VIDEO: Alabama’s Nick Saban talks about Vanderbilt game, Florida win


You can watch video of Alabama Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban’s weekly press conference by clicking play. Read along with the press conference transcript included below for your enjoyment. Video is via WIAT and the transcript is courtesy of UA Media Relations.

Alabama Football Head Coach Nick Saban Opening statement:
“It was obviously a good win for our team. I think one of the most important things in this past game is when things didn’t go well early, especially defensively, there was really no panic. We did a really good job the first two drives of the game offensively, coming up with scores, with the field goal and touchdown, then the defense sort of settled down. In boxing, you never know when you have a good fighter until the guy gets hit, gets staggered, and you see how he takes a punch. In a tough environment, in a tough situation, I was really pleased with the way our team sort of competed through a lot of things that happened early. We played well on the line of scrimmage, both sides of the ball, and could run the ball effectively, had balance on offense and stopped their running, but the biggest thing we have to do is eliminate mental errors that give other teams opportunities. Whether it’s how we block them, how we run routes, how we get in the right formations, or how we play coverages and don’t make mistakes and how we match people up and what we do. Eliminate mental errors. You just can’t give other people opportunities. They are too good of teams that we play, and it’s important that we continue to improve as a team and focus on the things that we need to focus on.”

“This sort of change of schedule for today was something that was planned. It has nothing to do with outcomes, and it has nothing to do with opponents. We’ve done this every year. When we play eight games in a row, we don’t like to play more than six without changing the routine, giving the players basically two days where they don’t do much. We’re going to do some walkthroughs today, but I just think it’s important that after so many games that they have a little extra recovery time. I think it’s important that everybody knows that, regardless of what happened in the last game, this was planned for this week, and we’ve done it every year. If we don’t have a bye week, and the season doesn’t get broken up, we’re never going to play more than six games in a row without doing this.”

“The big thing that everybody has to keep in mind is that you’ve never really arrived as a football team. Every team that we play in the SEC is a very capable team. Vanderbilt is certainly a very capable team. They’ve got 19 starters back from last year’s team. They’ve already won more games than they won last year and gotten off to a pretty good start. They’ve done enough offensively to score points and are doing a good job with the players that they have. Their defense has been very opportunistic and led the nation in interceptions. They’ve done a really good job of playing very good defense. Unlike what people sometimes have a perception of, this team is 3-1 and a good team that beat Ole Miss and played South Carolina tough at South Carolina. We need to be focused on what we need to do to take care of our business and get ready to play our best football game of the year and continue to improve as a team.”

“From an injuries standpoint, C.J. Mosley will do some things on the practice field this week. I don’t know where he’ll be by the end of the week. Eddie (Lacy) will probably be in a boot for a couple of days, but we’ll make a determination on him later in the week as well.”

“We were pleased with some players of the week. Obviously Trent Richardson had a terrific game. I’m sure he’d be the first to talk about the offensive line. William Vlachos and Chance Warmack are also players of the week offensively. It’s hard for me to imagine that anybody had a better game than Trent Richardson had anywhere in the country, against good competition, and (he) did a fantastic job. Defensively, Courtney Upshaw and Alex Watkins—Courtney had an outstanding game and Alex, for the number of plays he had and the production he had, was very, very good. On special teams, Marquis Maze, Brad Smelley, and Vinnie (Sunseri) all did a really good job.”

“We’re certainly looking forward to playing at home this week, and I know it is Homecoming, which is a tradition for a lot of people to be able to come back to something that’s important to them. We certainly want to do what we can do to make that happy for everybody who comes back for Homecoming.”

On the emphasis of finishing games in the fourth quarter:
“It’s a part of the philosophy of the program since we’ve been here for five years. We want to win in the fourth quarter, that we have a fourth quarter program which is basically the strength and conditioning program that we do in the offseason, summertime. I think we try to get our players to believe that the hard work they do is going to contribute to their ability to be more physical for longer, and to finish games better, and that’s something that we try to build as a part of the program. Each one of these things stands for something – commitment, discipline, toughness, pride, work. All of those things are really important to being able to win in the fourth quarter, and we are trying to sell our players on that.”

On the progression of quarterback AJ McCarron:
“Well you know AJ is doing a good job. I think he’s done a good job of managing the game in both road games, in some pretty tough circumstances and environments, and I think the big thing is he is kind of making good decisions. We’re not turning the ball over. We haven’t turned the ball over for several games now, not trying to put [the football] places that it shouldn’t be. We probably need to do a better job overall in the passing game, but that’s not really the quarterback. I mean we did a better job in protection. We have got to do a better job of taking the right splits, getting in the right formations, running routes a little bit better, paying attention to detail in the passing game. That makes the difference when you play teams that are going to play close coverage, which good teams play man to man, especially in denying the ball situations, but I’ve been really pleased with the way that AJ has improved and hopefully he’ll continue to improve throughout the season and we will be a little bit more explosive, hopefully, down the field and making some plays in the passing game. Had a couple of opportunities in the last game and just missed them. I think it’s going to be important that we start making some of those.”

