Here is Nick Saban’s Tulane press conference from Sept. 1, 2008. (transcript courtesy of UA)
ALABAMA HEAD COACH NICK SABAN
â€œWe are pleased and proud of the way our players competed in the game. They played hard and were physical. They controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and that was probably a real key to the outcome of the game. We won the turnover battle and had a few more explosive plays but the bottom line is there are a lot of things that we can do better and that should be the focus on what we look forward to do. We had some unforced errors on offense that we need to clean up on a discipline standpoint. We certainly could have finished some things a little bit better at times and that is something that we will focus on. Defensively when they did make plays we made some mental errors in terms of who we covered and making adjustments. Those are ongoing things we always want to try and eliminate totally. In another area that we need to do a lot of work in and improve on is special teams. We just didnâ€™t do a good job in kickoff coverage. We had some young guys run down the field and we didnâ€™t really cover the kicks the way we should have all night. We didnâ€™t adjust and make the corrections that we needed to make. We made them sometimes but didnâ€™t execute them the way we wanted to. That is certainly something we need to improve on. The number one special team for us (last year) was kickoff coverage. The challenge for this team is to improve, show we can play with consistency, and perform well week in and week out. The challenge is to play to our level of capabilities and make a mental, physical and emotional commitment to playing to our capabilities relative to what we do and how we do it. That is something we need to prove we can do. That consistency was not something that we have shown that we can do and certainly something we need to work on if we are going to try and be a team that plays with consistency in terms of the way we compete.
â€œWe had some outstanding performances in the game by a lot of people. It is kind of hard to pick players of the game sometimes and it certainly was in this game defensively. Rolando McClain and Marquis Johnson had the most production points. On offense John Parker Wilson played very well. Glen Coffee and Mark Ingram ran the ball rather effectively. If you had to ask any of these guys they would say the entire team did a fantastic job so they could operate and accomplish what they accomplished. The offensive line was outstanding, both tight ends played very well in the game. Our receivers did a good job of playing with effort and toughness. They blocked well and made plays when we needed to in the passing game. These three skill guys ended up kind of getting the accolades but I think each and every one of them would tell you and I am telling you now that they were able to do what they did through the efforts of a lot other people they played with on offense because it was a great team effort. On special teams Leigh Tiffin was outstanding in the game. His kickoffs were improved, his placement was good and other than missing one of the long field goals he was pretty effective kicking the field goals so we thought he did an outstanding job.
â€œFrom an injury standpoint Andre Smith has a sprained knee. He is going to be day-to-day and out for a few days. I donâ€™t know if he will play in this game or not, it is still up in the air and we probably wonâ€™t know for a few days relative to how he heals. Earl Alexander has got a sprained ankle that has been kind of a chronic thing that flared up again in the game. He is going to be in a boot for several days and it is undetermined right now whether he will be able to play in this game or not. There may be a couple guys out there that are in black shirts today but those guys are just sore, beat up or tired. We expect them to be fine for the game.
â€œBob Toledo has done a good job wherever he has been coach in whatever he has been responsible for whether it has been as an offensive coordinator or as head coach at other places. I know he will do a great job there and is doing a great job. They played a lot of good football last year. They were very effective running the football, one of the best teams in the country rushing the ball and they have seven or eight starters back on both sides of the ball. Two defensive ends are guys that can cause problems for you. They play hard and are very well coached. They play with toughness and will certainly be a challenging team for us. It is also a challenge for us to continue to do what we need to do so we can play with some consistency.â€
On the role of Mike Johnson and David Ross during the Smith injury:
â€œWe will practice with Mike Johnson playing tackle for right now and David Ross will play guard. That was the plan going into the game that if we lost a tackle going into the game that we would move Mike back to tackle. David Ross would be the first guy to go in as an inside player and he did very well. He did a good job in camp and that is why we made the decision before the game ever started that he would be the first guy in. Mike played an outstanding game. Probably the best game Mike Johnson has played since we have been here. He has played a lot of good football for us. He was a little more hesitant when he was playing tackle because he wasnâ€™t getting as many reps and they (Clemson) do a lot of good stuff and have a lot of good players on defense but we were not disappointed in the job that he did. We were still able to move the ball and I am sure with a week to prepare he would be able to play the positions a lot better.â€
On Tulane and the possibility of them having to prepare away from home:
â€œFirst of all we are all hopeful that this storm not going to be what they thought it might be. We have a lot of friends and talked to them over the weekend and invited them to come to Tuscaloosa or go to our house in Georgia if they wanted to get out of that area. We are certainly hopeful that this does not become a major catastrophe relative to any place, anywhere in our country. I think that a football team may have circumstances and situations where you just have to be able to adjust and it is unfortunate that they have to move away from their home facility but I am sure their coaching staff and their players will do it with a lot of maturity and get well prepared for the game. At least it looks like they will have a decent opportunity to do that here which they may not have had there.â€
