“This is a little disappointing,” Alabama Coach Nick Saban understated to open his post-game remarks. “We gave some things away. I don’t want to take anything away from Ole Miss. They played a really good game. Are you going to be a giver, or are you going to be a taker? I think if you’re going to be a great competitor, you’ve got to take what you want. You’ve got to compete that way, and you can’t give the other team 24 points off of turnovers from the 30-yard line in. We had a coverage bust on the long pass, a miscommunication about the way we were playing in coverage on the (73-yard) option pass that they hit, so there were lots of things that we did, that we controlled, that allowed them to put us in a hole.
“We were behind 17-10 at halftime, and (had) out-gained them two to one, and ran twice as many plays. We didn’t finish drives, and turnovers just kill you. I don’t know if there’s anybody that we could beat if we’re going to give away 31 points. I don’t know.”
Saban said the defeat will tell him a lot about his current team. “The key thing for the players is how they’re going to respond to a loss. I really was proud of how our players fought back in the game to get the game to 30-24. Then, we gave up a big play, and we got down by 20 points, and we fought back again, and actually had the ball with an opportunity maybe to have a chance to win the game.
“I really liked the resilience of our players. They played for 60 minutes in the game, and they fought back, but the mistakes that we made, and all that we gave away, we could not overcome. I don’t want this to sound as if I don’t think Ole Miss played a really good game. I think they played a really good game, and I think they’ve got a really good team. I think they deserved to win this game, and they outplayed us, but (five turnovers) is just the fact of the matter.”
Asked why he started Cooper Bateman at quarterback over Jake Coker, Saban said, “We have had a lot of confidence in both guys during the course of the season. We had some things in the game plan early that the quarterback was going to pull the ball on and do some things, so we thought Cooper (Bateman’s) speed would be sort of a change of pace for (Ole Miss) with the element of surprise.
“We knew that we were going to play Jake (Coker) in the game. Jake knew that he was going to play in the game, so it’s like the first two games: I said we were naming who’s starting the game; we’re not naming a starter. That’s basically what we did today.”
Saban said he saw good and bad from both signal-callers. “I thought Jake did a really good job when he did come in the game. He competed. He played well. He played a lot of plays, and I’m sure he’s got a few that he wishes he had back I thought Cooper (Bateman) did a good job, as well, but I really don’t think that had anything to do with (struggling on offense). Cooper did throw an interception early in the game, but (Ole Miss) got 17 points off of turnovers that had nothing to do with the quarterbacks. That was the hole that we got ourselves in.
“I think the (interception) that Cooper threw was not a good judgment to try to get in there. The (receiver) got jammed in the seam, and wasn’t really open, and then we overthrew it. I think on a couple of Jake’s (interceptions), there may have been (miscommunication), but on one the guy just made a nice play and made a play on the ball.
“We’ve just got a lot of things we need to do better. Obviously, when you have five turnovers in a game, it’s kind of hard to win, especially when you didn’t get any, so we were minus-five in turnovers in this game, and that makes it real difficult. In the second half, they had one fluke big play, but they also had a couple of other big plays that were a huge difference in the game, and (coverage) but on the long pass that was reviewed was huge.”
Asked why his team threw the ball 58 times in the game, Saban said, “We didn’t start off the game that way, but when you’re behind… From the middle of the third quarter on, we were in two-minute (offense), so that’s what I attribute it to. It was the circumstances of the game, not the game plan. It was the only way we had a chance to get back in the game and win.”
Saban closed with an answer to a question about busted plays in the secondary, particularly when Ole Miss targeted redshirt freshman cornerback Marlon Humphrey with a question: “We had one busted play in the secondary. What other play are you referring to?” Told by the reporter that the question included missed tackles, Saban said, “Those are missed tackles. They’re not busts. They are what they are.
“Geno (Smith) got cut one time and lost things, so we need to play those things better. We worked hard on some of the things they did, and they do a great job of executing their offense. Their quarterback (Chad Kelly) played very well. We batted some balls down early, which was a big thing that we wanted to do. They have a run-pass option on just about every play that they run. I thought we did a good job on defense for a while, but then we gave up big plays in the second half, and that was critical.”