Tri-City Ledger -

By Joe Thomas
Ledger Editor 

Alabama, not Balouvas, lost Iron Bowl


December 5, 2019

The only thing Joseph Balouvas did wrong Saturday was going to social media to apologize to the Alabama nation after he boinked a 30-yard field goal off the goal post at Jordan-Hare Stadium, which would have given Alabama a 48-48 tie with less than two minutes to play.

Many insensitive Alabama fans went to social media to criticize the sophomore backup kicker for costing Alabama the game and a possible shot at reaching the college football playoffs.

As an Alabama fan my stomach hurt when he missed what is basically a chip shot field goal. But Balouvas is not the reason Alabama lost the football game. Those 9 points were important.

Alabama had 13 penalties and I don't recall any of them being thrown against the Alabama kicker; Alabama had two pick sixes that resulted in 14 Auburn points, but I don't think Balouvas threw any of those passes.

Had Balouvas not kicked a 43-yard field goal and was a perfect six-for-six in extra points, Alabama wouldn't have been in a position to kick a game-tying field goal near the end of the game.

I don't think Balouvas is on the Alabama coaching staff that allowed Gus Malzone to outsmart the Tide late in the game that left Alabama with 12 men on the field. That fiasco allowed Auburn to take a knee to seal the 48-45 victory.

It would have been nice to see that last minute with Alabama having the ball needing a touchdown to win or possibly a Balouvas field goal to send it into overtime.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban summed it up best by saying, “Joe's play is just one play, one play doesn't win or lose a game. There were a lot of other plays that put us in the situation we were in. I know nobody feels worse about it than Joe, he's a great man.”

Alabama wouldn't have had to settle for Balouvas's 43-yard field goal on the Tide's first drive of the game if a holding penalty didn't wipe a touchdown off the board.

Nobody knows the name of the player who drew that flag and took the touchdown off the board. My bet is if Alabama had gotten the ball back in the final minutes and scored an apparent game-winning touchdown only to see it come off the scoreboard because of a holding penalty the culprit would be as much a household name as Balouvas.

I've watched a lot of high school and college games in my life and I know how important it is for the fan base. The biggest penalty in the game could come in the first quarter when a team is facing third and one and a lineman jumps to put the team in a third and 6 situation. They don't convert and don't put points on the board.

That penalty is normally forgotten. Let a lineman jump when his team is facing a third or fourth and goal at the 1-yard line in the closing seconds and we never forget.

I read some of the posts against Balouvas and they were angry posts. More than one said Saban should have made him walk back from Auburn instead of riding the bus.

I've seen some of the same reactions when high schools lose critical games by either last minute penalties, dropped passes, interceptions and, of course, the dreaded missed field goal.

Flomaton celebrated its first state championship last year but I also remember how we got to Auburn. The Hurricanes won the semi-final game against Providence Christian 34-33 when Flomaton blocked a 27-yard field goal as the fourth quarter clock turned to 0:00.

Two things we need to always remember is these are young men playing a tough football game. From high school to college we're talking about 16 to 22-year olds. I think we forget that sometimes. We also forget that the players we trash for mistakes are the players the coaches feel are the best for that position at the time.

I don't know why I should be surprised. I've seen parents, coaches and spectators scream and belittle 10, 11 and 12-year olds on the Little League baseball field who dropped a fly ball, let a ball go between their legs or, God forbid, strike out to end the game.

Kickers are on an island by themselves, they get the credit or the criticism depending on how that ball comes off their foot.

But you also have to think that if a field goal kicker or punter is on the field, the rest of the team didn't do its job. It's the one position on a football team that can go from hero to goat in a split second.

Kickers should be kicking extra points and kickoffs. Any other time the offense has come up short. You wouldn't need a punter if the offense kept picking up first downs and scored touchdowns.

Alabama lost the football game, Balouvas didn't lose the football game. Balouvas had nothing to apologize for. The people who blasted Balouvas are the one's who need to apologize to him and his parents.


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