Saban Discusses Bama's Identity

Alabama Coach Nick Saban got an interesting question in his Monday press briefing. What is the identity of Alabama football after six games? The Crimson Tide has been identified in the nation's polls as America's second best college team after a 6-0 start.

There was a thought that this question might not get an answer. After all, the Alabama season is only half over. What the identity is now could be no more important to a coach than say the national ranking in mid-October.

But Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban did answer the question.

"I think that at times we've played physical, tough with great competitive character," Saban said. "But I also think at times we've lost our focus a little bit in games and not played and sustained that intensity like you would like.

"I think that is something we need to continue to work on."

Bama is coming off a 22-3 win over the Ole Miss Rebels in Oxford.

"We didn't play as well in the second half on defense," Saban said. "We needed to put the game away and never really did it. We intercept pass with 12 or 13 minutes left in the game on the 10-yard line that would make the game go 19-10. The game is certainly not over. You've got to play for 60 minutes in the game. There is just a small difference in having the focus and the intensity and playing extremely well and losing that small edge and not playing quite as well, and making a few mental errors that allows the other team to gain momentum. That's something that we need to work on, so it would be more from a consistency standpoint that an inability to do it."

Particularly troubling in the game as Oxford was Alabama's difficult time in the Red Zone. Bama kept getting inside the Ole Miss 20, including twice getting first and goal at the three-yard line, but came away with nothing from field goals from close in. Saban explained: "First of all, we had first and three at the three twice. We got a penalty once on a play that probably would have scored a touchdown. We fumbled a snap that hit the quarterback right in the hands on another occasion on another series that put us back on the seven- or eight-yard line and wasted a play. Giving Ole Miss as much credit as we possibly can, there were still some missed executions on our part. Some in the passing game and some in the errors that we made that put us behind in down and distance. These are all correctible things that we can improve on and certainly need to improve on and come away with touchdowns instead of field goals, especially when we get it that deep."

Saban did say that "I was really pleased with the effort. We played hard and competed well in the game. When it came down to execution, when we did things and did the fundamental things right and focused, we had good execution. We had success and when we didn't do that, we didn't do as well and that's usually pretty typical. "

Alabama returns to Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa Saturday to take on South Carolina. The Gamecocks are 5-1 and ranked 22nd in the nation. Kickoff Saturday will be att 6:45 p.m. with national television coverage by ESPN. It is Alabama's homecoming game.

"We are really looking forward to getting back home," Saban said. "It seems like it's been a long time."

The coach said, "We continue to have to focus on doing the little things right – discipline and execution – to get things right so that we are going to give ourselves the best opportunity to be successful. There is no rest for the weary around here and we are playing a very good team in South Carolina. The key thing is the players have to realize there are a lot of good teams. We have to re-focus, re-center our energy and go to the next game. The last game was a great win, but the next game is the only thing that really matters."

The Alabama coach said, "South Carolina is really playing well on both sides of the ball and on special teams. I think some marked differences this year is they have a little bit more balance on offense. It's always a very challenging pro-style offense with Steve Spurrier, who is a very good offensive coach. He does a very good job coaching the quarterback and getting the ball in the right place and also getting in the right plays, relative to what you're doing on defense. I think their quarterback has played well, but they've had balance in their offense. They've got two or three running backs that they use. They've got a good group of receivers. They've got good skills players and I think the balance is the real key.

"Defensively, they are very athletic. Eric Norwood obviously is an outstanding player. So is (Cliff) Matthews, the other end. They are good edge-rushers. They have a good pressure package and do a really, really good job. Ellis Johnson is a really good defensive coach and has done a really good job with this group and they are one of the top defensive teams in the country.

"They've got good specialists on special teams. They do a really good job with their special teams. This is a good all-around football team. They are ranked. They are 5-1 and other than a four-point loss at Georgia, this team would be undefeated and probably ranked a lot higher. This is certainly going to be a challenging game for us."

Saban said the only injury suffered by Alabama against Ole Miss was freshman special teams player Rod Woodson suffering a patella tendon (knee) injury. "It's not something that requires surgery," Saban said. "Hopefully after a week, we'll play it day-by-day."

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