Eighth in a series on seniors leaving the SEC.
Anyone who saw Leigh Tiffin walk onto the field in overtime on Sept. 23, 2006, to kick an extra point was thinking one of two things. Either: Certainly he can't miss this one. Or: Mike Shula is insane.
Both thoughts were probably correct on some count, but no one ever lost money betting against Mike Shula's judgment. And, as fate would have it, Leigh Tiffin did indeed miss the kick that should have been routine and would have kept Arkansas from winning the game shortly thereafter -- after having missed two field goals that would have won the game outright.
Leigh Tiffin became the early goat in another one of the series of disappointing seasons that swept Tuscaloosa for most of the time between Gene Stallings leaving and Nick Saban arriving. So much so that people began drawing unfavorable comparisons between Tiffin and his father, in yet another example of why it's almost always a bad idea to go to the same university at which your father played football.
Tiffin is not his daddy, he can be all the practice player that he wants to be. But when it comes down to a game we need game players not practice players.
Well, Tiffin turned out to be a pretty good game player, too. He would miss just five more extra points and make 75 more field goals over the next two seasons. And he would be a key factor in the Tide's 2009 national championship; Tiffin never missed a field goal of 35 or fewer yards in 2009 and made 30 three-point kicks on the year.
In other words, Tiffin went from the man who couldn't kick straight to nearly automatic -- and he did it during the Tide's death-defying undefeated season, scoring 14 points in a 34-24 win against Virginia Tech, all 12 of Alabama's points in a win against Tennessee, 10 points in a nine-point victory against LSU and eight points in the comeback win at Auburn. You can make an argument that, without Tiffin, there would be no crystal football in Tuscaloosa this year.
I somehow doubt anyone would have traded an extra point against Arkansas in 2006 for what Tiffin helped create three years later. Except maybe Mike Shula.
|Leigh Tiffin, 2006-09|