Saban Says Close Game Could Benefit

It is something of a measure of where Nick Saban has the Alabama football team that the Crimson Tide can go on the road in the Southeastern Conference and win a game by two touchdowns and have most of the focus on what went wrong.

Alabama defeated Mississippi State in Starkville last Saturday by a 20-7 score to improve the Crimson Tide's record to 10-0 and keep Bama ranked first in the nation. On Monday, Alabama Coach Nick Saban said his team showed that "you're very vulnerable to not having success when you don't do the little things right.

"Our team needs to pay attention to detail, get a better sense of urgency, a better sense of immediacy. Play a little smarter in some critical situations in the game. I just think that this is something we need to do better as coaches in terms of getting the players ready to do this as well as them having the attitude that they can get taken advantage of when they don't do the little things right."

Saban called it "a close game" even though the Tide had approximately double the offense of the Bulldogs and State's lone score came when the Mississippi State quarterback fumbled at the goalline and the ball was recovered by a Bulldogs offensive lineman.

"It's probably good that we were in a close game, that was very closely contested," Saban said. "We had to go out there and make some plays and stops in the game that made a difference. We certainly didn't dictate tempo in the game like we like to.

"I'd rather not have close games, but since we had one, the benefit is we had to go in in some tough situations and circumstances, especially on defense, and came through a couple of times. Circumstances that we created ourselves by having a couple of turnovers.

"But I think it's important that in close games you learn how to finish games so that you give yourselves the best opportunity to be successful.

"I'd rather not have a close game, but at some point in time in the near future we're going to have some close games. We're going to play against some good teams. Hopefully the experience of what happened and the importance of keeping your poise and being able to stay focused on what you need to do to be successful on that play, are all lessons that are going to be helpful down the road."

This week's game should not be close. Alabama plays host to U-T-Chattanooga. Although the Mocs have a good record, 8-3 overall and 6-2 in the Southern Conference, Chattanooga is coming off an overtime loss to Samford of Birmingham. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. CST in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

This will be the final game for Alabama's seniors, and Saban urged fans to arrive early for the pre-game ceremony honoring players who have been a part of several national championships. Men who were redshirted, such as quarterback A.J. McCarron, have been a part of three national championships since 2009, and all have been a part of at least two national titles (2011 and 2012).

Senior starters in addition to McCarron are wide receivers Kevin Norwood and Kenny Bell, right guard Anthony Steen, defensive end Ed Stinson, linebacker C.J. Mosley, cornerback Deion Belue, placekicker Cade Foster, and punter Cody Mandell.

"It's a lot of hard work to be a good football player," Saban said. "These guys have dedicated themselves to being good people. They've certainly done a really good job and had a great academic record in terms of the graduation rate of this group and how well they've done academically, as well as what they've been able to produce on the field."

Alabama appears to be healthy for Saturday's game. Although Saban mentioned tight end O.J. Howard and tailback T.J. Yeldon as possibly being limited, neither was in a black jersey for Monday's workout. Tight end Brian Vogler, who has a sprained ankle, was in a black jersey and Saban said he didn't know "what day this week he'll be able to get back into it."

The coach mentioned that Yeldon, who rushed for a career high 160 yards against Mississippi State, had been put in a protective boot following the game. But, Saban said, " We put a guy in a protective boot pretty much for anything. If you had a corn on your toe, we would put you in a protective boot. And I agree with that. I think that's a good thing. I'm not trying to say that it's not something that we should do. It does help the guys recover, helps eliminate some swelling. We've had guys in boots two hours before the game."

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