Alabama football needs a look in the mirror, and a trip back to camp | Goodbread

Chase Goodbread
The Tuscaloosa News

It's a mirror week for Alabama football.

But the long look the Crimson Tide will take at itself has nothing to do with vanity.

Following a wide array of mistakes and uninspiring plays in a 20-19 road win at Texas that could aptly be dubbed The Austin Escape, Alabama might as well have a camp-style practice week that purely emphasizes fundamentals, assignments, and any other matters of importance that don't change with opponents from week to week.

Indeed, coach Nick Saban's opening statement Monday sounded an awful lot like one of his assessments in April or August, two months of practice that are about the team itself, not its schedule.

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"(It's) about playing smart, having good discipline to execute, focus on what's in front of you and do your job. Not only do your job, but do it fundamentally with the correct technique," Saban said. "Whether it's hand placement for an offensive lineman, whether it's footwork for defensive backs, whether it's running your feet on contact when you're tackling. All these things are basically fundamental things that people have to do every day in practice so that there aren't bad habits that show up in the game. And I think that's a big lesson for us to learn."

Between missed tackles, missed blocks, dropped passes and a Saban era-high 15 penalties, the adversity Alabama found itself facing Saturday was largely self-inflicted. It's somewhat remarkable that, among all those issues, the Crimson Tide managed to post a clean zero in the turnover department. There are other question marks - whether the wide receiving corps can consistently get open, and if the offensive line can find the necessary groove for this offense to be a dominant one - that might go beyond fundamentals.

But for now, this is a team that must sharpen up the basics. And that doesn't mean any less attention can be paid to UA's upcoming foe, Louisiana-Monroe. Between the lackluster performance against Texas and the inescapable references to Alabama's 2007 loss to ULM that are sure to penetrate the football facility this week, there isn't much of any chance of Alabama taking ULM lightly.

At least, there shouldn't be. And considering Saban also made mention of that 15-year-old, 21-14 stinker in his news conference, it's likely he'll make it known to the players himself.

Not that they need any extra motivation.

Despite the win, Alabama fell to No. 2 in the AP poll and was exposed in several areas that could eventually land it on the wrong side of the scoreboard more than once. Solving a number of those problems will require a throwback to early August, from mental approach to physical drills. After all, blocking and tackling are done the same way whether it's ULM or Auburn coming to town, and those are just two of the foundations this team hasn't fully poured.

It's often said that individuals sometimes must take a step backward in order to move forward. It's true of sports teams, as well.

And there's no better example than Alabama football.

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Tuscaloosa News sport columnist Chase Goodbread.