For college football's chattering class, the bar for a team's season-opening patsy opponent is…
The Tide Returns
"I think that there is a lot of emotion," said head coach Nick Saban. "There is a lot of electricity surrounding this game because it is the first game as well as people responding to what happened here.
"I think our football players are really aware of that. But I really do think they need to focus on the things they need to do to get the process right and take care of their business. Execute well and play with effort and toughness. Focus on what they need to do. Be the best football player they can be. That's the way they'll be most pleasing to the people that are out there who they'd like to please."
In addition to the Tuscaloosa community's devastating losses, the Tide has also recently faced a loss of its own. Just a few weeks after the tornado, junior offensive lineman Aaron Douglas passed away.
"I have a lot more appreciation for the players on our team than maybe I used to have, because I have never lost one before," said Saban. "So, you kind of take them for granted that they will always be there. They are always going to be sitting in those seats, ready to take on a new game plan, go out and practice every day.
"And, I kind of realize that you just can't do that. You can't take life for granted. You can't take other people for granted. So, I have a tremendous amount of respect and gratitude toward the players and an appreciation for them after what happened this spring."
So many emotions will be riveting throughout the stadium on Saturday from both the fans and the team alike. Saban has prepared his team with a toughness that has held strong throughout this entire process.
Saban commented, "Mental toughness is a perseverance that you have when you can make yourself do something that you really don't feel like doing, and even in difficult circumstances and difficult surroundings you can stay focused. So, it really is a mental discipline to be able to stick with whatever circumstance you are in and continue to persevere at a high level and not let some other circumstance effect how you perform.
"You can't be a good competitor if you can't overcome adversity. You can't overcome adversity if you don't have mental toughness."
Through all the adversities the university, the team, and the community has faced over the past few months, a football game in Bryant-Denny might just be what Tuscaloosa needs to restore a sense of normalcy. The Tide will host Kent State for their season opener on Saturday.
"Players and coaches alike are all looking forward to Saturday's game," said Saban. "I'm sure our fans will provide a tremendous atmosphere. Everyone will be excited about being back in Bryant-Denny Stadium, especially after what the community has gone through over the last three or four months, maybe this is a spiritually uplifting thing that people can have passion and hope in something else that can give them some positive self-gratification.
"We're looking forward to a great game, seeing where our team is, and seeing where we need to go from there."
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