SABAN: BCS Talk Toxic

Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban was burned in effigy on the eve of his return to LSU, taunted as he exited the team bus for the stadium, and jeered with foul insults during the game. But it was Saban and his top-ranked Crimson Tide that got the last word with a 27-21 overtime win in Baton Rouge Saturday evening.

"You name it, I heard it," Saban said after the game. "I don't know if it was all that creative, though."

Saban brushed off the bitterness of the many of the fans, however, and complimented LSU's administration for its professionalism.

"I know there may be some people that have a negative attitude, but I can say I really appreciate those people that spoke to me and welcomed me back here today," he said. "I really appreciate that from the people here. We have special memories of this place, and no one will tarnish those no matter what they do. I appreciate the class of the people and administration at LSU."

"I didn't leave LSU to go to Alabama. I left LSU to go to Miami," Saban said. "There's nothing personal in that for me. My family and I realized that we didn't like pro football as much as we like college football and Alabama had the best opportunity to get back to college football. One thing I won't do is abandon relationships that I have with players that I recruited."

Saban said that clinching the SEC Western Division Championship in Baton Rouge was really no more special than doing it anywhere else. He tried to keep the focus on the loftier goals Alabama has going forward, lining winning the rest of its regular-season games, the league championship and playing for the national title. Still, he shunned the premature discussion.

"When you start thinking about where you're ranked and about the BCS that doesn't get it done," he said. "You all like to ask me about it and I talk about it because it interests the fans, but it's toxic!"

Alabama is about three quarters of the way to the top of the college football mountain according to Saban.

"We are at about 19,000 feet," he said. "The mountaintop is at 26,000 feet and the air is changing a little bit. The air is a little rarer and you have to change how you breathe sometimes, but your still have to focus on the task at hand. Because of that, if you slip and don't focus on what you supposed to, to consequences can be devastating even more so than when you are at 7,000 feet."

Reverting to more conventional coach-speak, Saban said the game wasn't really about him. He complimented his team's toughness, but challenged his players on execution. He called Bama's first half "as lethargic a first half of football that we've played all year" and said "I wasn't sure that our players were focused enough today to play the way they want to play."

"I congratulated our players after the game, but I also asked them if they thought they played their best game," Saban said. "Do you think we played better than we did before? Do you think we made improvements as a team? I didn't think we had the same kind of intensity that we had been playing with and we were a little flat in the first half. This was a huge game for us and sometimes you wonder as a coach that you did or didn't do or what you're expectations was for them to do to be more ready to play."

Saban called Rashad Johnson's interception in overtime, the last of three interceptions for Johnson on the day, "the biggest play of the game."

On Alabama's first offensive play of overtime:

"We decided to go with a big play off the bat to Julio (Jones) which we hit one play and that makes a big difference. LSU is a good goal line defense team. We struggled to get it in but we got it in and would have kicked a field goal or tried again if we didn't. Hopefully we wouldn't have gotten it blocked."

On Roy Upchurch's non-participation in the LSU game:

Upchurch had a bad muscle spasm in his neck and they couldn't get it out. Roy is a big part of what we do. He's our third down back.

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