Alabama and Nick Saban gave Jacob Coker a shot against Southern Mississippi, and he did just fine, until being the quarterback on a failed “Goal To Go” opportunity in the fourth quarter. Most of the first three quarters, though, belonged to Blake Sims, the fifth-year senior who has started three of three games this year. And Sims delivered a comfortable margin for Coker to get his snaps.
Following the game, though, Saban said, "We felt like Blake had a really good week and he was well-prepared for the game. I didn't feel real comfortable with the way the game was going. It just didn't feel right to make a change. Do we want to continue to work both quarterbacks and try to develop both guys? Absolutely."
Sims left the game with Bama leading 35-9. He had completed 12 of 17 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns and had run five times for 46 yards and a third touchdown.
Coker came in with Bama facing the longest possible field, on the Crimson Tide 9-yardline, and delivered a neat scoring drive of eight plays. It looked like he was going to have a hand in another nice touchdown drive when he ran to the one on first-and-goal from the six. But second down lost yardage and third down looked like a busted play with Coker getting sacked at the 11, resulting in Bama having to settle for a field goal.
Coker completed 5-7 passes for 46 yards.
Following the game, Saban said, “I thought we got off to a really slow start today. I didn’t think we had very much intensity to start the game. I don’t quite know why. We had a tough, good week of practice but it just seemed like the longer we waited to play, the more casual everybody got.
“I was really proud of the way our team responded, especially in the second half. I thought we put together two or three really good drives to start out the second half. Defensively, I thought we played well, but I also thought that we gave up too many plays that are the kinds of stops we’re going to need to make in the future. Those turn out to be explosive plays where we’re in pretty good position and should be able to make a play.
“I think that getting more turnovers and emphasizing that is going to be important. We’ve been doing a good job of taking care of the ball, but we need to be able to get more turnovers on defense.
“I thought the pass rush was pretty good. I don’t know about the sacks, but we affected the quarterback quite a bit. We’re going to have to do some things to improve our coverage.
“I think our special teams’ play was an asset for us. The one ball that took a bounce and hit one of our guys is kind of just the way the ball bounces sometimes. It was an awareness play and everybody learned from it. I think Christion (Jones) could have done a better job moving toward the ball instead of away from it and call everybody off. I don’t think people saw him giving the signal that he wasn’t going to catch the ball.
“Obviously, we have a lot of things that we can improve on. It’s going to be important that we do so because now we’re going to be in league play and playing some really good teams down the road. If the teams aren’t ranked in the top 25, they probably deserve to be. Every team that we play is going to be really good for a long stretch of time now. I think the players’ focus, attention to detail and good habits are going to be real keys to us improving as a team.”
Alabama has its first Southeastern Conference game Saturday when the Tide hosts Florida at 2:30 p.m. CDT in Bryant-Denny Stadium. CBS will televise the game.
Asked about the play of the secondary against Southern Miss, Saban said, “Jabriel Washington and Tony Brown did some good things. They made some mistakes, things that they can learn from and get better. Jabriel isn’t a very big guy, but he certainly is a tremendous competitor for us. He’s been in the system for a long time so he knows what’s going on. Obviously losing Nick Perry for a half next week will create some situations for us at safety. We just have to work everyone and see how we end up. Now that we lost Jarrick Williams, who’s a safety, and Nick for half a game, we are getting a little thin there, especially when those guys play star too.”
Jarrick Williams is recovering from injury. Nick Perry was called for a targeting personal foul, which calls for immediate expulsion from the game and suspension for the next half of play, which will be the first half of the Florida contest.