With nearly eight minutes remaining in Alabama’s 41-0 win over Florida Atlantic Saturday, reporters were wondering how many fans would return from the lightning delay when the game resume.
It was announced that both teams had agreed to end the game.
It was scramble time. Pack up binoculors and notes and computers and head for the elevators, which were packed, then scurry to the media room.
Upon arrival, it was learned that Saban had already been in for the post-game interview, but there were no interviewers.
Fortunately, Saban returned.
“There were a couple firsts for me today,” Saban said. “It’s the first time I’ve ever had a game called off, and it’s the first time I ever beat the media to the press conference.”
A much bigger issue than the tardiness of writers was the decision to allow the game to end with more than half the fourth quarter to be played. It would not have altered the outcome, and, in truth, was probably a nice safety issue, not only from the lightning but also because of players having to come back from a long break and then play.
Saban said, “I would have liked to go back out there and finish the game, and I know our players would have liked the same thing. More players probably would have had the opportunity to play. Some of the guys that were getting to play, and certainly need to play to gain experience, would have been able to finish the game. I think the circumstances were such that we would have had to wait a significant amount of time to be able to go back out there because of the lightning and storms. I think everybody made a good decision to just end the game.
“I was really proud of the way our players competed in the game today. I thought we went out and improved some as a team. I think we played fast. I liked the intensity that we played with. I think that there are a lot of things that we did well, but I also think that mistakes that we made were critical. Whether it was what we did right before the end of the half, such as taking a sack when we could have kicked a field goal, or calling the wrong play and fumbling the ball on the opening drive of the second half. Some of those things are not the types of things that you would like to happen, but there are opportunities for our players to learn.
“Amari Cooper played an outstanding game again today. Our offense didn’t punt all day, but we also didn’t finish drives in the red area, which is something that we definitely need to continue to work on.
“Defensively, we probably played a little better today, but still didn’t wrap up on some tackles and tried to butt people into the ground instead of tackling properly. Those are things that we definitely need to work on and improve.
“Looking ahead, that’s what the focus needs to be for our team. We need to continue to improve. It was good that we got to play both quarterbacks in the game today. Blake (Sims) played well except for one play. Jake (Coker) got some experience, and I think that experience should help his confidence and his ability to play with a little better rhythm. He did some very good things today as well.”
Saban was asked about back-up quarterback Jake Coker’s performance and said, “I thought he did well in the second half. We wanted to go out in the second half like we were playing any game – whether we were ahead or behind. We put a pretty good drive together [to start the half] and messed it up on the 2 yard line. We wanted to give both quarterbacks an opportunity to play and I thought Jake played just as well in the second half as he did in the first half. He played a little better as time went on. I’m sure nobody feels worse than him for missing the guy in the flats in the redzone wide open. He’ll definitely get better because of it.”
On the play of the offensive line, Saban said, “The offensive line has done a really good job. The way we are playing offense now helps them, because we sell the run plays [when the defense loads the] box. That’s why there are always a lot of quick passes and [screens] – those type of things. I think there’s a lot of things we need to improve on, but our offensive line has done a good job two weeks in a row.”