Sugar Bowl Preview: Saban says bowl game is about mindset, getting back to fundamentals for Alabama
By Hunter Ford
Alabama football coach Nick Saban met with the media on New Year’s Day to preview the January 2 Sugar Bowl game against Oklahoma.
“It’s all about mindset,” Saban said, outlining what he believes will be the key to victory. “How you reset that mindset is really important.”
Saban said one of his players had recently commented that “Our victories defeated us” when asked to respond to the disappointing season ending loss to Auburn that dashed the Tide’s hopes for a third consecutive BCS National Championship. Saban said his squad must return to working on fundamentals and doing the little things right.
“When you have a disappointment, sometimes you are more ready to respond,” he said.
Senior leaders like quarterback AJ McCarron and linebacker C.J. Mosley have been trying to get the Tide in a winning mood for the Sugar Bowl, according to Saban.
“Football is really important to them,” Saban said. “You can have great leadership, but you have to have people ready to respond to that. That’s the critical piece to what’s important for our team in this particular game. Is everybody going to go dig deep and get back to being the kind of players they’re capable of being in terms of being able to execute for every play of the game for sixty minutes? Until we go play, nobody really knows. That’s why we play.”
Saban was asked about a comment he recently made that he was going to try to reset the Tide’s mentality the way he did when he came to Alabama in 2007.
“When you start a program, you start with the fundamental things; everybody being responsible for their own self-determination.”
Saban said players must “buy-in” to the standards of the program and to the goals set for it. And if some players don’t do that, they shouldn’t be playing. “We got away from that, and it caught up to us,” he said. “If some players don’t buy-in, we need to play the players that do.” Saban added that he believes most Tide players have responded well to that philosophy during bowl preparations.
Asked about the significance of a game that features two of the most prestigious programs in college football history, Saban said both teams have a lot to live up to.
“We’re honored to represent the University of Alabama and the great tradition,” he said. “It’s a great responsibility for both teams to represent that tradition in a first class way. Oklahoma has certainly done that all year long in the way they’ve competed and played. It’s fantastic to be a part of something that has that tradition…it certainly makes it special to be a part of.”
The press conference ended with Saban making some tongue-in-cheek comments about the media. He was asked about his upcoming appearance as a guest analyst for the BCS National Championship game featuring Auburn and Florida State.
He said it was “good exposure for our program,” and then, with a grin, and to laughter from the audience, he added that he had a lot of respect for what the media does.
“All of a sudden I get to be on the other side. I get an opportunity to be just like you…which is what I’ve always wanted to be.”