The following are quotes from a few coaches and players after the 13-10 loss to Alabama in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium yesterday.
DB/ST Coach Chris Rippon: (On the game) Which area do you want to talk about first - special teams or the secondary? In the secondary, I thought our guys did a petty good job except for one play. What we want to do is make sure there are no 'breakouts' like the 48-yard Darby run for their TD. We have to take that personally. Just get them on the ground and give us another chance to line up and stop them. We took a bad angle on that and that was discouraging because we've been working so hard on taking the right angle and taking care of that situation. That was a huge play in the game because they weren't going to beat us just driving the ball - the kids on defense were playing too well. Besides that one run, I think the effort we gave solidifies the confidence of the DBs that we can play effectively against anyone. We won't see anyone better than Alabama. . . From a kicker standpoint, we talk every day as a staff and we are still trying to find that guy who is going to put it on his shoulders and run with it. Robert Bass' first kick was just a shank. He missed it. It's not easy, but players make tough plays when they are in the position to make them. On Will Moseley's kick, we have gone with Rob Park as the punter to alleviate some of the mental stress on Will. But he kicked it low and it was blocked. He never got it off the ground. There was no real penetration there. To his credit, when we came back to Robert later, he responded. But we left six points on the field in a 13-10 game. That's the bottom line and there's no other way to look at it.
OL Coach George DeLeone: (On the game) We put ourselves in position to win the game during the week with some productive practices, but it comes down to the fact that on Saturday you have to find a way to win. It's simple - we have to find a way to win that game at the end. Did the OL give us a chance to win? I haven't seen the films yet, but I believe we improved overall up front. I know we will see things to correct and things we could have done better, but I think we fought as hard as we could and we grew today. Our responsibility is to give our skill players enough time to and opportunity to make plays. It's that simple. We stepped up and did some things better today, but did we give our skill players opportunity to win the game? The film will tell, but I know we fought. We did have a commitment to go out there and compete toe-to-toe with a good football team. We did not back off from Alabama. Technically, however, I'm sure there are things we can continue to improve on to put us over the hump.
CB Travis Johnson: (On the defense) We went out there and played our hearts out and it's messed up that we didn't win, but both sides of the ball played hard. As a defense, we are coming together now and are becoming one of the top defenses around, in my opinion. Now we have to figure out a way to finish games and win. (On the breakout run by Darby) That play should have never happened. We made a mistake up front and then we (the DBs) didn't do our job of getting him on the ground. We took bad angles and just didn't get the job done. (On the aftermath) We don't have any choice but to put this one behind us. It will haunt us for a day or two, but we've got to line up Monday and get ready for another opponent. We don't have the luxury of dwelling on a game, win or lose. We will to fix what we did wrong and learn from it and build off what we did right, but as far as pouting about it, that can't happen. It hurts right now, real bad. It's hard standing here talking about it, but come Monday we've got to forget it. Practice time is precious and critical. We can't carry this over to Monday's practice because then we would be way behind in our preparations for Kentucky.
QB Michael Spurlock: (On the outcome) We're pretty sad right now because we put a lot of effort from Monday through the game to win this one and it didn't happen for us. We fought and fought and fought all week and in the game and just came up short in a game we should have found a way to win. Now all we can do is start all over again Monday and try to take this frustration out on our next opponent. The frustration comes from the repeated theme of this team - we beat ourselves. We really don't think another team has beaten us this year - we've done it to ourselves. When you get to the two yard line, you have to score and can't get penalties like those delays. I have to take the blame for those and be a man about it. I have to be the leader out there and be aware of everything going on, no matter when the plays gets to me. (On the future) The seniors have to pick this team up and move forward. That's our only option. (More on the delays) My fault. I have to be aware and see the clock and the situation. Some people suggested the play clock was started faster than normal. Who cares? It's part of the game that I have to be aware of. Some people say one of the calls was late getting in. Who cares? I've got to watch the play clock and react accordingly. A couple of times we told the ref the play clock was running while he was standing over the ball, but not with the plays we got called for a delay on. It really doesn't matter when the clock starts - awareness is what it's all about and as the leader of the offense that falls on my shoulders. (On the run that came up short at the two) I regret hesitating there. We practiced all week against man coverage down there and they ran a zone on that play which took me a split second to recognize. That caused me to hesitate and you can't hesitate on that type of play. I either needed to throw or run almost instantly once I got outside and I didn't. That deep, with so much congestion, you can't hesitate, but I waited for someone to come open when I should have just tucked it an run. (On the OL) I felt like I had all day to operate. Their DL is excellent, but my guys up front did a great job today, as good as anyone in the country. Time was not a problem today.
