Saban: "There's plenty of room for progress"

Despite being the new No. 1 in the polls and despite beating a then-Top 10 opponent 41-14 in college football's opening weekend, Alabama head coach Nick Saban is focused on correcting the mistakes his team made and said there is plenty of room for progress.

After his team completely dismantled then-No. 8 Michigan Saturday, Nick Saban walked into the post-game interview room, sat down and crossed his arms. He looked irritated. Annoyed. Plain out pissed off.

His opening statement was 100 percent monotone. As he talked about Alabama's performance, he didn't crack a smile.

To Saban, pounding a Top 10 team 41-14 isn't worth getting all excited about. His team made mistakes. That's where his focus is.

"Everyone thought we were too young, too inexperienced, couldn't handle success," he said in his weekly Monday press conference. "Everybody was saying all those things about our team. Now, people are saying something different. But my question is, what's different? Nothing.

"We're still young, we're still inexperienced, we've still got things to work on. It's going to be all about the maturity that the team has to be able to focus on what they need to do to correct the deficits that we have, whether it's individually, collectively as a unit in some part of our team so that we improve as a team…It's all about the progress you make through the season and there's plenty of room for us to make progress."

Asked about his coach's mood after the game, senior linebacker Nico Johnson smiled.

"That's coach," he said. "He's a perfectionist."

Johnson cited last year's national championship game when Alabama had a practically perfect night sans penalties until the very end when the Tide had one for five yards.

"He was more mad about that than anything else," he said.

Against Michigan, Alabama's biggest mistakes came in its inexperienced secondary—as Saban predicted they would—in pass coverage. The Tide gave up two long passes when cornerback Deion Belue got hosed on a 71-yarder that put Michigan on the 1-yard line, setting up its first touchdown in the second quarter. Then in the second half, cornerback Dee Milliner, who at that point had already posted four pass break ups, a couple tackles and an interception, slipped and gave up a 42-yard touchdown.

"Anytime you give up a 72-yard bomb and a 42-yard bomb, those are problems," Saban said. "They were both double moves, which take a long time to develop. We were in middle-of-the-field coverage when they happened. Both corners gave one up. Something that we worked on going into the game. Something that they had had success doing in the past, and we need to do better."

Take away Michigan's two explosive plays, and Alabama's defense held the Wolverines to 87 yards in the air. Not too shabby, but don't tell Saban that.

On the other side of the ball, Saban wants to see improvements in the passing attack.

A.J. McCarron went 11 of 21 for 199 yards and two touchdowns, including an explosive 51-yard touchdown pass to a streaking DeAndrew White in the first quarter. Eight different Tiders caught passes, but none had more than 53 yards receiving.

"I just think in the passing game, we just need to clean it up, clean up the protection," Saban said. "We had too much leakage in the pocket. Work on the timing with the receivers because I do think we have some pretty good receivers this year…If we're going to be the kind of team we're capable of, we're going to have to be able to create balance on offense, because AJ's really too good of a quarterback for us not to utilize his talents in throwing the football."

Like his coach, center Barrett Jones understands that the impressive win is not something to linger on.

"The execution was average," Jones said. "We made a lot of mistakes, and honestly left a lot of points out there. We kind of let the gas off a little bit in the second and third quarters, which was kind of disappointing, but we finished strong."


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