SABAN: Give Bama Its Due

The graphic on the bottom of the screen of ESPN's Auburn-Vanderbilt intermission report pegged "Alabama Survives" as the storyline for the Crimson Tide's 17-14 win against Kentucky Saturday afternoon at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Another view, however, might be similar to Javier Arenas' view of his own performance when he said the following after Saturday's game:

"At times I feel like I can play better, but hey, nobody's perfect."

Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban's description, you might be surprised to read, was closer to the latter point of view than the former. Saban, in his post game presser, went to great lengths to preempt public disgruntlement with Bama's narrow victory over the previously unbeaten Wildcats.

"You can say what you want about this team but I bet you there weren't a lot of people saying they would be 6-0," Saban said. "I'm not sure I would have either… I'm just trying to give our team some credit for what they've accomplished in the first half of the season."

Then he struck out at those who might question the negatives of Saturday's game.

"We never played at all today? We never had any intensity? we never had it at all?" Saban asked. We had 253 yards offense in the first half and they had how many, 60? I mean you are all the stats people. That's why we do these."

"We did play with intensity we just didn't finish like we needed to," Saban said.

Alabama gets a mid-season break next week before facing Ole Miss in Tuscaloosa. The Rebels lost 31-24 against South Carolina Saturday, dropping to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the SEC. The break for the Crimson Tide, Saban said, comes at a good time.

"I think that after six games we need a couple days off," he said. " There are plenty of things we need to work on to improve in the bye week but we also need some rest. Our team has played at a very high intensity and they should be commended for that. We started out well last week and lost it a little bit. We started out good this week and lost it a little bit."

The weariness of those intense games showed up in various forms. Bama had a season-high 10 penalties, turned the ball over three times, misfired repeatedly in the passing game, gave up three big plays on defense and missed field goals despite an improved overall special teams performance. Saban also said Kentucky was the first team to defend Alabama using a lot of man-to-man and the receivers didn't handle it well.

It's great to be able to learn those lessons and not lose, Saban said.

"We're certainly happy to win but we also put on a clinic today for how to keep the other team in the game," Saban said. "We had 253 yards in the first half so you can't say we didn't play well. We didn't finish in the second half."

"Kentucky's defense is very good," Saban added. "They are tough to run the ball on. I think it's outstanding that Glen Coffee had over 200 yards running and the offensive line had to do a good job to get that. We struggled in the passing game, we didn't get away from them very well and we didn't protect very well."

Saban talked about other facets the game in detail as well.

On the several questionable calls among Alabama's 10 penalties, an offensive pass interference, an ineligible receiver downfield flag, and one of the three holding calls against the Tide:

"Penalties didn't help any. Julio actually made two big plays that didn't count. I can't comment on the plays, I can't tell if they were good or bad. You guys have probably seen them more than I have, but I won't comment on them anyway. We're in an imbalanced line and Nick Walker swears he didn't go downfield, and he knows not to go downfield, and (tight end) Travis (McCall) said he was standing right by (him)."

On the long touchdown Kentucky scored to bring the Wildcats within three late in the game:

"We're playing a two-deep zone. In a case like that you've got to play over the top (meaning, don't let anyone behind you) with everything, and tackle, and make them play through. To give them an opportunity to have an onside kick and make a couple of plays is not something we need to do."

On whether he went back and forth on the decision to go for it on fourth down during its last drive en route to Leigh Tiffin's made field goal:

"No. I think that when we were on third down we already said we were going to go for it on fourth down. I wanted to go for it. A lot of people were saying lets kick the field goal after the play so that created a little doubt, but the decision got made like it got made on third down and fortunately we (converted). Two things (were in favor of going for it): the clock, and it's not a gimme kick from where we were. If you miss it you give them the ball there anyway."

On injuries:

"I don't think we had any injuries. Smitty (Andre Smith) sprained his elbow, but I think he's fine."

On Glen Coffee fumbling:

"It happened a few times last year and it's something we need to address. Sometimes you get popped right on the ball and that's going to occur on occasion. I don't know exactly what happened today but we'll look at it technically and get it corrected."

On the crowd:

"Our crowd had a tremendous effect on this game. We asked for noise and we got noise, and that helped us tremendously. It probably affected the game as much as any we've played here because of the way they play."

On running so much late in the game:

"We just decided to batten down the hatches and see if we – we weren't doing anything else very well… I know it's ugly but we won."

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