SABAN: Squandered Opportunities Cost Game
"Greg has concussion," Alabama Head coach Nick Saban told reporters after the game. "He's going to be okay. I think it's nothing serious. He checked out good so we don't have any issues from that standpoint."
Before exiting Friday, Greg McElroy threw for more yards than in any game of his career. He completed 27 of 37 pass attempts for 377 yards and two touchdowns. Like everything else for Alabama, most of the good stuff (335 passing yards and both touchdowns) for McElroy happened in the first half.
Saban spent the majority of his post-game presser dissecting the differences between the first and second halves of the Iron Bowl: blocking, tackling, containing Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, rushing the passer, keeping Auburn's defense off balance, creating advantageous down-and-distance situations, avoiding injuries and so on.
Notwithstanding the stark differences between first and second half, however, Saban pointed to missed opportunities to build on its 24 point lead late in the first half as making the difference in the game. Alabama drove to the Auburn eight-yard line in its last possession of the first half, but Auburn's Nick Fairley circled guard Anthony Steen to sack McElroy on second-and-goal, and then circled back around him to recover the fumble he'd caused as Steen stood watching.
"We totally whiffed ‘em on the sack before the half," Saban said, "that caused a fumble and took points off the board."
Earlier in the second quarter Mark Ingram had a big play going and then Antoine Carter punched the ball loose at the 19-yard-line and sent it out of the back of the end zone for another turnover.
"We had two red zone fumbles, and then we got down there a couple of time and couldn't score (touchdowns) and got field goals," Saban said.
That truly was the difference. Alabama could have put the game away in the first half but instead it let Auburn hang around. The Tide's inability to maintain the scoring pace they set early was bound to be the case.
"That was about as fine a half of offensive football as we've played here against a good team," Saban said, "but again, the two opportunities that we squandered… those two opportunities were huge relative to the production we had. We didn't get as many points as we could have."
Of course, the injuries played a part in Alabama's diminished capacity to make plays in the second half. Julio Jones bruised his knee, Saban said, although he couldn't pinpoint exactly when the injury occurred.
"Whenever he could play he was in the game," Saban said. "They just told me he was out. It might have been on the kickoff return, but I'm not sure of that."
Then Darius Hanks went out with bruised ribs, further weakening the receiving corps.
"We don't have as much experience past those guys," Saban said. "Maze is still there and we still need throw other people – and they're capable – but when (Hanks and Jones) are not out there that hurts us a little bit."
"I'm responsible for the fact that we didn't finish the way we needed to," Saban said, "and hopefully this team will learn and grow from this."
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