Minutes after Alabama's 21-0 win over LSU in the Louisiana Superdome that determined college football's 2011 national champion, Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Jim McElwain was on a tight schedule.
There were players to congratulate and interviews to conduct, and then it was on to the folks in the dark green jackets. Several Colorado State officials had attended the game, and they were there to whisk away their man.
McElwain spent four successful seasons guiding Alabama's offense before becoming Colorado State's head coach, and he will return to Tuscaloosa when his rebuilding Rams visit the nation's top-ranked team Saturday night.
"I think Jim McElwain has done a fabulous job," Alabama coach Nick Saban said earlier this week. "He obviously did a fantastic job in the four years that he was here. He is a very bright guy and has a lot of energy and enthusiasm. He affects players in a positive way, and I think he has gotten the most out of his team and the players that he has.
"I have as much respect for Jim McElwain as a coach as anybody who's ever worked for me."
Saban's first offensive coordinator at Alabama was Major Applewhite and his second was McElwain, whose arrival in 2008 coincided with the Crimson Tide's emergence as the nation's most dominant program. In the 48 regular-season games the
Tide played under McElwain, they won all but four.
Creating success with Colorado State has been much more difficult, as McElwain is 5-10 early in his second season and has an offense that ranks just 85th nationally. His Rams are 40-point underdogs this week, but he is excited about the opportunity they've been given.
"It isn't about the mystique, tradition or the history," McElwain said. "It's about an opportunity to measure yourself against the best, and in life that's something we all strive to do. We are playing against the best."
McElwain joked that his Rams will play in front of as many fans Saturday as they will the rest of the season. He does not want his team to succumb to the 101,000-plus inside Bryant-Denny Stadium who are ravenous for the latest Crimson Tide home opener in a quarter century.
"I'll leave the guys who are afraid at home," he said. "If I can see it in their eyes, then they're not getting on the plane."
One Colorado State player will be making a second trip to Tuscaloosa. Cornerback Shaq Bell is the younger brother of former Auburn cornerback T'Sharvan Bell and attended the 2010 Iron Bowl, when Cam Newton rallied the Tigers to a 28-27 triumph and the elder Bell knocked Tide quarterback Greg McElroy out of the game.
Coming in for McElroy that afternoon was AJ McCarron, who since has led the Tide to two national titles.
"That place is crazy loud," CSU's Bell said. "You can't talk to the person sitting next to you."
Though the Rams are having to travel a lengthy distance, they are catching Alabama after its wild 49-42 win at Texas A&M. That would seemingly be a big plus for McElwain, if only he didn't know Saban and many of his assistants so well.
"One of the things they do better than anybody is realizing it's not who you're playing but that you're playing against yourself and playing every snap to get better," McElwain said. "I'm sure they will use the numbers that were put up by A&M and use that as motivation. They will try and shut us out."
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...