Stuart McNair

Alabama Coach Nick Saban is still concerned about player safety in fastball football

Alabama has joined the hurry-up party, but Nick Saban would like it slower

While Alabama is not considered a hurry-up offensive team, there is no question that the Crimson Tide has been playing more “with pace” as the fast ball game is euphemistically characterized. Bama Coach Nick Saban is considered the Grinch Who Would Steal The Excitement because of his stand against the hurry-up.

“Is this what we want college football to be?” he asked rhetorically in one of his discourses on the subject.

But Alabama has joined the pack, at least to some extent. The Tide has increased its use of no-huddle and hurry-up play in recent years. The Saban position is that if the rules are going to allow it, he’s going to take advantage of it.

Although there are other factors (notably defensive success), last year Alabama ran 1,088 plays (72.5 per game) to their opponents 963 (64.2 per game). Through six games this year, Bama has run 429 plays (71.5) to the opponents’ 388 (64.7).

On Wednesday Saban made it clear that he still doesn’t like it.

Last weekend Tennessee (this week’s Alabama opponent in Knoxville) and Texas A&M played a double overtime game in College Station that lasted almost five hours.

Saban’s team will be in Knoxville Saturday to take on Tennessee. Bama, 6-0 and ranked first in the nation, and Tennessee, 5-1 and ranked ninth, will kick off at 2:30 p.m. CDT with CBS televising the game.

Saban was asked if games are getting longer, and his answer demonstrated that he still wants the game slowed down.

“I said this years ago,” Saban said. “When you play pace of play like teams play now, since the 40-second clock and they let them go as fast as they want, it's nothing to play 100 plays in a game. I think both of those teams had 100 plays in the game last week (actually, Tennessee 99, A&M 84).

“Now, is that good for player safety” I don't know, I'm not a doctor, I can't tell you that. It seems to me like the more plays you play, the more tired you get, the more susceptible you might be to getting hurt. But I don't know that for a fact.

“Now, there're things we could do to probably shorten a game, whether you don't stop the clock after first downs, whether you stand over the ball for just a second and not go warp speed where the other team can't get lined up. I don't know what the answer to that is.

"I don't think it's good that players play that many plays in a game. When you look at the cumulative effect of a season when players play like that…

“Now, offensive players who play that philosophy say 'The offensive players have to do it as well as the defensive players.' That's not really true. Defensive players have to run to the ball every play. The offensive linemen stand and watch the guy run with the ball. There's a difference in that and there's a difference in what the receiver does if he's backside and you take a play off or whatever. You can't really do that on defense. So I think there's potential for a lot of plays to be in this game.”

In last week’s 49-30 win over Arkansas in Fayetteville, the Razorbacks ran 48 plays in the second half, Alabama only 17.

"That's two-fold,” Saban said. “That's partly our fault. We don’t get off the field on third down and second thing is, you have to keep the ball on offense, which we had the ball for 17 plays. I talked about that on Monday.

"First play we fumbled. We get an interception and go four plays and score, which we fumbled on that drive too. We go two plays and throw an interception, we go three plays and out, we go five plays and out, we go three plays and out. That's our second half.

“When you're ahead in the game, you have to be able to control the game on both sides of the ball and we didn't do that."

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