By Hunter Ford
Nick Saban gets “pissed off” when he talks to people about the Arkansas game and they are disappointed Alabama only won by a single point.
“You want to talk about something that’s frustrating? That’s frustrating,” Saban said at his Monday press conference.
Saban began his meeting with the media saying he was proud of the way the Crimson Tide competed in a tough road game.
“I still think it was a great win for our team…a one-point victory with a ‘will not be denied’ attitude,” he said.
Saban said he expected a hard fought game with the Razorbacks and suggested some people “sometimes don’t respect other teams like they should.”
He conceded that the game was “ugly” at times, and that the Tide was hampered by poor execution and “bad choices” at times. His bottom line, however, was that the Tide overcame those problems and still won the game.
Saban said his team “made mistakes, but they played hard” and the mistakes can be overcome. He said mistakes can be corrected, but effort and competitiveness were keys to the win. “If we do that (correct mistakes) in the long run we can be successful.”
Saban said there were no new injuries to report, although a few players, notably WR Amari Cooper could be “limited” in practice.
OFFENSIVE LINE AND OFFENSIVE PRODUCTION
Saban said problems on the offensive line boil down to “fundamentals.”
“It wasn’t we weren’t blocking the right guys, more than we weren’t finishing blocks,” he said. “Same thing on pass protection, we need to be better, need to finish better.”
Saban said Amari Cooper was able to make big plays in the first few games of the season off of “easy, fast, quick throws.” In the past few games, defenses have been taking those plays away from Alabama. He said Alabama has to “go back to the basics” running the ball more effectively and distributing the ball to other playmakers. He said he has confidence in all his receivers, tight ends and backs.
Asked about practicing special teams, Saban said Alabama practices special teams the same way it always has, and noted that Alabama ranked first overall in special teams in the SEC last season. He said “judgment and decision making” have hurt the Tide on special teams. Returner Christion Jones muffed a short punt early against Arkansas. Communication and decision making are key in situations like that, according to Saban. Later in the game, with a different returner, Alabama lost the ball to Arkansas when a punt bounced into an Alabama player.
“We have to play smarter, and that applies to a lot of people,” he said. It can be difficult to create those situations in practice, he added.
“When our punter kicks it, he doesn’t kick it 25 yards,” Saban said. “Maybe we have to practice some bad punts, get a guy in there who kicks it 25 yards.” He said sometimes, players try too hard to get something out of nothing. “It’s like swinging at a ball over your head when you’re playing baseball.”
“Some guys on our team are playing with too much anxiety,” he said.
The Aggies have been one of the most prolific passing and scoring offenses in the country for the past few seasons. Saban said Alabama would probably need to rely on a four-man rush and excellent coverage reads and disguises by the defensive secondary. He also said the Alabama offense needs to control the ball to “keep (A&M) off the field.”
The Aggies tend to get passes off quick, Saban said, so the four pass rushers will need to get as much pressure as they can, while the linebackers and defensive backs will have to use “great eye control” to cover passes and sniff out run plays.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Linebackers Ryan Anderson and Trey DePriest, plus safety Landon Collins were defensive players of the week. Offensive backs T.J. Yeldon and Jalston Fowler represented the offense. Punter JK Scott was joined by Reggie Ragland and Johnathan Allen as special teams players of the week.
Scott averaged 44.2 yards on eight punts with seven downed inside the 20 and six downed inside the 15. Allen blocked the first Arkansas PAT which turned out to be the difference in the game.
BUILDING EACH OTHER UP
Saban said it is important for Alabama players to “help each other” overcome mistakes. He said he noticed his team rallying around quarterback Blake Sims after Sims made a poor play on a failed quarterback sneak attempt.
He said he was happy to see the Tide’s enthusiasm after Landon Collins’ interception that sealed the Arkansas victory.
“I haven’t seen that much emotion from this team in a long time,” he said.