT shootout.
11/29/03 - Alabama was outscored 21-8 in the 4th quarter of a humiliating 37-29 loss to Hawaii.
9/25/04 - Arkansas broke open a close game with a 14-0 fourth quarter to take a 27-10 win.
11/13/04 - Trailing 10-6 at the half, LSU outscored the Tide 20-0 in the second half, including 13-0 in the fourth quarter of a 26-10 win.
11/20/04 - Trailing 6-0 at the half, Auburn outscored Bama 21-7 in the second half for a 21-13 win.
Even in a 10-2 season, we had no come-from-behind wins. We did pull out a couple of last-second wins against Ole Miss and UT, but had a last-second loss against LSU.
Conclusion? Still on the schneid.
9/2/06 - Outscored 7-3 in the fourth quarter of a 25-17 win over Hawaii.
9/23/06 - Everybody remembers the two game-winning field goals we missed against Arkansas, plus the game-losing extra point miss in OT of a 24-23 loss.
9/30/06 - Trailing Florida 14-13 and with the ball in decent field position with 9:00 left in the fourth, we lost 28-13.
10/14/06 - Give credit where it's due. It wasn't exactly a great comeback, but Alabama and Ole Miss scrapped back and forth for all four quarters, and Bama eked it out 26-23 in OT.
10/21/06 - Outscored 10-0 in the fourth quarter of a 16-13 loss at Knoxville.
11/4/06 - Scoreless in the fourth quarter as Mississippi St. held on for a 24-16 win.
11/11/06 - Scoreless in the fourth quarter of a 28-14 loss to LSU.
11/17/06 - Scoreless in the fourth quarter of a 22-15 loss to Auburn.
12/28/06 - After actually coming from behind in the fourth quarter to take the lead against Oklahoma St., including Javier Arenas' 86-yard punt return TD, Bama gave up a long game-ending drive culminating with the winning field goal in a 34-31 OSU win.
9/15/07 - This game breaks both ways. Bama did pull out a rare come-from-behind victory on the late pass from John Parker Wilson to Matt Caddell, but was still outscored by the Hogs 21-10 in the fourth. The Tide victory came courtesy of a 21-0 first quarter lead that was never quite relinquished til the end.
10/6/07 - A leaping goal-line pick by Simeon Castille helped Bama hold off the mediocre Houston Cougars as the game ended as a 30-24 win. Alabama held on by its fingertips after jumping to a 23-0 first-quarter lead.
10/13/07 - For a very welcome change, it was Bama strong down the stretch, outscoring Ole Miss 10-0 down the stretch for a 27-24 win. Nothing like that would happen again.
11/3/07 - LSU scored 14 points in the last 3 minutes to top Bama 41-34.
11/10/07 - Alabama scored three points in the second half of Mississippi State's 17-12 win.
11/17/07 - Bama was scoreless in the second half of Lousiana-Monroe's 21-14 win.
12/30/07 - Bama raced to a 20-0 first-quarter lead, then scored three points in the second half as they held on for dear life to take a 30-24 win over Colorado.
Your guess is as good as mine. Our performances against Ole Miss and Arkansas last year gave us some rare fourth-quarter heroics to look to, but the repeated episodes of first-quarter dominance and second-half lethargy remain disturbing, and that's putting it mildly.
This kind of thing can end in one memorable, historic game. I thought last year that maybe Arkansas was that game, but the rest of the season indubitably proved otherwise.
When will that game come? I don't know, but it needs to be soon. A few fourth-quarter collapses are actually somewhat understandable given the thin rosters probation has forced on us, but that excuse is rapidly leaving the picture.
There's no reason we can't end it now. We should and we must. This team could've done much, much better over the past few years just by winning its share of the close ones. To win the big enchilada, the crystal football, we have to not just do that, but actually win more
than ourshare of the up-for-grabs games.
It's a question of mindset. Are our players champions at heart? Champions WIN the close ones.