Saban Discusses Big Win On Road

t's not just another game when the heavyweights of college football get together. It happens a few times a year during the regular season, and it happened Saturday when Alabama went to Penn State.

In addition to Alabama and Penn State being historically among the nation's top college football programs, the Crimson Tide boasts the man considered the nation's top college coach and the Nittany Lions are coached by the man who has had more head coaching victories than anyone in major college history.

Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban called it "a great win for our team. This is a tough place to come and play."

He noted that it was his first win in Penn State's Beaver Stadium as a head coach.

Saban is not yet ready to anoint A.J. McCarron as Alabama's quarterback, but did acknowledge that the sophomore played well in his first road start. "A.J. did a really good job of managing the game, taking what the defense gave him and making enough plays in the passing game," Saban said. "We still have competition. We think we have two good players [Phillip Sims] and we want them to continue to improve. A.J. has a good arm and he's accurate when he gets his feet set. I thought he was a lot more confident. He did a good job with the plan."

The Tide coach said, "When you play a Joe Paterno-coached team, you're going to get their best shot and that was certainly the case today and I was proud of the way our players handled it. It was a challenge for us.

"Penn State is a much better team than they were a year ago."

Saban said, "I was proud of the way we competed. When the game started, it was about as hostile environment as I've been in. We had to make a lot of adjustments, and our players got control of the game."

He pointed out that having a veteran defense makes it easier to make adjustments. "They understand," Saban said. "In fact, I think they kind of anticipate. A year ago we would have had a hard time making these adjustments."

"I think this win will help us from a confidence standpoint and will certainly help us when we have to go on the road for tough games."

The coach said, "There's always something to work on. We did a lot of things well, but there are also things we need to improve on. I was disappointed in our two-minute defense (at the end of the game). The secondary played well, but you have to play well all the time.

"We had some nice drives, but we need to eliminate some of the three-and-outs."

Saban was particularly displeased with one of the key plays of the game. Early in the game Bama gambled with a fake punt, H-back Brad Smelley running for a first down. The coach pointed out that the play had been designed to go outside, where there was an escort of blockers. Instead Smelley went up the middle, "got stuffed," but managed to make the first down by inches.

He said, "Special teams and turnovers were probably a big factor in the game. Marquis (Maze) has been a real weapon for us on punt returns. I thought the punt return (by Maze) turned the field around."

Saban said, "We wanted to be aggressive today. We wanted to attack."

He said there did not appear to be any serious injuries.

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