On the decision making process of who fills in for linebacker C.J. Mosley:
“Well [C.J. Mosley] only plays in certain personnel groups, and he only plays on certain down and distances, so logically, the person you chose to take his place would sort of fit the same kind of role. I think a lot of things come into consideration. Sometimes you might have the better guy athletically to do it, who may not have the knowledge and experience. I, personally, I would rather put players on the field that will do the right thing and not make mental errors. Even if they don’t match up quite as well physically, but we take the best players we have available. Nico [Johnson] kind of took his place in nickel last week and did a really good job. Dont’a [Hightower] took his place in dime, so then Alex Watkins and Adrian Hubbard took Dont’a’s place in dime. And a couple of the other personnel packages that we have we didn’t use, a little bit because of what Florida did, and a little bit because of where we were personnel-wise.”

On the amount of first-down pass plays and if it helps open up the running game:
“Well I think the balance is the most important thing. I think the best down to throw it on is first down. You usually know what you want to get, especially if you can run the ball. The other teams, probably 70 or 80 percent of the time, are in some kind of safety down, middle of the field, closed type of [defense], which is the best time to throw it. I think we have to continue to mix it up, and try to keep the team off balance based on whether its formations, how we line up, and some of the packages that we put together based on what they line up in. That determines what we do, so some of that is called, and some of it is ‘this is best thing to do against this particular situation.’ We’ve been doing a good job with that. When I’m talking about game management, that’s the kind of stuff that I’m really referring to.”

On kicker Cade Foster’s kickoffs:
“No they are not high and short by design. I wish we would kick it in the stands. I can’t tell you why. Technically, in practice he does a really good job. I think he has to have confidence that if he carries over those same fundamentals in the game, that that’s going to be the best way to get the best results. That’s something that he has to continue to work through psychologically, so that he’s confident and believing in the process. It’s no different than my golf swing. When I swing it right, I hit it straight, and when I don’t, it goes sideways, and it doesn’t go very far. And I can’t tell you why.”

On if defensive players understand what they can and cannot do relative to player safety rules:
“First of all, I think our officials have done a really good job. And it’s pretty obvious if I think they’re not [doing a good job], in most cases, which is something I’m not necessarily proud of, but there’s only been a few of those circumstances, so that’s a good thing in terms of the job that I think our officials that we’ve had have done for us. I do think that there’s probably a little bit more of people trying to sort of enforce their mojo on other people, if you know what I mean, just by whether it’s trash talking or a little extra hit, or a little extra push as if that’s going to, some kind of way, give them an advantage. And I think that challenges the officials to control, which it started a little bit in this last game, and I think that they kind of nipped it quickly. Couple of flags, and then it was gone. We’re constantly trying to tell our players that that does not help us win a game. You should never talk to the guy you are playing against. You’ve got nothing to say to that guy. We should be doing our talking with the way that we play, the effort that we give, the toughness that we play with, how physical we are, the discipline we play with, and you cannot lose your poise. You cannot lose your poise, and that’s an issue we need to work on with several of our players that have sort of kind of gotten drawn into this in the last couple games, and they can’t do that. It doesn’t help us win. And if we get a penalty, then it actually hurts us.”

On how well the defense has adjusted following the first quarter of games:
“Well I think there’s two parts to that. We really haven’t played worth a damn in the first quarter is one way to look at it, and that was certainly the case in this last game, where we gave up half the yards. They didn’t change players, and they didn’t really change what they were doing, and we did make some adjustments and adaptations to it, and they did do a few things that we probably hadn’t practiced a lot, and sometimes, especially in that kind of environment, players don’t adjust and adapt, maybe fundamentally like you wish they would. So the one part of that would be that we need to play better in the beginning. And the other part of it, depending on how you want to look at it would be we play better as it goes because we make good adjustments, which we do. They get good information, but I think part of it is how a player thinks when he starts the game. I think in the more emotional games, players probably are more emotional and think less, which affects mental errors. And high anxiety is not a thing that will help you make good choices and decisions, so that’s something that we need to manage a little bit better. I think the way the way you do that is go back to thinking, just think. ‘What am I supposed to do? What is my assignment? What’s the call? How do I execute that? Where should I line up in this formation?’ Paying attention to detail, rather than be so anxious to want to make a play or do well, or whatever that you start taking some shortcuts that really don’t help you get where you want to go. That takes maturity and you know guys that have confidence and are mature usually do a pretty good job that way.”

