SABAN: It Starts Up Front

Whipped up front on offense and left in the dust on defense en route to 31-17 defeat at the hands of Utah of the Mountain West Conference, Alabama Coach Nick Saban could do no more than state the obvious in the post-game press conference of Friday's Allstate Sugar Bowl.

"We got off to a very poor start in the game; got behind 21-0," Nick Saban said. "We had a tough time blocking the edges. We didn't block the pressures very well. And their quarterback, Brian Johnson, sort of just, you know, picked us apart in the secondary."

Quarterback John Parker Wilson was harassed by Utah defensive linemen all night. Mostly they came from the left where Mike Johnson slid to left tackle to fill in for suspended Andre Smith and David Ross made his second career start at left guard. And Alabama rushed for a season-low 31 yards.

"It starts up front," Saban said. "I don't think we did a very good job up front in this game."

While the offense was unable to run the ball and John Parker Wilson was feeling the heat anytime he tried to pass, the Tide defense was hung out to dry by Utah's no-huddle in the first quarter. Quarterback Brian Johnson, unmolested, completed pass after pass and Utah scored three touchdowns in its first three possessions.

"We probably tried to keep it too simple early in the game and didn't create enough problems in pass-rush," Saban said.

Afterwards Alabama slowed Utah down, limiting them to 10 points over the final three quarters after changing things up on defense. "We take a lot of good players off the field when we players off the field and put what we call rabbits in the game to pass-rush," Saban said. "And it was a good match-up for them and maybe not as good of a match-up for us."

Saban addressed saying that Utah wasn't a "real" BCS team, a quote taken terribly out of context but one which Utah players seemed to latch onto.

"I don't think our guys played with enough intensity," Saban said. "We have a tremendous amount of respect for their team. And I apologize. I certainly misstated that.

"So, if that's what gave them all their intensity, then I guess I'm responsible for the way they played and I'm responsible for the way we played. So I'm responsible for the whole damn kitten-kaboodle."

"I don't think we were ready to play today," Saban said. "I don't know why. I said they have a very good football team 100 times, and I believe that."

Saban said again that this year's team was "one of the teams that I would consider being the absolute best team to coach that we've had an opportunity to be involved with relative to playing to their capacity." He followed by saying that Alabama needs more players, however.

"We need a lot of things for us to continue to improve to be the kind of program that is recognized as kind of a dominant program on a national level," Saban said.

According to nose guard Terrence Cody, after the game Saban told his players that the team had underestimated Utah. Saban took the brunt of the blame for that during the press conference.

Saban didn't address reports that assistant coach Kevin Steele might soon be departing for Clemson, although on Thursday when asked generally about the nature of staff changes he said they are inevitable.

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