Alabama Coach Nick Saban Wants Improvement

To sum up Alabama Coach Nick Saban’s thoughts on his team after it’s somewhat lackluster 37-10 win over Middle Tennessee State Saturday, one could say he liked what he saw last week against Wisconsin better. MUCH better.

“We played better as the game went on defense,” Alabama Coach Saban said. “(MTSU) did a lot of things that we weren’t very well prepared for (such as running from an empty set). We had to make a lot of adjustments during the game. I thought the players did a really good job of that. We made some plays on special teams; blocking a punt and getting positive returns.

Still, we’ve got a lot of things that we can improve on. Offensively, we moved the ball at times, but were very inconsistent, especially in the passing game. We threw a couple of interceptions, and didn’t finish drives like we need to. It never really seemed like we were ever really in sync, or playing like we really want to play on offense. We made some explosive plays, but there’s got to be a little more consistency in execution. I think when we play games like this; I told the players that if you don’t have the right intensity and the right focus, you’re going to get exposed. These teams (like Middle Tennessee) that you play are all good enough to expose you if you don’t have the right focus and intensity on what you’re doing and go out there and execute, do the job, and finish. We obviously didn’t do a great job of getting that point across to them. I don’t think we finished like we need to. We didn’t finish the game like we wanted to.”

Regarding positive aspects in the win, Saban said, “It was good to have the opportunity to play a lot of players, but we really wanted to improve and play better this week than we played last week, and I’m not sure we accomplished that in all areas. There’s some areas that we did improve, but there’s many more things that we need to do a lot better. Until they intercepted the pass there at the end, we had done a good job of getting off the field on third down better, which we didn’t do a good job of at the beginning of the game.

“I think it was really, really good to get four (turnovers), and block a punt. That’s what we’ve been working on, and that’s what we’ve been trying to get.”

As noted, there is much room for improvement, especially at quarterback. Saban said, “Both interceptions that we threw were bad decisions by the quarterback. The balls should not have been thrown. We’ve obviously got to do a better job of taking care of the ball, and making good choices and decisions about that. I think both (quarterbacks) need to improve.

Offensively, we started to establish an identity against Wisconsin, but I don’t think we had much of one today. That’s not all the quarterbacks’ fault, but there were many things the quarterbacks could do better, and we’ll certainly focus on trying to get them to play better. We’ll evaluate the situation, and do what’s best for our team in this (next) game.”

Saban dropped a hint on how that “next game” against Ole Miss could go behind center. Asked if he was any closer to seeing one of his quarterbacks “win the team,” Saban responded, “I think we’re closer. I think we started Jake (Coker) two games in a row, and I think there’s a reason for that. I think we want to give Cooper Bateman an opportunity, because he needs to have experience in case he needs to play somewhere down the road.

“However it works out, whatever’s best for our team, that’s what we’ll do. I also think we need to do the things that (Coker and Bateman) can do well, and make sure that we’re getting the kind of execution that we need so they can play winning football at the (quarterback) position. I thought they did a better job in the first game than in the second in that regard, and I think that we (as coaches) did a better job in the first game than the second with them. So that they have a chance to play well. That’s going to be important for us in the future.”

Regarding another tough outing field goal wise for junior kicker Adam Griffith, Saban said Griffith “hits the ball well, and he kicks the ball off well. A lot of these kinds of things are mental, confidence, psychological disposition. I think (Griffith) needs to make some kicks. I think that would be really good for him, and I think it would be really good for us. One was a long (49) one today, and one was a short one (24 yards). The short one’s disappointing. He kicks extra points great, and that was not much more than an extra point.

“We obviously need to get more production there, but we have confidence in (Griffith). We think he can get the job done, but there may come a point some time where we give somebody else an opportunity.”

Pass defense wise, Saban said,” I don’t think we played as well as we need to. We made some errors. The second team (defense) made a mental error on the last touchdown against something they didn’t really practice. They had to play it on principle. I think we need to play better there. We haven’t given up a lot of big plays, which is a good thing, but I still think we need to do a better job on third down, and we need to do a better job of executing what we do as a unit on defense in passing situations. We’re going to continue to work hard, and improve that.”

Asked about the efforts by senior running back Kenyan Drake (202 all-purpose yards) and O.J. Howard (68 yards on 4 grabs), Saban said, “Both guys are guys that we need to make plays for us. They’re both playmaker-type guys, and it was great to see them both make some great plays. I think we need to use (Drake) in more ways that what we’re using him now, and we need to do the same thing with O.J. Howard. “I just think we’ve got to create an identity and some consistency on offense with the players that we have who can make plays. I think both those guys did a good job today, and I think we need them to do the same in the future.”

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