SABAN: Not Finishing Kills Tide Again

After Alabama's 24-point drubbing of Tennessee with five players suspended, including two starting offensive linemen, Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban boomed from his podium that not having them was not going to be a problem.

Despite his best efforts that was not the case. Alabama has lost every game since, and Saturday night at Jordan-Hare Stadium was the Crimson Tide's sixth straight loss to Auburn. This time the final score was 17-10.

"We were a pretty good football team through eight games," Saban said after Saturday night's game.

"I think that any time you lose football players that are starters, that doesn't help your team any," he said. "That's not an excuse, it's just a fact of the matter, especially when you have two of those starters on the offensive line. That's 40 percent of the line. Then you get a couple of guys nicked up and that take their place and the are of our team that was affected the most was the offensive line. Then other people are affected as well."

Saban said Saturday night's game was a "doggone good" football game and he was proud of the way his players competed. "You have to give Auburn's players a lot of credit. They played well throughout the game. Auburn defensively is really good and they run the ball effectively. We couldn't get them stopped when we needed to get them stopped."

Finishing, and Alabama's inability to do so, has been the catchphrase for the past five weeks and was again Saturday.

"The most disappointing thing about this season is we didn't finish and there's a lot of lessons to be learned about finishing," Saban said. "We make a commitment and we have to finish. I am proud of the way these guys worked. They made a lot of progress as far as the team. We worked hard, we got bigger and stronger and we were a pretty good football team for the first eight games of the season. And then the last four games we just didn't finish the way we would like to finish."

"More than anything I'm disappointed for the players," he said. I think the players played their hearts out and really wanted to win this game. There are a lot of sad guys in there right now."

Saban covered the litany of mistakes and missed opportunities his team had: the missed field goal by Leigh Tiffin ("There was a lot of wind out there, though."), the interception just before the half that DJ Hall almost caught ("DJ actually had a chance to catch the ball and it got tipped up and [Powers] made a good play."), the running into the kicker penalty by Chris Rogers that gave Auburn a first down, the Matt Caddell muffed punt that rolled out at the one, the Keith Saunders roughing the passer penalty on third down ("All these little things, when you are in a close game like this, all those things are critical."), and the low line-drive punt by P.J. Fitzgerald that set Auburn up for its final touchdown ("It wasn't how long it was, it was how high it was and the hang-time.").

"I thought we ran the ball effectively," he said. "We didn't pass it as well as we needed to… Their defense being what it is, and their ability to pass rush, we wanted to stay out of long yardage situations on third down. We had a few too many sacks that cost us field position to many times."

Alabama is in wait-and-see mode about its bowl future. At six wins, the Tide is eligible, but so are 10 other Southeastern Conference teams. That could force Alabama to a bowl with other conference tie-ins that can't be fulfilled, or it could leave them out altogether.

"I don't know anything about the bowl situation," he said. "I would love for our players to have the opportunity to go play in a bowl game. I think most of the circumstances that occurred this weekend are not beneficial to us. Sometimes the SEC Championship game makes a difference in all that. I don't know if it will this time or not."

Saban's plan for the next week: recruiting.

"We're going to go recruiting this week," he said. "We don't have a plan yet as far as players and practice."

In the things-you-never-thought-you'd-hear category, Saban closed his comments by thanking the media and commending their coverage of his team this year. After leaving the podium, he approached the Birmingham News' Ray Melick and said, "Thank you for what you wrote," presumably referring to Melick's column (linked here) this week.

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