Saban Wants Fast Start, Good Finish

As a measure of what is expected at Alabama: the Crimson Tide is undefeated, ranked fourth in the nation, averaging over 500 yards per game on offense, and stuffing the opposition on defense. And there are questions about Bama.



Alabama Coach Nick Saban says it's not necessarily because of the way the Crimson Tide has prepared. "I think that we practiced well last week," he said. "We really had a pretty good week of practice. But I think emphasis to the players is that, in everything that we do you have to have a mindset that you're ready to go. That includes practice...you create a mindset that when you start, you're ready to start. You have the intensity, momentum, energy. And that's just who you are and how you do things. We practiced well last week. I thought we had good energy on Friday in the walkthrough; didn't make a lot of mistakes.

"It just seemed like we were a little bit slow getting started in the game. Maybe if the momentum of the game would have been different — we had them third and 21 and backed up and gave up a big play and good field position, or we score a touchdown rather than kicking a field goal — that things might go differently. But I think we have to finish those situations in the game. Players have to be ready to take advantage of those opportunities and I want this to be a part of who we are; that we develop a consistency in performance from start to finish. And that's something that we need to work on. And we'll emphasize it in practice so that they understand that it's important."

Alabama defeated seventh-ranked Virginia Tech, 34-24, but Bama trailed the Hokies by 17-16 at halftime. Bama downed Florida International last week by 40-14, but Bama led by only 20-14 at halftime.

"I think we need to learn to get off fast and finish strong," Saban said. "I think that's what we want to continue to emphasize with the players so we can play with a model of consistency over a 60-minute period. The season is an on-going process and we need to focus on every player getting better, every player improving what he needs to do to become a better player, regardless of what his role is in the game. That is something we certainly want to put a lot of emphasis on this week."

This week Alabama hosts North Texas, like Florida International a member of the Sun Belt Conference. The Mean Green is 1-1with a good road win at Ball State and a tough overtime loss to Ohio.

Saban saw good things in last week's win. "I think the biggest thing was we made improvement from week one to week two," he said. "Certainly there are still some things that we need to improve on, but we made less mental errors in the game. I think we played faster. We had really good balance on offense, our passing efficiency was very good, we still made 12 explosive plays and we finished the game in the fourth quarter and played very well in the second half. We didn't turn the ball over on offense.

"Defensively, we stopped the run and improved our ability to affect the quarterback and our pass rush was better. They really only scored seven points on the defense and we had a third-and-9 in that situation. We improved on our mental errors and played really well in the second half. We weren't as good on third down as we have been and we gave up some third-and-longs that we need to get corrected. Our special teams' were really good in the game and positive for us in the game, except for the kickoff coverage, especially on the one kickoff return we had a couple of loss of lanes, took on the wedge wrong and the safeties didn't leverage the ball when it came out. So that created a problem for us."

He said, "I have been pleased with the balance that we've been able to have offensively. We haven't turned the ball over much. We've been able to have decent run efficiency and our pass efficiency is very much improved. I think it's improved because we have improved in all the areas. Greg (McElroy) has done a nice job. The receivers are playing a little better. We've had decent protection for the most part and the tight ends are doing a nice job. I feel like we've improved overall from that standpoint. I think there are areas that we can continue to improve on and certainly we are going to focus on the things we need to do to get better and hopefully we'll be able to continue to be even more efficient in the future."

Saban had good things to say about North Texas and Mean Green Coach Todd Dodge, who was Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy's high school coach. "They are a very good offensive team, very productive and lots of balance," Saban said. "They run the ball; probably as well as anybody we have played. Their spread is probably similar to last week, but a spread that really emphasizes running it."

Saban said, "Defensively is probably where they've made the most significant improvement. They are a lot bigger, a lot more physical and played extremely well in the first two games. "

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