WR Mario Hill: (On the game) All I can say is that it hurts. Being a senior, playing at home against Alabama for the last time, the number six team in the nation and we were just this close. It hurts. It was a dogfight in our back yard and we just couldn't get it done when we should have. (On the future) We can build on this and finish the season real strong, but the main thing is to get the taste of this one out of our mouths as quickly as possible. Our deal is to stop making mistakes that turn games in the other direction. Everyone makes mistakes, but it seems ours have been more critical and at the worst times. When we drive down the field, we have to get in the end zone. The coaches are putting us in a position to execute and score, but in the end - with 22 bodies in a small space - it's up to us to get it done and to execute. We left points on the field and you can't do that against a team like Alabama. (On the OL) They came out on a mission today because they have been taking a lot of abuse from the media and fans. They stepped up and accepted the challenge and I loved it because everyone knows everything starts up front and they have to give us time to operate as skill players. They did it well today against a great defense. If that trend continues, we will have a chance to put up some big wins in our last five games.
OL Tre' Stallings: (On the delay of game penalties) It was a lack of communication on all points, from the coaches to the players. The second one was a huge shock and a big momentum swing. At the same time, we had enough time to make plays when we got the ball back, but we didn't capitalize. Once again, it came down to us and we didn't get it done. (On the OL) Today was proof that we are coming together up front. I've been feeling it for a few weeks, but it didn't materialize in the games as much as it should have. Today, I felt we had a great game. We gave up no sacks and we had some running lanes for our backs - enough to keep Alabama honest in their defensive sets. We consistently moved the ball against a good defense. We even got into a groove up front today. I think that speaks well for the next five games because I know we are going to continue to improve.
MLB Patrick Willis: (On the defense) We had a pretty good game, but I think we can do better. The big play by Darby is the one we wish we had back. On a day like today, we knew we could not afford one breakout play by them, but we gave one up and that's hard to deal with. Other than that, we played a good game defensively. Unfortunately that one bit us in the end. (On Croyle's late scramble) We didn't contain him the way we should have and gave him an opening we shouldn't have. Like all great players, he recognized it and made us pay by making a play. We pretty much had their number this week - the coaches gave us everything they were going to do and we held them down for the most part, but it wasn't quite good enough. (On the team) We are working hard to play a complete game, but it seems like we can't get all three phases going at once. It takes offense, defense and special teams in this kind of game and we just didn't put it all together again. It's a team thing. Get that down and we win. (On the club) I'm getting used to it, but I'll be glad to get it off. I think two more weeks and it will be evaluated again. (On should have won sentiment) Yes, we should have. We had confidence going in we were going to win, but we didn't click in all phases. On defense, we shouldn't have given up the big play.
DT Michael Bozeman: (On the defense) I think we will evolve into a great defense. It's taken us some time to adjust to the new system, but we made a big step today. I think we made a statement toward greatness today, even in the loss. We made a lot of stops and showed improvement against one of the best teams in the country. We're hurt and there is no consolation to losing, but we have to draw the positives off this one and win the last five. (On Darby's 48-yard run) That was a killer. If we could take that one play back, we'd be celebrating right now because we honestly did not believe they could score a TD on us. We have a very good defense, but to be great, we can't have any big mistakes. We made one today and it's haunting us right now. (On the first stop of the day at the Reb 6) That set the tone. We knew we were going to give them all they wanted at that point. It was a boost to stop them on fourth down once they drove all the way down the field. We took over from there. They saw they could not power the ball on us and I think that surprised them.
Offensive Coordinator Noel Mazzone: (On the OL and the offense overall) We were a lot better up front. I felt real good throughout the game. I felt like I was calling a game for a totally different group of players and it all started up front. The kids are starting to buy in to what's going on and the offense is starting to become second nature to them. Micheal Spurlock looked in control of most of the game. He stood in the pocket longer and made some nice plays when three weeks ago he would have been running out the side door prematurely. I think you saw Mico (McSwain) getting more comfortable - heck, he's just got to get more reps. The talent is there, he just doesn't know some things yet due to inexperience, but it's coming. We didn't have a lot of rushing yards, but it was a threat and it helps you calling plays. That was a good defense, so I felt better about our running game. Bottom line, though, is I have to do a better job, Mike has to do a better job of being an extension of me on the field when we get down there deep. Twice we had open guys in the end zone and have to do a better job. We have to do a better job of managing the clock. There's no excuse for those delay calls. The first one, the call was in late. The second one, we have to be more aware of the surroundings on the field. The refs were setting the play clock quickly, but that's no excuse. If we score a TD there, it's huge, probably the game. But even so - when we kicked the field goal to tie it, we all felt we would win the game. I can't talk about this game without saying what a great job our defense did. They matched Alabama's defense play-for-play and gave us chances to win the game. (On the running play that Spurlock didn't score on) It was a naked boot we put in for Alabama and it was open to run in, I thought. It was a one-man route and they were in a zone instead of a man coverage. That caused Mike to hesitate a little waiting on Mario to come open and recognize it was a zone. (On running Spurlock more) We are too worried about his hand to turn him completely loose now. Going into the season, Mike running was a big part of our plan, but we have had to shelve some of that with his broken hand. It's part protecting him, but part ball security too. (On the bottom line) We had a chance to win the game and didn't. I'm not happy with that, but I am happy we made some progress, especially up front. We've just got to keep coaching them and make a few more plays along the way.
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