One of the most memorable plays in recent college football history was Alabama pulling off an onside kick and turning momentum in Alabama’s 45-40 win over Clemson in last year’s national championship game. One of the most forgettable plays in recent Crimson Tide history could have been an onside kick by Ole Miss against Bama in last week’s 48-43 win over the Rebels in Oxford.
Alabama didn’t come up with the onside kick in the fourth quarter last Saturday, and the Rebels used it to score the second of two touchdowns in an eight-second span to put the game in jeopardy.
“We didn't block the right guy,” Alabama Coach Nick Saban explained Monday. Well, sort of explained. He said, “If you do what we do, they twisted. Supposed to pass off the twist and block the guys,” he said.
Saban said, “It was a great kick and a really favorable hop for them the way it hopped, but he (Bama up return man on the right side Calvin Ridley) let the ball play him rather than him playing the ball.
“And we didn't block the guys right. If you block the guys right, we still have a chance to recover the ball because they don't penetrate to the ball. They twisted and 17 (Van Jefferson for the Rebels) came around and nobody blocked him. We didn't block the right guys and that gave them a chance.
“These are all the things that I'm talking about in terms of not executing the details of what you need to do, which gives the other team opportunities to beat you and make plays. That's taking nothing away from them. It was a really good kick. They executed what they did right but we didn't do what we did right. It's a little frustrating but we have to work with the guys and use these things as learning experiences so that we can grow and get better.”
Saban said he was proud of his team for continuing to compete after falling behind by 24-3 late in the second quarter and added that the Tide “Really played hard. Played with a lot of heart. Great competitive spirit.
“But when you look at things, the devil is kind of in the details. We could have really lost the game based on mental mistakes, mental errors, lack of execution at times that led to really bad plays for our team. Our focus needs to be on getting these things corrected but having the ability to focus on sort of each and every play. “
It was no surprise Saban was disappointed in the Ole Miss comeback with two touchdowns in the final minutes of the game. He said, “All these things catch up with you if you don't fix them, correct them, focus on every play and get things executed properly. Leads to lots of problems.
“You don't ever want to beat yourself and when you do things like that, you give yourself an opportunity to beat yourself. It's one thing to get beat physically. Can't cover them. Can't block them up front, that's different, and that may happen someday. But all this other stuff, you beat yourself. That's what we've got to get fixed.
“The focus here for us is to pay attention to detail play in and play out so that we get better consistency in execution and don't beat ourselves.”
This week the opponent is Kent State, Saban’s alma mater, and the Golden Flashes would reasonably be given no chance of defeating Alabama. Kickoff is at 11 a.m. Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium with SEC Network televising.
Alma mater or not. Big underdog or not. Saban is leaving nothing to chance.
“They did a nice job against Penn State,” Saban said of Kent State’s 33-13 loss to the Nittany Lions. “It was 16-13 at the half and they actually missed a field goal to tie the game.”
Mainly, though, Saban noted the upsets in college football, Central Michigan over Oklahoma State and North Dakota State over Iowa, for instance.
“That happens every week,” Saban said, “and it happens because the teams that they're playing don't have the proper respect. They don't prepare correctly. They don't go out and play very well. And the other team has players, too, that are very capable. They need to be respected. We need to focus on what we need to do to get better as a team and play to our standards. That's certainly going to be the message for this week.”
Saban said wide receiver ArDarius Stewart (strained knee) would be the biggest question mark for this week’s game. He said he thought quarterback I think Jalen's Hurt, safety Eddie Jackson, and nickel back Minkah Fitzpatrick would be “fine” for the Kent State game, but might not be in practice for “a day or two.”
The Tide coach said that Cam Sims has been playing well and would likely take some of the playing time for Stewart. He also said Rob Foster would get some playing time. And he said, “A young guy that we've been trying to play both ways who's got a lot of promise is Trevon Diggs, who because of our lack of depth in the secondary, maybe trying to be playing him both ways. I think we'll probably try to emphasize more offense with him this week.”
As has been the Saban custom when possible, the team got a break from physical practice Monday. Saban said, “I think our team needs a little bit of a physical rest and recovery time today so we will have our normal meetings and we will do stretch and stride but we're not practicing today.”