TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama looked like a juggernaut in dismantling a top opponent by 24 points, heightening expectations and boosting the excitement level.
The win over No. 9 Clemson? Nope, this was last year’s game against Tennessee, and the 24th-ranked Crimson Tide responded by losing four consecutive games and watching all t h o s e go o d f e el i n gs dissipate.
If that’s not Exhibit A of what might happen when a team doesn’t follow coach Nick Saban’s ‘‘24-hour rule’’ and dwells on a big win too long, it’s at least ammunition for a coaching staff wary of a letdown Saturday against Tulane.
The Tide’s 34-10 dismantling of a Clemson team picked to win the Atlantic Coast Conference was cert a i n l y a n e ye - c a t c h i n g debut, especially considering the large number of freshmen seeing their first action. Last year’s 41-17 win over No. 20 Tennessee was pretty impressive, too.
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Then came losses to LSU, Mississippi State , Louisiana - Monroe and Auburn.
‘‘It was pointed out in our defensive back meeting,’’ safety Rashad Johnson said. ‘‘Coach (Kirby) Smart said, ‘Look, last year we had a big win like this against Tennessee and then things turned around.’
‘‘We need to take this win and use it as a springboard, but we definitely can’t live on it too long.’’
Saban said it’s easier for coaches to quickly turn their attention to the next game than players.
‘‘You enjoy it, you sing the fight song in the locker room and before you get in the shower you start to think about how you are going to match the (pass) patterns or attack the other team,’’ he said. ‘‘First things first we have got to make the corrections from this game for our players to have a chance to improve on the things that they didn’t do correctly.
‘‘I think after 24 hours you need to start forgetting about that game, stop reading the paper and start focusing on the next challenge that you have.’’
In other words, he didn’t mind the players lounging around Sunday watching highlights of their game on TV or savoring the national attention from the opening weekend’s most high-profile upset.
There was plenty for the Tide to celebrate. Despite starting two freshmen and having 12 players make their college debuts, Alabama held Clemson to zero yards rushing while racking up 419 total yards.
‘‘I think the season started on the right note,’’ quarterback John Parker Wilson said. ‘‘We just got something going, we have to continue it. We played well, but we can play better.’’
The Tide even managed a 14-play, nearly 9-minute drive in the fourth quarter to ensure Clemson wouldn’t have a chance to mount a comeback threat. That might fall under the category of ‘‘finishing,’’ a topic that Saban has brought up frequently to his team throughout the offseason.
Consistency is another one.
‘‘Why did the mighty fall? Complacency, because people got satisfied and a lot of times that is not helpful to being successful so that is not what we want to be,’’ Saban said. ‘‘That is what we have to prove as a team, that we can be a consistent team that will compete all the time.’’
The Tide didn’t emerge from the Clemson game unscathed. Left tackle Andre Smith sustained a sprained right knee and is ‘‘day-to-day,’’ Saban said. Smith has started all 27 games during his Alabama career.
His status for the Tulane game is ‘‘up in the air,’’ Saban said.
If he can’t go, Saban said guard Mike Johnson will move over and sophomore David Ross would fill Johnson’s spot.
Plus, receiver Earl Alexander’s sprained ankle flared up during the game and he is also questionable.