Saban Calls Tide Win Most Complete Game

Alabama football fans filled a surprisingly large percentage of the 106,138 seats in Neyland Stadium in Knoxville Saturday night to watch the Crimson Tide defeat the Tennessee Vols, 29-9. And when the game was over, crimson clad spectators were much in the majority of those remaining.

Alabama fans packed around the end zone tunnel where Crimson Tide players exited the field after defeating Tennessee Saturday night. They got their reward when Bama Coach Nick Saban acknowledged their team's win with a pair of raised fists as he ran to join his team in the locker room.

Saban said, "I've never been prouder of our team, our players, the way they competed in the game. Tennessee's got a good football team and they played with a lot of heart and toughness. That was a really good football game."

He said, "We made plays, which is the key to winning on the road."

The coach noted Alabama's good drive to start the game and get a field goal lead, and the excellent job by the defense to limit damage from two kicking game errors to one field goal by the Vols. "The defense did a great job on several occasions," Saban said.

Saban said "The offensive line got control of the game." He was asked about the touchdown run from four yards out by Glen Coffee on a fourth down play. "Anytime we have fourth down inside the five, we're probably going to go for it," Saban said. "When you have Smitty (Andre Smith), Mike Johnson and Antoine Caldwell over there, they do a pretty good job blocking and that makes it an easy decision."

Saban complimented the play of quarterback John Parker Wilson and wide receiver Julio Jones. He said that not having Terrence Cody, the Tide noseguard who is out with a sprained knee, meant that Josh Chapman and Lorenzo Washington had to play well, and he said they did.

Something of a surprise was the performance of Roy Upchurch, who has been the third team tailback and also used as a fullback in certain situations in which he is usually a pass receiver. In the first half, Upchurch had two pass receptions for 13 yards. In the second half he became the running threat and responded with 14 runs for 86 yards, scoring one touchdown and setting up another.

"Roy has played well for us all year," Saban said. "He gives us a boost." He said using Upchurch so much in the second half was a "feel," noting that Glen Coffee was "doing okay" and that Mark Ingram was "struggling a little bit."

The Tide coach said he considered the win over Tennessee to be "the best we've played since the Clemson game (to open the season). We played a complete game today. This was a complete game and it certainly needed to be because I have a tremendous amount of respect for their football team."

Saban said, "This is a great rivalry with great tradition and two outstanding universities, and I'm really proud of the way our players played. I'm happy for our fans and all the people who have made this tradition what it is; that University of Alabama people can be proud not only of the game we played, but how we played it."

Asked how this sets Bama up, Saban said, "It sets us up for the next game. Our team needs to focus on becoming a better team. We played a complete game. We're going to have to do that on a consistent basis."

Saban described the Tide as "pretty physical. We're a blue collar team. We've got to play good defense and run the footballl and mix in the pass to have balance. When we don't play with consistency, when you are trying to play physical and with intensity, it doesn't work out."

Although Saban said it was a physical game in which a lot of Tiders got "beat up," he did not cite any severe injuries. He noted that tight end Nick Walker had hurt his arm and that cornerback Marquis Johnson had a knee injury, but that both returned to the game.

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