Saban Says Tide Needs To Improve

Alabama is working on a season to remember. Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban wants to make sure that this week doesn't produce the game that wipes out all the good memories. Bama has worked its way up to second in the Associated Press poll and in the Bowl Championship Series standings.

Alabama is 10-0 and ranked third in the nation in the Harris Poll and the Coaches Poll. Bama is 7-0 in Southeastern Conference games and clinched the SEC Western Division championship a couple of weeks ago.

Bama will meet Florida in the SEC Championship Game on December 5 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, and that game is already being viewed as the national championship play-in game at worst, the REAL national championship game by many.

Alabama has a Heisman Trophy candidate in tailback Mark Ingram and all sorts of other players who are finalists for major awards – defensive tackle Terrence Cody, linebacker Rolando McClain, cornerback/kick returner Javier Arenas.

Nick Saban is a candidate to repeat as national coach of the year.

That and more is in jeopardy this Saturday. A pre-game ceremony will honor Alabama's seniors, and those players would not want to be remembered as the senior class that lost to Chattanooga.

Most consider Alabama to have three big games remaining. Saban isn't speaking or hearing that evil. Before those three games can be truly big, the Crimson Tide must win its final non-conference game of the year. Bama hosts Tennessee-Chattanooga at 11:21 a.m. CST Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The game will be regionally telecast in some markets on the SEC Network.

"Our focus for this game is to continue to improve as a team.," Saban said Monday. "I think our best game is somewhere out there, still and we need to keep working toward that. Every game has significance. There won't be one thing that anybody ever remembers about this season if we didn't have success against a team like this. You can ask me all you want about it, but that's the answer to the question right there. We respect the team. They've got good players. Their coach (first year man Russ Huesman) has done a great job there. They are 6-4 this year and they have made a tremendous amount of improvement from last year. Every game is significant and this is the most important game that we are playing and it's the only game that we are going to talk about."

The Mocs were 1-11 last year. Huesman has more wins than any first-year coach at Chattanooga since Bill Oliver took over the Mocs and went 8-3 in 1980. Oliver, who had been an assistant coach at Alabama before going to UTC, had Huesman as a junior defensive back that season. "We always respect our opponents," Saban said. "These guys have come back in several games because of their ability to throw the ball, especially with the quarterback B. J. Coleman. They have good receivers. They have a good scheme and good attack on offense. They seem to be a little simpler, playing hard and tough on defense. They do a good job of coaching their special teams. This is a very well coached team. We always have the proper respect and we need to do a good job in what we do to execute and take care of our own business."

Saban has probably said about all he's going to say about Chattanooga. He's more interested in Alabama.

In Alabama's last outing, a 31-3 win over Mississippi State in Starkville, Saban said he was pleased with the intensity, effort and execution of his team. He said the coaching staff named as players of the game: tailback Mark Ingram and guard Mike Johnson on offense; Rolando McClain, Cory Reamer and Mark Barron on defense; and Javier Arenas and Robby Green on special teams.

Saban said, "We want to continue to build and improve, get better as a team, have better execution, play with more consistency and work on the things that we need to work on that're going to help us be better. There are some parts of special teams we definitely need to work on and improve on. We had made some improvement on it, but obviously the one thing that was an issue in the game was the two kickoff covers. We had some guys not do the right things and we've got to be able to do that on a consistent basis.

"There are a lot of things we can point out that we need to improve on and I am sure the players would tell you the same thing. So, we're never satisfied with where we are. We've never really arrived and I think everybody needs to have that perception as we move forward, in terms of what's in front of us."

Saban said Alabama is in good shape from an injury standpoint with the only player scheduled to miss Monday's work and get "a day or two to try to heal up" is jack linebacker Eryk Anders. Saban said he had a sprained ankle.

The coach pointed out that senior tight end Colin Peek, who was injured a few weeks ago and limited until last Saturday, "played in the game and he's fine and he never got injured and he'll continue to play more and more and more as he gets more healthy, but he felt like he did not show any signs of having a problem, and he practiced well last week as well."

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