Posted by Jerry Hinnen
The jokes were never fair. Yes, Alabama missed four field goals in the first meeting against LSU. Yes, those misses were a major factor in the Tide's defeat. And no, designated kickoff specialist/long-range kicker Cade Foster hasn't had much of a season, going 2-for-9.
But that should never have meant that the Tide can't kick field goals. Junior Jeremy Shelley is, in fact, really, really good at kicking field goals. Field goals shorter than 40 yards, anyway: entering the BCS national championship game, Shelley had attempted 18 such kicks, and converted 16 of them. He'd missed one extra point all season, in 53 tries. He hadn't missed any kick shorter than 30 yards.
But because Foster melted down against the Tigers and Shelley's one attempt in that game -- from well outside his usual range -- was blocked, the Tide kicking game was a laughingstock, a one-liner, a punchline. (If you don't believe us, you should have seen Twitter during the unfortunate field goal-kicking contest at halftime Monday night.) After the BCS title game, we wonder if Shelley took it personally.
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Shelley wasn't perfect--he had another 42-yarder blocked early on, missed a 41-yarder in the third quarter that could have helped clinch the title earlier, and even honked the only extra point attempted in eight quarters between the two teams. But he also connected five times on field goal attempts, tying an all-time bowl record, and made sure that the drives that were wasted in the Prematch weren't wasted this time. He hit from 23, 34, 35, and even from 41 and 44 for his first successes from that distance of the year. For all the potential inherent in LSU's brilliant punting pair of Brad Wing on the kicking end and Tyrann Mathieu on the returning end, the special teams player who made the most impact Monday -- for either side was Shelley.
Given the overall narrative of the night, that's how things had to be. If the first meeting was about the Tide's mistakes, the second one was about redemption for those mistakes--and even if those placekicking mistakes weren't Shelley's to begin with, he was the Crimson Tide player on who that area of redemption rested. And like everyone of his teammates, he came through with the highest-flying of colors.
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