Saban Disappointed, Not Surprised

Alabama Coach Nick Saban doesn't take his eye off the ball. A week ago in a very happy Alabama dressing room he had told his team that just because victory had been achieved with a miracle finish against Arkansas that it didn't mean there wasn't improvement to be made. Saturday night the Crimson Tide was getting a different message from the head coach.



Alabama suffered its first loss of the season, a heart-breaking overtime setback to Georgia after the Crimson Tide fought back to tie the game in regulation. Georgia was a 26-23 winner after the game had been tied at 20-20 at the end of regulation.

Afterwards, Bama Coach Nick Saban said, "Obviously, we are very disappointed about the outcome of the game. I think there are a lot of lessons to be learned about how we played in the first half of the game. I was concerned about the intensity, focus, and concentration we had this week in practice -- we harped on it all week -- and I think it showed in the first half performance of the game. I think that was the worst we played all year. Not only in terms of our ability to execute, but also in the intensity and the toughness, the spirit and the energy, the positive energy."

Saban did see positives despite the loss.

"I am very proud of the way the team responded and played in the second half," the coach said. "We came back in the game on several occasions and had an opportunity to have a chance to win the game in overtime, so the competitive spirit, the overcoming adversity, the making adjustments and turning things around were all positives."

He said, "I think the biggest difference in the game was in time of possession (Georgia had a nearly nine-minute advantage) and their ability to keep the ball. They were 9-19 on third down situations. We were only three of 15 on third down."

The coach noted that Georgia had a lot of third and short yardage situations which are more manageable than the third and longs, which Bama seemed to have more of.

He also said that Alabama was unable to put the pressure on Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford that was needed.

Saban said the third down situation "was really a problem in the first half. On the first three third downs on the first (Georgia) drive which they scored on, all three third down plays were screens, and we didn't pick them up correctly, or we didn't have them covered."

Saban said a problem for Bama was having "too many possessions where we didn't keep the ball for seven or nine plays, which is an issue in changing field position as well as getting into scoring position. He said part of it was "missing throws and sometimes not throwing to the right guy and sometimes Georgia doing a good job."

Saban also said it was the first game this year in which Alabama special teams did not produce a big play to affect scoring.

"We got ourselves into a hole and we couldn't get out of it," he said. " We missed some opportunities." He noted that the secondary turned in two interceptions and Bama was able to turn one into points, but wasn't able to cash on the other.

Saban also said that a key was Alabama failing to score just before the half. He said wide receiver Mike McCoy broke free and if quarterback John Parker Wilson had been able to hit him that it might have resulted in at least a field goal opportunity. He also pointed to a couple of overthrown passes into the end zone during the game.

Saban said the focus has to continue to be on the process, of being focused and having concentration and doing things the right way with consistency each week. "We play in a league where we don't play many bad teams, and Georgia is a good team," Saban said.

The coach said, "You hope to learn when you win. But I don't think we had the hunger and intensity we need (in practice after the Arkansas game). I'm responsible for that. I'm not blaming anyone else. We'll get that corrected in the future."

Saban noted that the team that gets to play defense in overtime is considered to have a big advntage. "We had one-on-one coverage and they made a good pass and a good catch and beat our coverage. It wasn't bad coverage, bujt it wasn't great When you play on offense first, you have to play aggressively and we missed a couple of passes and got limited to a field goal."

He said, "We have too many good skill position players to not have a good passing game."

Wide receiver Keith Brown had his most productive game of the year. Saban said, "He had a good game last week, too. We need to keep him improving so he becomes even more productive for us. He had a couple of nice catches tonight."

Saban said he expected weakside linebacker Darren Mustin, who was held out with a "stinger," an injury affecting nerves in the neck area, to return next week

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