On the sack and non-fumble, and cohesion of the offensive line:
“Well I thought the line, offensively, played very well in the last game. I mean you don’t run the ball as effectively as we ran if the offensive line doesn’t play well. We had good protection for the most part. Never gave up sacks or negative plays that way. There is certainly room for improvement, and we’ll continue to work to try and to get better, and play with more consistency. You know I really think the officials got it right on the field, I think it was called a fumble. The bean bag went out. The ball was in sort of a unique position. First of all, a player got hurt, which is unfortunate, on that particular play, and the ball was sort of laying under him. Our guy kicked it out. Somebody else blew the whistle thinking that he had recovered the ball, so once that occurred then the play was over. That’s the way it happened, but I thought the officials got it right. Now maybe they could have explained it, or made an announcement or something so everyone would have understood it, but they got it right. The referee threw out the beanbag, they got it right.”

On the identity of the football team:
“I think you start to establish an identity the first time you play. I think you want to try to build on that identity because that identity can move in one direction or the other, and consistency is what I would be more focused on right now in terms of to continue to play at the level that we play. And the most challenging thing for players is to practice well because the thing that happens is when you don’t practice well, you lose fundamentals. You don’t play with good fundamentals. That affects your ability to have success in the game. We play against so many different things that you start getting assignment oriented and thinking of what I’m supposed to do and spend less time practicing and thinking about how I need to do it. And that, to me, is the most important thing as the season progresses so that you improve. I can’t tell you what the identity is. You have your own opinion about that. I have my opinion about it. I know some areas that I would like to see it grow and develop, but this team has demonstrated pretty good leadership, and pretty good competitive character to this point, and I’m sure that is going to get challenged on numerous occasions in every game that we play in the future.”

On linebacker Nico Johnson in the nickel package and his performance against Florida:
“Well Nico did a good job. He really did a good job. He plays the run well, which was probably really important in that last game. We got to playing more and more zone because they were bunched and running crossing patterns all the time. Which we play man to man and that’s kind of what we messed up in the beginning of the game on a couple of third downs and started playing more zone as the game went on, and that was more effective for us. He does a good job, he drops the right places, so and it wasn’t because of him we started playing zone. He didn’t do anything wrong. It was just more favorable, schematically, to what they were doing and what we needed to do. Nico did a good job in the game. I was pleased with the way he played.”

On Vanderbilt quarterback Larry Smith:
“Well they do a really good job with their offense. Obviously, Larry does a good job of directing their offense. They’re sort of a no-huddle, lot of checks, lot of Nike checks whatever you want to call it, looking at the sidelines coming back. He gets them in the right play. He does a really good job of executing. He’s really improved as a passer, even though they throw a whole lot of screens and bubble passes, and things that complement the running game that they have with their offense, but I didn’t see him last year. We didn’t play them, so I didn’t see him that much, but I think he’s done a really, really good job this year executing at the quarterback position.”

On the progression of Defensive Lineman Jessie Williams:
“Jesse’s done a good job for us. He’s played well. He’s really improved a lot from the spring to the fall, and each game this fall. He’s a good practice player. He’s a smart guy. He’s learned how to use his hands better. He’s become a little better pass rusher. He’s a very physical guy, and difficult to block. So Jessie has been a real key, I think, to helping our front, and done a really, really good job. I’m really pleased with the way he’s progressed. I think he’s come along quicker than I thought he might, and basically he just hasn’t played as much football as a lot of these other guys. You know, he grew up playing rugby, or whatever they play in Australia, and I got a rugby national shirt and all that. For the rugby team, not the football team.”

On the dominance of the run defense through first five games:
“First of all, those statistics are not correct because when you take sacks off, and passing plays off rushing, it’s not right. I look at how we play the run on the running plays, and when that quarterback scrambles for 27 yards, that’s a pass play to me, and we messed it up. That really doesn’t go on our rushing yards.“

On if he is pleased with run defense once all non-running plays are removed:
“Well I was happy in the last game. I think we can tackle better, keep leverage on the ball better. We missed some tackles in the last game. We need to keep doing what we do, but what we need to do is the defenses that we play, that stop the run in, we have to convert to pass rush better on play action passes. That would be the big point of emphasis that I would make. I don’t think I need to tell you that if that’s what we’re doing statistically, that’s pretty good. You know that. I don’t even know why you’re asking me.”