“I thought this was a difficult challenge for them. I told them before the game that I thought the plan we had for them, an ordinary man couldn’t go out there and get the job done, and that we needed to be extraordinary. They were. They were special, and they’ve been that way all year I know they’ve been criticized a lot, but I think we played an outstanding game today, in every part of the game.
“It was tough (weather) conditions out there. The quarterback (Jacob Coker) did a fantastic job. I thought we moved the ball well on offense, and made a couple of explosive plays. The defense did a great job except for the one long (Nick Chubb) run, when we got in the wrong gaps. We scored on special teams, we scored on defense, and we scored on offense, so we scored in all three areas of the game.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am of the players and the coaches. People have hung in there, and really believe in this team. I believe in this team. We’ve just got to focus on getting better. This is one game. Georgia’s got a really good team. It was tough circumstances out there for us today, for both teams, but our team handled it well, and I think that’s why we had success. We showed a lot of mental toughness and a lot of physical toughness. I’m really proud of the way our guys showed we can play with character in this game.”
Georgia Coach Mark Richt was not smiling. “The dam broke, and unfortunately, we didn’t have enough counter-punches to get back in it,” he said. “First, give (Alabama) credit for the job they did. I’m disappointed for us as a team, players and coaches. I know our fans are sick about it, and I don’t blame them. We got whipped, and we all know it.”
Saban liked what he saw from his defense. “Our guys did a great job of executing the plan,” he said. “The fact is they couldn’t run the ball on us except for the one run (where Saban said Reuben Foster filled the wrong gap). We got them in a lot of third down situations, which was very difficult to manage on a (wet) day like today, so I thought our front seven did a great job, and we played well in the secondary, as well. It was obvious that their plan was to go after Marlon (Humphrey) early in the game with (Malcolm Mitchell), so we flip-flopped corners and put (Cyrus Jones) on him, and played it that way the rest of the game, and did a much better job.
“We were going to play it close to the vest, try to run the ball, and throw play-action passes, because we did NOT want to get behind in the game. We were fortunate to get ahead in the game with execution, we made plays, blocked a punt, and I think it’s very difficult to come back and be taken out of your game plan in situations like that. We were not going to abort the game plan, and we did a good job of having patience, knowing what to do, and going out and executing it.”
Saban was especially happy with the job done by Coker, who finished 11-16 passing for 190 yards and a touchdown. Coker added 28 yards on 6 runs and was not sacked. “I thought Jake did a great job today,” Saban said. “Most people don’t know how difficult it is to play in circumstances like that. He managed the game well. He got us in the right plays. He changed the protection a couple of times. He made a couple of really good throws.
“The play-action passes made a big difference in the game. One was a big play touchdown (of 45 yards to freshman Calvin Ridley), and (Coker) changed field position a couple of times. Jake played with a lot more confidence, and I think he’s getting better every week. I think he’s got a better understanding of what he needs to do, and I thought he did a good job of taking what the defense gave him today.”
Saban had some nice things to say about a couple of his true freshmen. Of Ridley, he said, “Calvin’s played well all year long, and he’s getting more opportunities now that Robert Foster’s out. He shows a lot of maturity for a freshman in terms of the way he plays, and he doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. He made a really big play today. He dropped one last week, but you live and learn. He’s very focused.”
Defensively and special-teams wise, freshman Minkah Fitzpatrick blocked a punt for a score and made four tackles with a break-up and sack. Saban said, “Minkah’s another freshman that shows a lot of maturity in terms of being able to go out there and take a lot of responsibility, not only as a fifth defensive back playing ‘star,’ but also in a lot of special teams situations. The blocked punt was big. He did a really good job, and it was a good (play) design. He finished it very, very well, he made a couple of good plays on kick-off coverage, and he played very well in the secondary. “
Saban said he went over and acknowledged the Alabama fans that stayed the whole game because “I like for them to know that we all really appreciate that. It only takes a second to let them know that.”
Derrick Henry out-rushed Georgia’s Chubb 148 yards to 146, but lost an early fumble. Asked how his junior back recovered from that error, Saban said, “I think Derrick played well. We told the guys you’ve got to play one play at a time for 60 minutes in the game. He was a little frustrated because he’s a great competitor, but we told him, ‘Just forget it. Let’s go play the next play.’
“I thought (Henry) had a great game, and I thought his down-hill runs are what you needed to do on a field like that and in conditions like that. He’s the perfect guy for it.”
Is his 2015 team any closer to finding its identity ? Saban thinks so, but still saw teachable moments. “I think we improved, and I think we’re getting better,” Saban said. “I think its one game, and we have to show that we can play with consistency. I don’t think we finished the game like we needed to, which is something we need to learn from. If it was a closer game, that would have been a good thing. We didn’t take the air out of it on offense. We couldn’t run the ball at the end of the game like we wanted to. We gave up the big play on defense.
“We have a process we go through to get the players ready for each game, and I thought they played the best game of the year, obviously, against a very good team. I think today does go a long way in terms of establishing an identity, but you’ve got be consistent and do it very game.”