COLUMBIA, Mo. -- The lightning cracked near Faurot Field. The players hurried into the locker room and the fans went for shelter.
The delay stalled No. 1 Alabama's assault on Missouri for 40 minutes. The wait might have kept the final score, a 42-10 win for the undefeated Crimson Tide, from being even worse. Alabama has scored touchdowns on five of seven drives before the lightning that checkered the Midwest finally got to Columbia.
When Alabama came out on the other side of the break, UA was forced to punt on five consecutive possessions. The weather suddenly became a factor. Balls slipped away. Defenders were a step slow. The offense stalled.
After the game, coach Nick Saban said the lull after the 40-minute break was "in some ways, the epitome" of the inconsistency that's plagued the undefeated Tide all season. Alabama went into the locker room and lost the focus and intensity it had in spades through the first quarter and a half.
Mental energy, Saban said, is something that can't be turned off and on. Two years ago, the Tide's attention wandered. This year, Saban is trying to avoid that.
"It can't be a sometimes thing," Saban said, "it needs to be an all-the-time thing."
In a 12-game regular season, delays will happen. Hitting a lull is unavoidable. Letting those moments drag on is what separated the 2010 team that lost three games from the one last season that won the BCS National Championship Game.
The youthful Tide learned that lesson on Saturday afternoon.
"We tried to keep the same energy we had, but we dropped off a bit," said UA cornerback Dee Milliner. Missouri had just 12 yards of offense and no first downs on its first three possessions before the delay. The Tigers would get first downs on seven of their next eight drives. "… We should have never had any letdowns."
Saban took the blame himself. Players weren't prepared, and that was his fault, he said.
"I didn't do a very good job when we were on the 30 minute break getting the intensity back up, getting the mental energy back up," he said.
With rain throughout the game, the play got sloppy. Alabama ran the ball 47 times on the day and passed the ball just 21 times. AJ McCarron threw for a season low 171 yards and no touchdowns. The offensive line had three holding calls as Alabama finished with seven penalties, a far cry from the previous average of 2.4 per game.
"Being in a groove the way were at 28-0, and then we had to stop everything we were doing and just sit in the locker room for 30 minutes and wait for the weather to calm down … It kind of took a toll on us," said UA receiver Kevin Norwood, who caught three passes for 25 yards. "We have to go back out and do our job next time."
Said UA linebacker C.J. Mosley: "As a defense and as a team we have to sustain through those kind of things and keep the tempo up through the whole game."