Tide Performance Impresses Saban

Count Nick Saban among those who has a few less concerns about the University of Alabama football team after its nearly flawless 53-7 win over North Texas at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday.

Entering conference play against Arkansas next week, the Crimson Tide will be 3-0 with three impressive victories -- each more impressive than the last.

"Up until today, I wondered 'Was this team going to fulfill its full potential?'" Alabama Coach Nick Saban said in Saturday's post-game press conference. "I wasn't pleased with our consistency. We played well and times and at other times we didn't."

"We played much more solid today and made some improvement," he said. "The competition is going get better. The difference about the SEC is that the skill guys are going to be better and the defensive lines are going to be better. In my opinion we're going to be much more challenged and we're all going to have to ramp it up a notch."

Saban said that star receiver Julio Jones, who did not play against North Texas after an injury against Florida International, would likely be ready to play in the conference opener. He said that running back Roy Upchurch was "about 80-85 percent" healthy and would probably play if he continued to heal from a high ankle sprain suffered last week. In other injury news, Saban said that reserve running back Demetrius Goode "just got popped pretty good" when he went down in the fourth quarter and that he didn't think there was a serious injury with Goode.

Saban said the offensive line "didn't do as good a job in pass protection as they needed to" at times Saturday in letting quarterback Greg McElroy get hit too many times, but he continued to heap praise on the senior quarterback who is in his first year as the starter.

"He is very smart, instinctive. He takes what the defense gives him," Saban said. "He doesn't have a big ego and try to force balls when he sholdn't. We've probably made as many yards throwing to check downs as anyone else. Greg has really done a good job in decicion making and accuracy."

Saban was also glad to get back-up quarterback Star Jackson some significant playing time. Jackson entered the game with just over a couple of minutes remaining in the first half and managed a 36-yard drive that ended in a Leigh Tiffin field goal as time ran out in the half.

"For Star Jackson to get to play as much as he did today was probably a real asset for us today relative to the future, especially playing with our first unit," Saban said. "He did good job. He was a little slow in the operation and took a penalty down on five yard line that was not good, but that's what you learn from. They're the kind of lessons guys need to learn about playing.

A sore area for Alabama had been kick coverage. That improved Saturday, but for one big kick return that North Texas had called back due to a penalty.

"Overall I was pleased with the special teams," he said. "We covered kicks a little better except for one when they got a penalty. We still had errors, but overall coveerage was better."

There were no sacks in Saturday's game, something Saban had no patience being asked about.

"You ask about sacks every day," Saban said. "Sacks have nothing do with winning, nothing at all. There's not one stat in the NFLthat says how many sacks you get contributes to winning. We affected the guy today because he was throwing it so fast we couldn't get to him. So if you affect the quarterback you don't have to sack him. i think our pass rush is better and i think if they had held it and tried to throw it down field we'd have gotten him. We shouldn't equate how we affected the quarterback relative to how many sacks we got. That's one of those stat things i don't have a lot of patience with. When you get in third down sometimes you rush 'em sometimes you cover 'em.

"We won a lot of games last year and you didn't think nwe got enough sacks," he said. "Twelve in a row, actually."

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