Saban Generally Pleased With Win
"There was a challenge presented to them after a very difficult circumstance a week ago, to respond, to do the right thing," Alabama Coach Nick Saban said following the Tide's ninth win in 10 games this year.
"We've got prove who we are, be who we are, and play the way we play. We didn't play a perfect game by any stretch of the imagination. We played extremely well defensively, but (offensively) we made too many mistakes. We made enough plays on offense, but should have finished some drives and scored some points earlier in the game.
"We did a poor job of covering a kick, which is how they got their score. There's a lot of things for us to work on and improve on to get better from this game, but from a competitive character standpoint I was pleased and happy and proud of the way our players came out and played."
After praising a gutty and gritty Bulldog team, Saban said he and staff "knew their (defensive) front was going to be difficult to block. We were able to run the ball at times, and we made some explosive plays in the passing game, but we need to be a little more consistent in what we're doing offensively. We shot ourselves in the foot a few times with penalties that stopped a couple of drives. Illegal motion and discipline-type penalties; you know, that's not acceptable.
"We changed formations a little bit (in the second half), because they really had loaded the box a good bit. In the second half, I think we ran the ball a little more effectively."
The stats backed the coach up, as the Tide rushed for 49 net yards in the first half, as compared to 174 in the final 30 minutes.
Saban said one key to an improved offense would be return of junior left tackle Barrett Jones, who sat out the game with a sprained ankle. He added that the loss of backup tackles Arie and Cyrus Kouandjio was affecting the line's chemistry, as well, calling the brothers "two pretty good backups."
Saban added that the Bulldogs showed some wrinkles (formation-wise) that he wasn't expecting. "I saw some stuff out there today, I've been coaching for 40 years, that I've never seen before, so it's all a learning experience. I guess we'll figure it out next time."
As always, Saban was asked about the performance of his sophomore quarterback, A.J. McCarron. "He did a good job," said the coach. "We probably put him in a bad situation right before the half when he threw the interception. Maybe we should have gone two-minute (offense), but that was not a good plan. You can't turn the ball over there, but (overall), A.J. did a good job. He managed the game well. Even on the last (Eddie Lacy 32-yard) touchdown, he checked the play he checked the play the other way because of the number count (on the defensive line).
"A.J. showed good leadership out there today, and other than the one play, which I'm sure he'd like to have back, he made some good throws."
McCarron, who made the touchdown-saving tackle on Bulldog linebacker Cameron Lawrence's interception, connected on 14-of-24 passes for 163 yards.
Alabama registered five sacks, and affected Bulldog quarterbacks numerous other times. "We knew that would be important," said Saban. "We knew that when No. 17 (Tyler Russell) was in the game, we had all the respect in the world for his ability to pass the ball. When No, 14 (Chris Relf) was in, we had to defend the run. They did run some option (with Russell and Dylan Favre) that hurt us at times. That is a difficult offense to defend.
"Our players did a really good job of adjusting depending on which quarterback was in the game, with checks and alignments, and (defensive coordinator) Kirby (Smart) did a really good job of calling the game, and getting our guys in the right place, as well."
Saban said receiver Darius Hanks, who was spotted limping off the field at the end of the contest, injured an ankle early in the game. Junior defensive lineman Jesse Williams watched the game in street clothes with an injured shoulder, and special teams ace Vinnie Sunseri suffered a concussion on a punt return. Sunseri's father, Tide Defensive Assistant Sal Sunseri, was overheard telling no one in particular after the game that he needed to "go in (the Tide locker room) and see if (his son) knows where he's at."
Saban is expected to have updates on all the team's injuries at his normal Monday press conference. Alabama (9-1, 6-1 SEC) will host Georgia Southern at 1 p.m. CST Saturday.
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