Saban Pleased With Tide Domination
Before taking questions, Alabama Coach Nick Saban had a statement:
"First of all, you know, we're really pleased with the University of Alabama in terms of the way our players played today. I think it was a first-class performance from start to finish. We asked the players to focus on taking advantage of their talent today and have enough poise to do it for 60 minutes in the game regardless of what they had to overcome. We wanted to define this team as winners and I think this season defines this group as winners.
"There's lots of lessons to learn about this season in terms of the maybe four or five plays that could have been that could have been put us in a different place, maybe the same place we were in last year. I think there's a lot to learn about life relative to what we did accomplish and some of the things that we fell a little bit short on.
"I was really pleased and proud of the way our team competed today, the way they played, the way they executed. I thought dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball was the real key. They couldn't run it. We affected their quarterback. We ran it effectively and had time to make plays down the field passing with Greg (McElroy). So, you know, you can't say enough about the way our players played.
"I think Michigan State has got a great team. They had a great season. They won 11 games. We have a tremendous amount of respect for their team. I think the heat was probably something that was beneficial to us. It was the reason that we went no huddle. We tried to wear their team down and I think it did effect their defensive players."
Q There were a lot of questions this week about motivation and intensity. I know that you and the other coaches talked about the fact you thought you had a really good week in practice. What do you think the difference was this week in preparation for this game and do you think the second half of the Iron Bowl helped to motivate you guys.
NICK SABAN: I think there were lessons learned in that game, that we didn't finish the game. I think one of the things that we wanted to do that defines you is how you finish. We didn't finish that game the way we wanted to finish it. We wanted to finish the season the right way. It was the only opportunity we had left to define this team and show we had the heart and had the kind of competitive character to finish. I think the players really showed the kind of pride they have in performance by the way they played in the game today. They could have set their bats and they didn't. I was proud of the way they played, proud of the way they prepared and just really pleased with the overall team effort in what was accomplished on the field today.
Q Coach Saban, Courtney's up there as the MVP. Talk about the season he had, his performance today, and what you sort of see for Courtney?
NICK SABAN Well, you know I always tell Courtney if if he keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger he's going to play with his hand in the dirt all the time. He did a great job today. I think the pass rush is something that we improved on during the course of the year. I know we had two or three sacks in the Auburn game and he had a couple sacks today. We constantly had pressure on the quarterback. Courtney has become a much smarter player. He's a guy that didn't play standing up in high school and has become a better pass defender, makes a lot less mental errors and he's an effective pass rusher for us. He's going to be one of the leaders of our team next year in terms of what we can do defensively.
Q Coach, you got a chance to play one of the backups. Which backup caught your eye today?
NICK SABAN: The ones that missed the tackle on the touchdown run. No. It was great to get all those guys a chance to play and it will certainly help their development as players to have the opportunity to play. But, you know, I don't have a real good feel that anybody played outstanding. You know, as coaches sometimes we're too much being the critic and only making the corrections when guys make errors rather than reinforcing the positive performance what was the players did. I was pleased with the way A.J. managed the game and had a chance to go in there. We kind of ran the ball in fourth quarter most of the time and some of the defensive players up front got some great experience and I thought they did pretty well.
Q Coach, if you could talk about the level of wins that the seniors leave with 36, the most in college football. Certainly that's going to be one of their biggest legacies at the University of Alabama.
NICK SABAN: I'm really proud of everyone who has contributed to that but especially this senior class, a couple fifth year guys like Greg who really bought into a totally different set of standards relative to our new staff coming in and they did a great job of buying in and being leaders as well as this senior class is the guys that were the first recruiting class when we came to Alabama and they came to Alabama when Alabama wasn't all that special and not only did they come and make a significant difference, they attracted a lot of other people to come behind them that have been very good players that has contributed to the positive recruiting that we've had. Our staff does a wonderful job of that but our players create a tremendous atmosphere, a real together team trust, respect each other that I think people want to be a part of. These guys set the standard for that in the first recruiting class that we had as well as the fifth year guys that bought into doing things the way we wanted them done.
Q Coach, a couple questions: First, the way the offensive line blocked Greg Jones. Obviously he didn't impact the game much at all. How do you feel about the job the offensive front did with him?
NICK SABAN: I think the offensive line did a really good job today. We challenged them, you know, today a little bit to -- we knew it was going to be important to dominate the line of scrimmage on both sides. Michigan State, the only game they lost this year, they could have run the ball against Iowa. They really couldn't run the ball against us today. That makes a huge difference, because when they have balance, they're a very good offensive team. And I think on both sides of the ball to be able to control the line of scrimmage was probably the key in the game. Greg Jones is a great player, but these guys -- this guy plays linebacker. When you play linebacker and the guys in front of you don't hold the point and get pushed, I think that's what we really did a good job of today. We pushed their front and distorted them so they can't fit their gaps. It really wasn't about Greg Jones getting blocked. It was about everybody else on their defense probably not being able to play physical as they need to to be able to be effective. I know he's a great leader of their time.
Q I want to ask you about Jarrick Williams. We saw him for the first time in a long time his preparation and play after sitting out all year?
NICK SABAN: We were trying not to make Sports Center. They converted three or four third downs in the first drive and Jarrick had something to do with every one of them, so rather than use my technique that I used on A.J. I did not want to make Sports Center again, so we were patient and played Kirby. He settled down and played better. But it was a great experience for him and it will be good for his development.
