Nick Saban Says Alabama Focus Is To Improve

Alabama claims 15 national championships in football. Not all of those champions were undefeated. In fact, most of them were not. But for anyone to say, “We lost to Ole Miss last year and still won the Southeastern Conference championship and made it to the inaugural College Football Playoff” is telling the truth, but may be whistling past the graveyard insofar as any championships are concerned.

Just for the record, Alabama has been undefeated and untied through the entire season, including bowl games, in seven of the 15 title seasons. In two years, Alabama won all its regular season games and won national championships that were based on regular season play only, and then suffered a loss in the bowl game. One title team was undefeated in regular season and was tied in the bowl game.

So it can happen. Alabama’s last two national championship teams under Coach Nick Saban both lost regular season games, but managed to make the BCS National Championship game…and win it. In 2011 the Tide lost to LSU in Bryant-Denny Stadium, but defeated those same Tigers in the Sugar Bowl to take the crown. In 2012, Alabama lost a regular season game to Texas A&M in Tuscaloosa, but won the national title by defeating Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl.

Last Saturday, Alabama fell to Ole Miss in Bryant-Denny, 43-37, the second consecutive six-point win for the Rebels against the Crimson Tide.

Some might see a similarity in this year’s loss to the Rebels, which included five Bama turnovers leading to 24 Ole Miss points, and last year’s, when a late Tide fumble on a kickoff return gave the Rebels the chance to take the lead and then a final Bama drive for potential victory ended with an interception.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban was asked Monday if whether Bama losing to Ole Miss last year and then responding with a 12-2 season that included the SEC Championship would help this team to keep Saturday’s loss to the Rebels in perspective.

Saban said, "It depends on how they respond to the loss. It depends on how they respond to the loss. That's all I can tell you. We're going to try to do the right things and I like the character and chemistry of this team.”

Saban added that he thinks the loss to the Rebels in Oxford last year was different than the setback Saturday. “We had energy (this year),” he said. “We had almost fanatic energy but we didn't channel it in the right direction.”

This year, he said, “We kept coming back in the game, but we also shot ourselves in the foot so many times it made it difficult to overcome. Last year we got ahead in the game and kind of got sort of relief syndrome or something where they got momentum in the game and we could never get it back. That never really happened. We just came up short this time.

“I was really pleased with the effort our players gave in this last game. They really played hard. They showed a lot of resiliency to keep coming back, give themselves an opportunity with 2:50 to go in the game, have a chance with possession of the ball to win the game.

“There were just too many self-inflicted wounds to overcome, regardless of what the effort and what the resiliency was.”

Those “self-inflicted wounds” came in the form of two fumbles on kickoff returns and three interceptions. Ole Miss converted the first four takeaways into 24 points. The last Bama turnover, an interception with just over two minutes to play, killed the last real chance for Alabama to come back and win the game.

Saban said, “It would be easy to sit here and say that the turnovers were the issue. But we need to have better fundamental execution of what we're doing. Too many negative plays on offense. Too many big plays on defense. Too many miscues on special teams in terms of who's blocking who.

“I think our players had tremendous energy in this game but we have to learn to channel our energy and focus into the right places so that we get better execution on a consistent basis. That starts with me. It starts with us as coaches in terms of doing a better job through the course of the week in preparing guys to be able to execute better.

“That's really where it starts. The focus is to improve our team. We're looking forward. There are many lessons to be learned in the last game, and hopefully our players will learn those lessons and we will do a good job of improving our team in the future so that we can get more consistent execution. We've got to address the ball security issues; we've got to address getting the turnovers, and we've got to eliminate the big plays that are negative plays on both sides of the ball.”

Saban wants to see that improvement Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium when the Crimson Tide hosts Louisiana Monroe at 3 p.m. CDT. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.

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