Saban Discusses Tide Second Half Woes
Alabama Coach Nick Saban opened his post-game press briefing saying, ""It's obviously a great win for us. The crowd was fantastic for us today, a lot of support especially at the end of the game. I'm not sure that that didn't have an effect on the outcome as much as anything."
Nevertheless, most comments from Saban following the Crimson Tide's win over Ole Miss were delivered without notable glee.
He said, "We're not just focused on winning, our focus is a lot on how we win. A big goal for us today--I talked about it at halftime--was to go out and play and do a better job in the second half, and obviously we didn't do that. That was our goal and especially with a 24-3 halftime lead, but we got a penalty that started the (Mississippi) drive that ended up in the fake field goal, which we did a poor job of recognition.
"We all knew on the sidelines that they were going to fake it. I mean, how many times do you see the holder walk up and tell the offensive line that it's a play. That was huge in the game in terms of momentum."
He said, "We need to play better on offense in the second half. We need to be more consistent in terms of ball control and field position. We turned the ball over in the second half on two occasions. The last three games we haven't played as well in the second half as in the first, and we have to analyze that. Defensively, we gave up a couple of big plays that contributed to them scoring. We also turned the ball over twice which gave them good field position."
Saban also gave credit to the play of Ole Miss. "I said it all week long that Ole Miss is a really good football team," he said. "I believed it; I don't know if our players believed it, but I think they do a fantastic job and they have good players."
Saban was asked if there was "a common thread" leading to second half struggles. He said, "I mentioned most of them already. We had a lot of plays on defense. We give up some plays on defense. We don't play with the same intensity. We have to change it up, mix it up, a little bit more and be able to execute. We can't make the mental errors that we make, and we have to play more consistently on offense. We stopped moving the ball, and that's what affects the momentum of the game more than anything, how you play on offense and when you score. We need to do all those things. Even the field position in the second half wasn't good. We have to quit doing stupid stuff."
Although Saban didn't single out Alabama wide receiver Marquis Maze by name, he made it clear that he was not pleased with Maze drawing a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty following Maze's touchdown reception. He said a player needs to act like he has been in the end zone and not be so immature as to draw a penalty. He also mentioned a roughing the passer call against outside linebacker Brandon Fanney, again without mentioning the player. Although Saban said he didn't see the play, he said players must have self-discipline, from which they will get consistency and perseverence.
"We need to show more of that," he said.
A bit surprising was Saban's view of a costly fumble by tailback Glen Coffee, who has had several untimely fumbles this year. "I'll have to look at what happened," Saban said. "I'm not sure it was all his fault. I know we didn't block the play correctly. We're going to keep working technically on what he can do to not fumbloe the football, but I'm not sure any of those things happened today."
Saban said the decision to play freshman tight end Brad Smelley was based on his performance in practice. He said the offensive staff had wanted to play Smelley for weeks "and I was dragging my feet." He indicated Smelley's ability also to play on special teams influenced the decision to use Smelley.
Saban thought that Josh Chapman, who took over fulltime at nose tackle after Terrence Cody went out in the second quarter with a knee injury, had done well. He noted that Chapman has played a great deal this year, rotating with Cody. In fact, Saban said, Alabama's defense "did a good job on defense against all they do. It's difficult. They did some things we didn't prepare for. You can't be prepared for things you've never seen before. We talk to the players about having to be able to adjust."
One of the Alabama highlights was a flea-flicker that went for a 30-yard touchdown. Quarterback John Parker Wilson handed the ball to tailback Glen Cody who lateraled back to Wilson who connected with Mike McCoy in the end zone. "It was one of those plays we wanted to run in a certain part of the field," Saban said. "The first time I wanted to use it we were too deep (into Ole Miss territory) and we kicked a field goal. We have one or two plays like that in our plans every week."
He said he thought quarterback John Parker Wilson played well except for throwing an interception on a bad decision.
Saban said Alabama's low rushing total (107 yards) was because Ole Miss stacked the defense against the run. "It's hard to run against an eight-man front," Saban said. "Sometimes you just have to throw it. You have to have confidence in people and throw it. Sometimes the best down is first down. When we play teams that play us like that you have to make them pay."
Saban was asked about the performance of freshman linebacker Dont'a Hightower. "He has played well for us," Saban said. "He doesn't play like a freshman and he practices the same way. He's very instinctive and has size and speed and makes plays. He has a good head on his shoulders. he does a great job preparing himself every week. He's mature, not up and down, like a lot of freshmen. Julio (Julio Jones) and Mark Ingram are that way too. We need more freshmen to play like that because we need them in our two deep."
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