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More excuses as Alabama continues tumble from top of football world – SportingNews.com

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Here we are, smack in the middle of we’re better than you, and suddenly lost in where do we go from here?

Not since Nick Saban’s first season at Alabama has there been this much uncertainty, this much unknown. 

This much empty.

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“They didn’t beat us,” says Alabama cornerback Cyrus Jones. “We beat ourselves.”

Welcome, everyone, to the fall of a champion.

There’s no greater indicator of a lost dynasty, no more prominent red flag, than ignoring the obvious: this is not the same Alabama program of years gone by.

Ole Miss 43, Alabama 37 simply put an exclamation point on it.

This is not the Alabama team that dominates and suffocates and eviscerates. This program, since late last season, stumbles and eventually crumbles in big games.

Then makes excuses.

“You can’t give a team 31 points and expect to win the game,” says Alabama center Ryan Kelly.

And you can’t avoid what’s staring back at you, plain for all to see, and think excuses are going to make everything better.

It began this offseason, when Saban told anyone who would listen that the down time between the final regular season game and the College Football Playoff was a contributing factor in the Tide’s loss to Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl. Too many guys worried about the NFL; not enough guys focused on winning a playoff game.

Fast forward to this implosion, this meltdown in a big game that is becoming all too familiar. Saban walked into the postgame press conference with red, watery eyes, subdued by the moment and overwhelmed by all of those points that Alabama “gave away.”

A year ago in this game, Saban talked about Alabama giving that game away, too — a game Ole Miss won 23-17 with an interception in the final seconds. The Rebels sealed this one with an interception, too — but not after the ills of Alabama had become abundantly clear.

You want to blame someone? Great, let’s blame someone.

For five straight years now, Saban and his staff have landed the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class. Somehow, some way, the program that recruits like no other can’t seem to recruit a quarterback.

Somehow, some way, the program that recruits better than any other, can’t seem to recruit impact players on defense. You want to blame it all on turnovers?

Those turnovers didn’t magically become Ole Miss offensive players making key plays and in critical situations. Those turnovers weren’t the reason Alabama got caught — again — on the option pass for a touchdown (hello, Auburn 2013).

Those turnovers weren’t the reason Ole Miss wideout Laquon Treadwell plucked a perfect pass at its highest point and scored the game-winning touchdown.

Those turnovers weren’t the reason Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly, playing in just his third FBS game as a starter, made play after play when the Rebels needed it most.

Those turnovers are, however, the very reason Alabama is no longer the king of all things SEC.

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“We won this game last year,” Treadwell said. “We had confidence we could do it again.”

The reality is, the beginning of the decline for Alabama started last season at Ole Miss. Had Treadwell not been injured on a freak play that led to a loss to Auburn, the Rebels would have won the SEC West and played Missouri in the SEC Championship Game.

As it was, Alabama got a second chance when Ole Miss lost a second SEC game, and after giving up the most points (44) by a Saban-coached team in last year’s Iron Bowl, went on to give up 42 points in a loss to Ohio State.

So it should come as no surprise that, in another big game, Alabama gave up another 40-spot. You want to blame someone?

Blame Saban’s defense, the one thing that for years was this program’s steady crutch, its sturdy shield. The quarterback could be a caretaker (see: John Parker Wilson, Greg McElroy, AJ McCarron) because the defense would erase any mistakes from the offense.

Now the offense still has a caretaker at quarterback (Jake Coker), but the defense can’t stop anyone in a big game. Yes, Alabama had five turnovers — but all five turnovers could have been erased with a stout defense.

Take care of one or two of those turnovers, and this charade of Alabama is still the same Alabama would’ve lasted through another big game.

“We gave them 31 points,” Saban said. “Look, I don’t want to take away anything from (Ole Miss). They outplayed us, they outcoached us. But that’s the fact of the matter.”

No, the fact of the matter is Saban either can’t or won’t recruit an elite quarterback to his system. The fact of the matter is Alabama has looked awful on defense in big games of late, and the days of dictating games on that side of the ball are long gone.

A team that doesn’t have a tailback that weighs more than 200 pounds; a team whose starting quarterback had never played in a game of this magnitude on the road in a wild environment, took those turnovers and turned them into 31 points.

Ole Miss seized the moment and squeezed the very life from it. Alabama, meanwhile, was left with Saban talking about having more yards, running more plays and “giving” the other team 31 points. You know, excuses.

Again.

When Saban arrived in a somber locker room, he told his players that the season isn’t over; that the Tide lost this same game last year, fought back and won the SEC and was the No. 1 seed in the CFP.

“He said we can do the same thing again,” said Tide tight end O.J. Howard.

Not with this defense they can’t.

There are more big games on the horizon (at Georgia, at Texas A&M, LSU, at Mississippi State); more games for the unthinkable to become the inevitable.

The decline of the champion has begun.

“This team has too much pride to let this loss define us,” Jones said.   

The excuses already have.

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