Alabama Football Update: Tide cannot take things for granted as it gets ready for Mississippi State
By Hunter Ford
In his Monday press conference, Nick Saban said he was impressed with his team’s second half performance against LSU in a 38-17 win.
The Tide led 17-14 at the half, and LSU tied the game in the third quarter. But the fourth quarter belonged to The Alabama Crimson Tide.
“After reviewing the last game, probably one thing that stood out to all of us, is it showed how important paying attention to detail is in any game,” Saban said. “When we paid attention to detail, we did pretty well. When (LSU) paid attention to detail, they did pretty well. When we didn’t do things correctly, we got exposed… and you could probably say the same thing…their coach would probably say the same thing about what they did.”
Saban was asked what he was thinking when he gave quarterback A.J. McCarron a bear hug at the end of the game. Saban said he was thinking more about the Tide’s second half dominance, than the win against LSU.
McCarron received praise from Saban for his unselfish leadership. McCarron was asked after the game whether he felt slighted in this year’s Heisman Trophy conversation. McCarron said wins meant more to him than individual accomplishment.
“It’s the ultimate team guy who would say that,” Saban said of McCarron. “A.J. does a real good job and goes unnoticed in terms of his leadership.
“He was very aggressive in the huddle, in terms of trying to get the guys going and get them to do the things we need to do to be successful. That kind of leadership is really important on our team. For him, that’s more important than how many yards he throws for, or how many passes we throw, or whatever it is. That’s the kind of attitude you want every player to have.”
Tana Patrick, a fifth-year senior linebacker, made one of the most important plays of the game when he forced LSU fullback J.C. Copeland to fumble near the goal line. Copeland was rumbling for what looked like a sure TD that would have given the Tigers momentum early in the game. Patrick plays sparingly, but Saban said he is often used in goal line packages.
“You always like to see players make plays and Tana has been a guy who has taken on whatever role he is given,” Saban said. “That was certainly a huge play in the game, early on, when we weren’t playing well.”
Defensive back Cyrus Jones played better as the game went on, according to Saban.
Saban said he is looking forward to having an injured Bradley Sylve back to “increase competition” for playing time in the secondary.
Running back Jalston Fowler has five catches this year, four for touchdowns. Asked what makes Fowler an effective receiver, Saban said defenses are often caught off-guard when Fowler goes out for a pass near the goal line.
“Probably the biggest thing is our ability to run the ball, people trying to stack up against those runs in those situations,” he said. “When we run play action passes, it’s difficult for the defense to react to.”
Saban said he is happy with the performance of the offensive line, and the continued focus of that group will affect future success.
“The offensive line has made steady improvement all year long,” he said. “For them to continue to play with the kind of confidence, and trust, and belief in each other, and being physical in terms of trying to dominate their space, is a real key for us to being successful offensively… and for the past five games they’ve done a good job of that.”
Vinnie Sunseri, who suffered a knee injury two weeks ago, was seen looking pretty mobile on the sidelines Saturday night. Saban said Sunseri has an ACL tear and will not suit up for the Tide again this season, “even if he’s running around.” Apparently Sunseri has been making a case that he could play.
“He wanted to race me, but that wouldn’t be much of an accomplishment,” Saban said.
Losing Sunseri not only caused shake-ups in the defensive secondary, but on special teams where Sunseri was also a leader. Saban said the Tide special teams have not played well in the past two games.
“We have to have some other players step up and realize the importance of their role,” he said. “One of the greatest areas you can see a team’s intensity and mental energy is when you are on special teams and how you play on special teams.”
Saban was asked if he is ever surprised by an outstanding effort from a freshman. O.J. Howard, a freshman tight end, caught a pass for the Tide’s first touchdown against LSU, looking more like a veteran wide receiver than a rookie tight end. Saban said he is often surprised when a freshman does something outstanding. But he wasn’t surprised at Howard’s play.
“O.J. is very athletic and has good speed. It didn’t surprise me, what he did. But I’d like to be surprised some more…how ‘bout that?”
On keeping focused for the upcoming game in Starkville against Mississippi State, Saban said this:
“The players have to embrace the next challenge of what they need to do to play well. We can’t take things for granted… there can’t be any kind of relief syndrome, ‘well we got by that game.’ The most important thing…this last game showed that… the team we want to be is the team we were in the second half…an aggressive team trying to control the line of scrimmage, playing aggressively, not a team playing with a lot of anxiety that’s worried about making mistakes and errors. We made a lot of mental errors in the first half of the game. And you’ve got to be aggressive and play to win. You can’t play to keep from getting beat.”
Saban made it a point to recognize U.S. military veterans on Veteran’s Day. He said they make sacrifices “we can’t understand” to give Americans the chance to continue living the lifestyle of freedom we have become accustomed to.