Q Coach, Ingram had a pretty significant personal milestone. I'm wondering if you can talk about what kind intangibles and intangibles do you see in him that make him a special player?
NICK SABAN Well, you know, Mark is about as great a competitor as you're ever going to be around. I remember when Mark first came, he used to try to run over every defensive player. I used to get mad at him and say, Mark, we don't want to hurt the other guys and we don't want them to hurt you. He wanted to score a touchdown every time he got the ball. That is probably his greatest asset, is the competitive spirit that he has. He's a hard worker. He has a tremendous amount of pride in his performance relative to challenging himself to be the best he can be. I don't think there's -- I know there's not a college football player in America that has had to go through what he's gone through this past year after winning the Heisman trophy. People don't understand the attention that it takes. When we walked across the street after he won the trophy a year ago, I said, Mark there are three things. First of all, how is this going to affect you as a person? But, secondly, how are you going to handle how everybody else that you meet and that you're confronted with is going to look at you differently? The last thing is, how are you going to impact somebody else as a leader by accomplishing this award and being the best player in college football to do something to inspire them? Probably the hardest thing Mark had to deal with this year was the second one because he was still little Mark to all of us because his dad is big Mark to me because he played for me too or played on the team where I coached. That's been the hardest thing for him, is how to deal with how everybody he meets looks at him differently than what he sees himself.
Q Coach, when you look back on this season including this game here would you consider it a successful season?
NICK SABAN: I'm proud of the way the players played. We're not satisfied with where we ended up, you know. We compete to win the SEC championship. First of all, we wanted to win our division and we didn't. We didn't get the opportunity to play in the SEC championship game and that's our goal, so that's what we want to accomplish. But I don't know that we had realistic expectations in some regards relative to the 26 seniors that we had last year replacing nine defensive starters and some pretty significant performers. We knew we were going to have a young team this year and the thing I was most proud of is these guys improved throughout the year and we matured a lot to get better and better and better. There were just four or five plays that would have made a difference in this season relative to what this team could have accomplished and I think the maturity will help this team in the future. I think the leadership that will come from the lessons learned this season will be beneficial to this team in the future.
NICK SABAN: I would just like to say that the Capital One Bowl, Florida Citrus Bowl, Commission, whatever it's called, all the people that work so hard to make this bowl what it is, we would like to thank, I would like to personally thank for the University of Alabama as well as the in tower team and in tower organization, this may be as fine a bowl game as any bowl game in the country in terms of the atmosphere, the great things you have to do here and the tremendous hospitality that not only the bowl but the city of Orlando and the people here create for the teams that are here and we certainly appreciate and thank you.
Here are some comments from Michigan State Coach Mark Dantonio:
MARK DANTONIO: Very, very quickly, it didn't go very well for us today. We needed to start out hot and take advantage of our opportunities that we had. We had two turnovers. That hurts us. We had scoring opportunities, both of them, inability to get off the field on third down earlier in the game. Those two things really put us behind, I felt. I felt like we stopped the run pretty effectively early on, but as the game wore on, we were unable to do that as well. When you look at us, we were outcoached, we were outplayed. It's just the way it is, and sometimes there's an avalanche that comes upon you. But I'm very proud of our football team and proud our seniors. I want to congratulate Alabama on an outstanding football and season and also congratulate our football team on an outstanding season. It's not where we want to be. It's tough to take when you win 11 games. There's no other way to sugar coat this one.
MARK DANTONIO: Alabama's defense I thought did an excellent job stemming prior to the snap. It was very difficult to change the play sometimes when the clock's running down. The quarterback has to make decisions. The name of the game is to effect the quarterback. You need to effect the quarterback. I would say our quarterbacks got hit between 15 and 20 times easily today. If that's happening, it takes effect on you after a while. You can see they knocked both quarterbacks out. We need to do establish a running game to take the heat off of that. You know, they won up front. That's the difference. That's the difference. You know, you have to win up front if you're going to play football. This is a physical game and the physicality that goes along with that is affecting the quarterback, running the football, punishing a runner. We didn't do that the consistency that we needed to to win this football game, nowhere near.
Q Mark, is this a reality check for where your program is today?
MARK DANTONIO: Sure, it's a reality check when you look at it, but we have to play. I continue to say we have to play above our abilities. We have to do that. To do that you have to be emotional. This game is a rollercoaster. You can go into it, you can be in the locker room, you can be all focused, but when you step out on the field and things start flying around and things start to happen, okay, it becomes a different story at times. You get sort of avalanched and things start to roll on you a little bit or whatever. But this is an emotional game. Where we're at as a program, we can evaluate and continue. All I can tell you is that prior to the season not many people picked us to win 11 games. We inched up there and we're in the top ten. Do we belong there based on this football game? No. But I think we can play better than this. You have to take it for face value what it is. It is what it is, and we got to move forward, so that's what we'll do. We'll recollect ourselves. We've got an outstanding quarterback back. We've got a nucleus of great players back and that will do very well for us here in 2011.
MARK DANTONIO: I think they played well earlier in the year. The second half of the season, you know, things snuck up on them, a little bit, however you want to say it. They were ready to play, they're very well-coached and they were physical.
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