Saban Sees Good In Tide Season-Opening Win

Rest assured that Alabama Coach Nick Saban saw the problems his Crimson Tide football team had in taking a 33-23 win over West Virginia at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta Saturday. But he also saw good things. More important, he wants to see improvement this week.

Alabama will have its home opener Saturday against the Florida Atlantic Owls. Kickoff in Bryant-Denny Stadium will be at 11 a.m. CDT with television coverage on the SEC Network.

Although most coverage of Bama’s win over West Virginia was less than complimentary, particularly the Crimson Tide pass defense, Alabama Coach Nick Saban on Monday called it “a really good win for our team.

“The things that were encouraging were the intangible things in the game. We played with a lot of effort, played with a lot of toughness we were very physical.

“And I think our players really competed well in the game. When things went wrong, they hung in there and played the next play and kept competing in the game and never really got flustered or lost their poise.”

He offered examples.

He said that Bama “was not playing great on defense,” but got “two huge stops inside the 10-yard line.”

He said the offense controlled the ball (Alabama had a 15-minute advantage in time of possession) and “never really had any ball security issues” insofar as fumbles.

Alabama did give up an interception, giving West Virginia the ball in good field position, but the defense forced a three-and-out punt.

An obvious negative was Bama giving up a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, but even in that Saban pointed out that with just a minute and a half before intermission, the offense drove to the West Virginia 24 where Adam Griffith kicked one of his four field goals, giving Bama a 20-17 halftime lead.

“All these things are very encouraging signs from a competitive standpoint,” Saban said.

On the other hand, he said, “It’s also very obvious that like a lot of first games that you need to get better execution on a more consistent basis.

“Whether you missed the hot (read to a receiver), missed the block, made the wrong line call and had a negative play, made too many mental errors on defense.

“We’ve got to have better preparation, better attention to detail and more guys on our team able to play winning football on a consistent basis. Obviously first-game experience for some guys that haven't played a lot is certainly monumental in terms of them understanding and developing.

“Everybody's got to sort of make a commitment _ coaches, players _ that we've got to do a little better job of getting ready to play a game, not just emotionally, which that part of it was fine, but in terms of being smarter than the other team, playing smarter, not making as many mistakes. Not giving them opportunities to make plays because of our errors.

“These things are all correctable and fixable, and that's certainly something that we want to focus on this week.”

Although it might be hard to tell since Bama is obviously dropping down in schedule difficulty this week – Florida Atlantic lost by 55-7 at Nebraska last week – Saban pulled out the second game improvement adage.

“I think it's really important how much you improve from first game to second game,” Saban said. “I think the key to being successful in this season for a lot of teams that I saw is going to be who can improve, who can make that improvement.

“That's what we're really focused on.”

Saban bristled at the suggestion that teams sometimes play down to the opposition.

“Well, it really doesn't matter about that,” Saban said. “The focus is on our team getting better. If we're focused on getting better, and that's really your point of emphasis, not that we don't respect our opponent, but it doesn't really have anything to do with who you're playing. It has everything to do with who you are and how you respond to the challenge of going out and doing the things we need to do to improve and play better.

“We're not where we need to be. We're not the team we can be.

If you're challenged by that, then why is it so important? Why is the external factor of who you're playing have anything to do with how you play? That means if we're playing against Michael Jordan, we play our best game. If we're playing against another old basketball player, then we play just like another old basketball player.

“Is that your thinking on this because it's not mine. If it's our players' thinking, I can tell you right now I'm going to be pretty pissed about it.”

Saban said, “Florida Atlantic had a pretty good year last year, and really got off to a pretty good start against Nebraska, believe it or not. The quarterback (Jaquez Johnson) got hurt about the 26th play of the game and then they weren't nearly as good after that, because he is probably the center of what they do and is a very, very effective player. Last year he was the leading passer, leading rusher, leading in a lot of categories.

“And last year they were a very, very good defensive team. These guys are well coached, and we certainly have a lot of respect for them, but the focus is on what we need to do to make our team better. That's what we're going to really try to focus on this week.”

Saban said he appreciated the great turnout of Alabama fans in Atlanta for last week’s game and said that he’s “hopeful that we'll have a great crowd for the home opener to support this team so that we can contribute to their improvement by the atmosphere that we create.”

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