On the conditioning of the team:
â€œI think we are stronger and more physical. We played 90 plays of offense in the game. I think some guys got a little bit tired towards the end. I think some of that is anxiety sometimes in the first game especially with the younger players. I thought our conditioning was good for the most part and I donâ€™t think it affected our performance in any way.â€
On how the team should treat a win after a game:
â€œWhat we have always talked about is basically having a 24 hour rule. You play a game you canâ€™t necessarily do what a coach does and think about the next team as soon as the last game is over. You enjoy it, you sing the fight song in the locker room and before you get in the shower you start to think about how you are going to match the pattern or attack the other team. First things first we have got to make the corrections from this game for our players have a chance to improve on the things that they didnâ€™t do correctly. I think after 24 hours you need to start forgetting about that game, stop reading the paper and start focusing on the next challenge that you have. It is like what (Usain) Bolt said. â€˜I donâ€™t really run against the other runners, I run against myself. I prepare to be the best that I can be in every race that I run.â€™ That is really the attitude that you would like every player on your team to have. Go do that every game. The last game is over and nothing that happened in the last game will help us win the next game and the players need to realize that and understand it. They have to re-center and refocus. Why did the mighty fall â€“ complacency, because people got satisfied and a lot of times that is not helpful to being successful so that is not what we want to be. That is what we have to prove as a team that we can be a consistent team that will compete all the time.â€
On the success of Nick Walker:
â€œI thought we had a really good plan in terms of some of our play action passes. A couple of those were short yarded situations, one was on the goal line but when we get in empty and we do it sometimes in the game with two tight ends, somebody is going to get mismatched and our tight ends got mismatched a couple times in terms of being the right guy to throwing the ball to and John Parker did a good job of getting them the ball. We flexed Nick out some and had two wide outs on both sides and I think that helped him be able to get open a little more and I donâ€™t think anyone had a plan going into the game saying we wanted Nick Walker to catch this many balls. I think sometimes it is what the other team does or where the read takes you and where the ball gets delivered. For the most part other than the short yardage plays they were designed for that particular read where he was the first read. Other plays he was just part of the read and he ended up getting the ball and doing a very good job of catching the ball.â€
On previous experiences with hurricane weather:
â€œWe had a real difficult hurricane situation in Miami . We lost a game because we changed a game that was supposed to be played on Sunday got moved to Friday and didnâ€™t get notice of that until Thursday. We always practiced early at 11:00 in the morning. Kansas City was the team we were playing and they didnâ€™t practice until 2:00 in the afternoon. Plus they were in a different time zone so they tell us 11:30 that we are playing a game tomorrow and we had already just about finished practice. That was a tough circumstance. The hurricane came and we had to play the next week. We didnâ€™t have power for two weeks but the office had a generator so we were able to go business as usual. In one circumstance we didnâ€™t have a chance to make an adjustment and the other circumstance where we could adjust it didnâ€™t affect our performance at all.â€
On the play of Terrence Cody and Alabama holding Clemson to zero rushing yards:
â€œThey didnâ€™t really have zero rushing yards in the game. That is the one thing about college football that is a little messed up. They had 30 yards rushing in the game. That is the running plays when they ran the ball. The sacks should come off the passing yardage like it does in the NFL. So they had 30 yards rushing in my mind. They lost 30 yards passing because of sacks. They could have had 100 yards rushing but if they had a lot of sacks they could have had no yards rushing. I think two things contributed to that. I think everyone up front did a good job and Terrence certainly did his job well and was a factor in the game in the middle. We made good adjustments to their formations, we didnâ€™t get out-flanked and we did a good job on the line of scrimmage with our front people and out linebackers. That was a real key to being able to stop the run. The second thing was the way the game went and we got ahead a little bit they aborted the run some. Because we stopped them on the run we created more positive down and distance situations for the defense and we were able to play what we wanted to play. It was not our plan to pressure them a lot because of all the screens they threw. They throw a lot in games and that is a way to give up big plays when you apply a lot of pressure and they throw a wide receiver screens. We did pressure several times in the game and did get pressure but all the sacks came off of a four-man rush.â€
On the play of John Parker Wilson:
â€œI thought he was in control of the game. I think he was very confident. His leadership was an asset to the offensive team. He played within himself. He was well prepared for the game and he was confident in executing the plan in making the kind of decisions to take what the defense gave him. Those are the things that contributed to a good performance.â€
On the role of the running game on the passing game:
â€œBalance is what you are always looking for on offense. We probably ran the ball a little bit better than what we anticipated what we might be able to in the game. That was the plan to run direct runs at them and looking at the film if we finished some blocks and done some things a little better we probably could have ran it more effectively. When you are running the ball you are creative positive down and distance situations for yourself offensively. The defense is out of balance and you are going to get more circumstances where the passing game can be a little easier to execute because you are not getting in those passing downs. I think it is a real critical factor.â€