Saban Withholds Heavy Praise
As it turned out, Nick Saban saw a ton of room for improvement in various aspects of his Alabama football team.
"I don't know… not finishing drives, having four situations where we ended up settling for field goal attempts, and we only made two out of four," Saban said. "You've got to score touchdowns in the red area. We've got to get rid of the negative plays.
"The big message here is: every time you don't pay attention to the little things, and every time you don't do things right, there's consequences. It's time to play in the SEC, and we wanted to eliminate some (mistakes) on our team.
One positive thing Saban spoke of was the goal line stand by his backup defense late in the game, as the crowd cheered them on as if the game was on the line.
"That was some real coaching going on there," Saban said, with a dose of sarcasm. "We had a lot of second and third team guys in there. Some of them lined up wrong. We gave it to them first and two at the two, and you've got to like the way the players competed. The other players were happy for them (for the goal line stand)." Saban's team now stands at 3-0, but when Arkansas comes calling next Saturday, the start of Southeastern Conference play changes everything.
"(Arkansas) has got a very good team," Saban said. "We're going to have to execute better. Your effort, you mental and physical toughness, should be the same every time. Some guys played pretty well out there (against North Texas), but I don't think some guys played as well as they could."
Junior safety Robert Lester left the game with an injury early in the fourth quarter. It appears that those concerned probably shouldn't be. Said Saban, "Robert Lester gets back spasms every now and then. He got bent back a little bit on the play."
One possible reason Alabama seemed out of whack at times could well be liberal substitution and experimentation, such as the six-man rotation on the first offensive line including the five starters and backup left tackle Cyrus Kouandijo.
"We changed quarterbacks. We changed tackles. We changed centers," said Saban. "I'd like to stand here and say those things don't affect our team, but we didn't finish drives like we needed to, which would have made a huge difference in the (score). It's a lack of execution. Its not something we couldn't block, we just didn't do it right."
One huge positive was the way Alabama dominated in the running statistics, as the Tide out-rushed the Mean Green 239 yards to 101. Two Tide backs, junior Trent Richardson and sophomore Eddie Lacy, both had over 160 yards rushing.
Saban said, "I don't think it was feast or famine (in the rushing game). I think there were too many negative plays. If you average four yards a run, that's pretty good. We probably did that.
(Actually, Alabama averaged 10.5)
"Our expectation is that we will make some good explosive plays running the football."
Examples of that include Richardson not being touched on any of his three scores (4, 58, and 71 yards) and Lacy breaking 43 and 67-yard touchdown runs.
Another positive Saban noted (when asked) was the play of two of his younger wide receivers. Redshirt freshman Kenny Bell caught a team-high four passes for 55 yards, and true freshman Christion Jones stepped in the top receiving rotation to add a pair of first-half grabs for 41.
Though Saban didn't specifically touch on it, another negative would be lack of pressure on the quarterback. He's big on affecting the quarterback, and while his defense was credited with five hurries (led by Courtney Upshaw's three), it did not register a sack. The Mean Green only had one hurry, but sacked A.J. McCarron three times and Phillip Sims once.
North Texas coach Dan Carney paid a huge compliment to Alabama during his post-game news conference. "We obviously know what a national championship team looks like, by coaching on one (as an assistant) at Florida, and by playing on tonight. I think they have the pieces in place to go and compete for a (national) title this season.
"They're just fast, relentless, and physical playmakers. They suffocated our offensive line. Every time we looked to build some momentum, they dominated our front. I don't think we'll be in select company struggling to move the ball against (Alabama) this season."
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