Alabama players motivated by Clemson loss

By JOHNATHAN BENTLEY, Eagle Sports Editor
Posted 7/12/17

HOOVER — Alabama players are used to coming into SEC Media Days a few months removed from a national championship.

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Alabama players motivated by Clemson loss

Posted

HOOVER — Alabama players are used to coming into SEC Media Days a few months removed from a national championship.

Coming in after a loss — that one’s new.

That’s exactly the case this season following the Tide’s down-to-the-last-second loss to Clemson in the College Football Playoff championship game in January.

Clemson scored 21 fourth-quarter points to rally for a 35-31 victory with Deshaun Watson connecting with Hunter Renfrow for the game-winning two-yard touchdown pass with one second remaining.

Now Alabama players are using the rare championship loss — head coach Nick Saban is now 5-1 in championship games — in a positive way.

“We definitely need (the motivation),” junior receiver Calvin Ridley said. “When you lose a big game like that, you definitely come into the next season with a chip on your shoulder. We’re very excited to get out there. All our guys that did play in that game are really hungry to get back out there and play and show the world that we are one of the top teams in the nation.”

Alabama is sure to open the season at their familiar No. 1 spot in the polls, which come out later this summer. The Tide will also be the overwhelming favorite to win its fourth straight SEC title.

While Alabama didn’t win a national championship in 2016, the Tide’s dominance over the SEC continued with only Florida finishing within two games of the Tide in SEC play. In the SEC West, Alabama finished three games clear of Auburn and LSU.

But it’s not the 14 wins that Tide players are focused on entering 2017, it’s that one loss.

“You always learn from a loss, and if you don’t, then that’s on you,” junior defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick said. “We’re definitely using the motivation and we’re not letting the small things slide. That’s the reason we lost last year, because we let the little things slide towards the end of the season and the championship game. We lost because of the small details.”

This season the Tide returns six starters on both sides of the ball, including sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts, along with another highly touted signing class.

“I’ve been around two teams, one a championship (team) and one not. Coach Saban preaches leadership, and the leadership on this team is pretty good. We have some guys who are buying in right away, and now we have to get the younger guys to buy in and we will be a good team,” Ridley added.