Thomas Huxley once said that walking through nature with an ignorance of geology was like walking through a museum with the paintings turned backwards against the wall. That’s how we feel about watching offensive line play during a game. Miss all that lineman goodness, and you also miss the real story behind a football game, the thing everything is built on, and the thing that supports the more noticeable, obvious parts of the game.
Miss offensive line play, and you miss actual stories, little microdramas everywhere.
For instance: At first glance, this looks like a very mean block by the center on the nose tackle, a full twist and drop combining all the thousand things a lineman has to be good at all at once. There’s the balance and coordination to snap the ball successfully and then pick up the block, which is insanely hard; The strength, let alone the core strength, needed to grapple, plant, and twist his man to the ground; the work capacity to do this over, and over, and over again without variation in power. A center in motion is a truly amazing thing—and he happens on every single snap of every single game.
Yet: There’s context, and the context makes this so, so much richer. That Vandy nose tackle is junior Nifae Lealao. Lealao was the one who, after a 14-7 win over Kansas State, said “Alabama, you’re next.” 59-0 is bad, and it’s much, much worse when you zoom in and realize the guy who said it is being bodied by Alabama’s center, and bodied badly. The bump from the left guard is just the final insult on top of a heap of injury, the capper on a plus-sized shipment of defeat the Crimson Tide were happy to hand-deliver to Nashville.
OR MAYBE IT’S NOT. Okay, it’s definitely not, because the last thing we want you to know about this particular terrible moment for poor Nifae Lealao is this: That’s Alabama’s backup center, redshirt sophomore Brandon Kennedy. The guy delivering the dismissive bump is Alabama’s backup left guard, J.C. Hassenauer. These aren’t the starters. They don’t even need the starters to do this to you, and if you say you want Bama, well: they are definitely going to do this to you. With the backups.
P.S. As always, if you are not following Cole Cubelic on Twitter, you miss the most pancake-friendly account on the planet.