Saban Says Rivalry Games 'Can Be That Way'

Alabama Coach Nick Saban was glad to get out with the Tide's 34-20 win over Tennessee. “That was a heck of a game for both teams," he said. "Rivalry games can be that way. I really thought our guys were ready to go in the beginning of this game. Played great in the first quarter and a half of the game, got ahead 27 to nothing in the game and I think when we did, we relaxed a little bit."

Alabama Coach Nick Saban also said, "You’ve got to give Tennessee’s guys a whole lot of credit because they sure didn’t flinch and they didn’t give up at all and they kept playing hard.

"Then it became a story of third down for us on defense time and time again. We got off the field on third down in the beginning of the game and stopped drives. Each one of their drives we had several third downs, four in the last one, where we could have got off the field on third down and just didn’t make the play to get off the field. Got to give them a lot of credit for their execution, but we didn’t do a very good job on third down. I think our players got tired a little bit in the game on defense. We played 46 plays in the first half which hurt us a little bit, but I was really proud of the way our guys competed in the second half.

"When they made the score 27-17, and we put a great drive together offensively and went down and scored, that was huge in the game. We had opportunities twice to finish the game on offense and fumbled the ball both times. Great drive to take the clock and the game, and then fumble the ball on the one-yard line. Really, it’s not important to score. The guy’s trying to score a touchdown, it’s probably not important to score. The only thing that matters is the clock, but it was a great drive.

"Great job by our defense when we fumbled it the first time to get out of it with a field goal which still kept it a two score game for us, and then the offense did a really good job of taking the clock and the game. It must have been a seven or eight minute drive to get it down to two minutes to go when we fumbled on the one-yard line. Really proud of the way our guys competed in the game.

"We didn’t play a complete game, in my opinion, in terms of the way we started. We didn’t sustain it throughout the game and that’s something that we really really want to do. If you’re going to be a dangerous team, if you’re going to be a dominant team, you’ve got to be able to sustain for 60 minutes in the game and we were not able to do that.

"I thought their quarterback that came in, number 11, really did a good job in the game. His athleticism gave us some problems, had trouble containing him a few times. They did a nice job with some of the quarterback runs they had built into their offense which was a problem for us. I thought our offensive team did a great job when they needed to. We had two three-and-outs at the end of the second quarter, when they kind of got back in the game with two scores to score 10 points.

"We played well on offense when we needed to and that was a great team win for us. It was a great team win for us. I’m still wanting this team to be a consistently dominant team like we were last week for 60 minutes in the game. You see signs of it, but we weren’t able to do it the whole time. I have to give Tennessee’s players a whole lot of credit. They had a good game plan. Their players did a good job.

"We didn’t tackle especially well, and we have a lot of things we can improve on. From an injury standpoint, Cam Robinson has a high ankle sprain. I don’t know what his status will be. They’ll probably determine that tomorrow. We’ve got a couple other guys nicked up, but I don’t think anything that’s going to be significant. Landon Collins just had cramps, so he went in and got an IV. A couple of guys have ankles, toes, sprained foot, sprained knee. I don’t know that any of these things are real significant, but I don’t know how long they’ll be out either.”

(On Amari Cooper’s record breaking performance)

“He played great. I mean, the guy’s a great player. When he plays fast, he’s hard to cover. Blake (Sims) did a really good job in the game throwing the ball. Blake made some huge plays, two scramble third downs to keep drives alive. Blake did a really good job of throwing the ball, and Coop did a great job of getting open. Obviously when you set a record, that’s something significant, but at the same time, I think Coop would probably be the first guy to tell you his teammates did a really good job of protecting for the quarterback. The quarterback did a good job of getting him the ball and he took advantage of the opportunities he had. The guy’s had a phenomenal season for us.”

(On Christion Jones status)

“Christion Jones tweaked his hamstring in pregame warmup and we tried to get him loosened up, but he couldn’t go. I don’t think it’s that bad, but we’ll have to see.”

(On the balance between getting Amari Cooper the ball and being dependent on him)

“Well, you know that’s kind of like saying you get 26 outs in the game throwing fastballs, so you should throw a changeup and then the guy hits it out of the park. I mean, should you play to your strengths or not? Now, we have other good players. Dee (DeAndrew) White did a good job in the game tonight. He had some big catches and did a nice job. We need to get some other guys involved, and I think that’d be great, but as long as nine (Cooper) is getting open and as long as we’re throwing him the ball, I don’t think we should tell the quarterback don’t throw it to him.”

(On Blake Sims on the drive that cut it to ten points)

“Made big throws on third down, made a big scramble on third down for a first down, and really really a great drive. Heck of a football game, you’ve got to give those guys a lot of credit. We knew this would be a tough game for us. It’s a tough place to play. We had an opportunity probably early in the game to put the game away and we didn’t do it. You’ve got to give them a lot of credit for the resiliency that they showed in coming back in the game.”

(On how the team handled Lane Kiffin’s return)

“I don’t think it affected any of us. I really don’t. Lane’s done a really good job for us all year. The players like him, respond well to him. He’s really a good coach and I think why all the people in Tennessee are pissed off at him is because they knew he’s a good coach and they were upset when he left. I get that, I understand that, but I know that there’s a lot of really good fans here. We have a tremendous amount of respect for Tennessee, the people that support this program. It’s a great program. I can understand why they would get upset. I understood why they burnt me at the stake in Baton Rouge the first time I went back there after going to the Miami Dolphins and then coming back to Alabama. I get it. We all have fans that are that way, but I think we all have a lot of fans that really appreciate when people do a quality job. I’m sure there’s a lot of our fans and Tennessee fans that realize Lane Kiffin is a very good coach.”

(On how his team has responded since the Ole Miss game)

“Well, you know I think that we’ve kind of played, I think we’ve got a team that’s sort of up and down a little bit. We struggled a little bit at Arkansas. We played great against Texas A&M. We played great at times in this game today, and played so-so in times in this game today. So, I think consistency in performance is what’s going to be the key to being successful down the road and I think that’s something all of our players need to understand, and I think they do understand that. We have to be able to play Alabama football on a more consistent basis. That’s something that everybody’s got to be committed to and all in to trying to do.”

(On if he had a plan in place for if Cam Robinson went down)

“Well, you know we think Leon (Brown) is the next best left tackle. So, it’s always been our plan that he would be the next left tackle if something happened to Cam Robinson. He practices there each and every week. You don’t like to make double switches on the offensive line, but when it comes to left tackle it’s a pretty important position. We think Grant Hill could play there. We also think Austin Shepherd could play there and Hill could play right tackle. So, I’m just hopeful that Cam’s going to be able to get back in a couple weeks and we won’t lose him for a long time.”

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