“Not happy” may not do Nick Saban’s postgame mood justice after his No. 1 Crimson Tide beat Western Kentucky 38-10 Saturday before a sold out Bryant-Denny Stadium crowd of 101, 821.
“I don’t know that I’ve been this disappointed after winning a game, maybe ever,” Saban said in his post-game press conference Saturday.
“I’m almost embarrassed that I didn’t do a better job for our team. Offensively, we had way too many penalties and way too many inconsistencies. (Bama was penalized 12 times for 84 yards.) Too many ‘shooting ourselves in the foot.’ We dropped (passes on) some big plays, and we had a big play called back, 71 yards, on a penalty. We just need to execute a lot better on offense. I thought special teams were OK.
“You know that deal where you supposedly improve a lot between the first and second games? I was a little disappointed in certain areas of our team today. Defensively, I thought for the most part we played pretty well. They had one explosive play, a flea-flicker (for 59 yards).
“I’m really disappointed that we couldn’t finish the game on offense there at the end. We fumbled the ball and gave it back to the other team when we’re just trying to take the air out of it. That’s bad ball. That’s bad football. It’s not the kind of football we want to play here, and it’s not the kind of team that we want to have. We’ve got lots of work to do, because we’re going to play a lot better teams.
“I didn’t think we practiced very well this week. I didn’t think we prepared very well for the game. I don’t think we respected the team that we played. Like I’ve said before, when you’re arrogant, it makes you complacent, and it creates a blatant disregard for doing things right. If we don’t do things right, we won’t have the success that we’re capable of. That’s my responsibility.”
Regarding an animated discussion he had with Offensive Coordinator Lane Kiffin late in the game, Saban was asked about the “argument.” His reply: “There were no arguments. Those are called ass-chewings.”
Quarterback-wise, Saban seemed pleased overall with first time starter Jalen Hurts. “I thought Jalen did okay,” Saban said. “He missed a couple of throws. We’re just going to have to start building around what these quarterbacks can do.”
Though he finished 23-for-36 passing for 287 yards and two touchdowns, Saban stopped short of naming Hurts the starter for the rest of the 2016 season. “I think we need to watch the film and make that decision. I think the people around … whoever plays quarterback here, need to play better. We had too much pressure in the pocket, too many penalties, too many long-yardage situations and too many dropped balls. We had a couple of guys open, and couldn’t get them the ball. We just need to do a lot of improving, and I’m focused on what we need to do to improve rather than who’s going to be the quarterback right now. Whoever it is, they need to improve.
“(Hurts) made some good decisions. He did some things where we had some guys open that he didn’t hit. I think we have to get more comfortable in in making those reads. They played us to ‘We’re not going to let you run the ball, so we’re going to play middle of the field coverage the whole game. If the quarterback can beat us throwing it, well, that’s the way it’s going to be.’
“We had a lot of guys open, and had some big play opportunities. Some we made, and some we didn’t. We’re certainly going to have to make those plays in the future, if people choose to play that way against us.”
Saban was not unhappy with a defense that gave up but 239 yards. “Other than the one (59-yard) play we gave up (where) we stripped the ball out and (Eddie Jackson) had a chance to get on the fumble, but we got out of it with a field goal; that’s the only score they had until we turned it over (late),” he said.
“We had the twos in there trying to make it simple for them, and they got a touchdown on us. You’re supposed to be able to finish the game on offense, but I thought the defense played pretty well. We had two picks (by Jackson on a pick-six and by Ronnie Harrison), scored on defense, had a couple of other opportunities where the ball was on the ground, and we didn’t get it. We’re going to have to do a better job in the turnover department.”
Saban was asked about the career performance by sophomore wide receiver Calvin Ridley, who caught nine balls for 129 yards and a touchdown, and said man coverage was the key there. He said he was not happy with the running game (124 net yards on 39 carries) but pointed out “we didn’t run it well last week against USC.”
Asked about senior right guard Alphonse Taylor getting more reps Saturday than starter Ross Pierschbacher, Saban pointed out that Taylor “needs to get in a little better shape.”
Hilltoppers Coach Jeff Brohm, who considered becoming Saban’s Alabama offensive coordinator in 2007, said, “Our hats off to Alabama. They’re a great football team. We knew that coming in, and they played extremely well. (Just not in Saban’s mind.)
“They did a great job on defense like they normally do, and were able to shut us down. We didn’t have a whole lot of answers, but I thought our guys played hard. Our defense played well (though Bama gained 475 yards). They hung in there. They were on the field a long time (35:44).
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“I like the fight in our team. We have a lot of season to play for. We just got beat by a much better team today.”