Saban did not have to make noise
"He didn't really get on us like we thought he would," said Alabama linebacker Nico Johnson.
The reason? A few members of Coach Nick Saban's Leadership Council stood up and let their teammates hear it before he got the chance.
"We talked to everybody, and got their minds right," said junior halfback Trent Richardson, who finished with 107 rushing yards. "We were telling everybody this is not some regular team that's just going to roll over and let us knock them on their backs. They're playing just as hard a ball as you are.
"Courtney Upshaw said a few things. Dont'a Hightower stood up. ‘Big Fluke' (D.J. Fluker) talked, and I said a few words."
Whatever Richardson and his fellow council members said, it apparently was taken to heart by their teammates. The Tide defense forced Vanderbilt into a three-and-out on the first series of the third period, and the Bama offense marched 94 yards for a touchdown that seemed to break the spirits of the visitors. The end result was a 20-0 second half and a 34-0 shutout of an SEC foe.
"It just really shows where your mindset is at," Richardson said of the long march. "It shows you have to ‘man up,' when they put a lot of people in the box. When you push them and shove them down, you know you're the better man out there, and that's what we showed.
"We want every team to not want to play us, but we've got to show it all four quarters, not just in the second half.
"They came at us with power, and they just drove the ball and put us away," said Vanderbilt linebacker Chase Garnham. "We came into the game wanting to stop the run. They did a good job of holding onto the ball, and the quarterback (A.J. McCarron) made a lot of good decisions."
Alabama finished with a 36:14 to 23:46 advantage in time of possession, but had only a three-minute advantage at intermission. None of the Bama players made available to the media post game had an explanation as to why the team came out seemingly lethargically.
"We didn't really get off to a fast start," Richardson said. "Our minds weren't really focused on the task that we had at hand."
Said junior offensive tackle Barrett Jones, "We came out a little flat, but I think we bounced back pretty well and played a solid second half."
Johnson, "We were just not emotional when we came out. That's what coach (Saban) talked to us about at halftime, and then we came out and did a better job. He was not mad, just upset that we would come and not play our best at the beginning (of the game)."
Johnson finished with three stops and his first interception of the season. He was happy about the pick, but seemed equally satisfied to hang a goose egg on an SEC opponent.
"We take a lot of pride," Johnson said. "We try to shut out our offense in practice every day, so when we shut somebody else out, we're kind of pleased with ourselves. The way we executed today wasn't our best, so we're going to come back and work hard. We're going to have to do a better than we did tonight. We're going to have to focus and be on our stuff, because that's where it starts."
Among the positives were the first career touchdowns for redshirt freshman receiver DeAndrew White and senior tight end Brad Smelley, who caught a six-yard McCarron dart to put Bama up 7-0.
"It felt great," Smelley said. "I got a monkey off my back. I've played around here a long time, and it felt great to get the first one. They were dropping eight. Me and A.J. (McCarron) have been working on that play for long time, and he just dropped it in the back of the end zone where the hole (in the zone) was.
"A.J. played really well, and the receivers got open, and I think we made some good plays tonight. I definitely think we are an offense that can run and pass at will when we are clicking on all cylinders. I think we showed tonight that, if you try to load the box, we can make plays over the top, and find the zones and the spaces that are open in there. We are a two-phase team, so we can run and pass."
The Tide ran for 153 yards and threw for 266. McCarron finished 23-of-30 for 237 yards and four touchdowns. The four scoring tries put him in a tie for second place in school history for one game.
"There was a lot of room for our receivers to make plays, and they did that," said senior center William Vlachos, "and A.J. did a very good job tonight. I think everyone in our offense is doing their job, for the most part."
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