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Saban: Focus is on playing “our game”

By Hunter Ford

Nick Saban, at his Wednesday morning SEC teleconference, said his Alabama Crimson Tide will focus on playing “our game” despite a potentially distracting crowd at Neyland Stadium.

Alabama plays Tennessee Saturday night at 6:30 p.m. CT, in Knoxville.

Monday morning, Saban was asked about Lane Kiffin’s return to Tennessee. Kiffin, now Alabama’s offensive coordinator, was the Volunteers head coach for one year, 2009, before leaving Tennessee for a stint as head coach at USC, and then landing in Tuscaloosa this season.

“The game is not about that,” Saban said. “The game is about the players, and regardless of what fans think or what fans do, I think our coaches and our players need to focus on what we’re going to do to help our team play their best.”

Saban was asked if Kiffin would coach from the sideline as he has done all season, to this point. He answered in the affirmative.

“I mean, why not?” Saban responded. “We’re going to play our game and do what we feel like we need to do to give our players the best chance to be successful.”

Saban said the decision to have Kiffin coach from the sideline was made early in the season. Saban felt that Kiffin’s presence on the field would help the offensive unit and quarterback.

“I don’t understand why it would be any different in this game,” Saban said.

In his afternoon press conference, Saban said the Tide has put in a good week of work so far. Center Ryan Kelly has been practicing, and offensive tackle Austin Shepherd was able to practice today.

Saban said he had some concerns about depth on the offensive line going into the season. Injuries to Kelly and Shepherd have given playing experience to Bradley Bozeman at center and Grant Hill at tackle.  Saban says those players responded well, and have increased his confidence in the offensive line.


Saban said the Tide’s starting quarterback has done a “really, really good job” for the most part. Saban said Sims has had some issues at times when he has pressed too hard to make a play that isn’t there.  He said Sims needs to continue to distribute the ball and make good decisions.  Communication is a critical element of consistent quarterback play, Saban said.


Volunteer quarterback Justin Worley has thrown for 1,579 yards and 12 touchdowns, but he also has thrown eight interceptions. The Volunteers rank 70th nationally in passing yardage per game and 120th in rushing yards.

The Volunteers leading rusher, Jalen Hurd, has 414 yards and two touchdowns after seven games.


The Alabama-Tennessee rivalry is one of the most historic in college football. Alabama has dominated in Saban era, and the Tide is looking to extend its winning streak to eight, Saturday in Knoxville.

With the relevance of the Tennessee-Alabama game trending downward, at least one online publication is already looking ahead to the Iron Bowl.


6 thoughts on “Saban: Focus is on playing “our game””

  1. I love how that CBS Iron Bowl article mentions what the series would have been without Bear Bryant ever having coached at Alabama. Maybe they’ll do the same with Nick Saban one day? After all, take away those two coaches and Alabama is still only marginally magnificent (but still has at least two coaches with at least one indisputable national championship each).

    I digress.

    What Alabama did in its loss to Ole Miss wasn’t “our game” as Saban calls it, and the 3 major injuries in the first half compounded that, such as the false start with a new center that lead to an interception instead of a go-ahead first down on 3rd and short.

    But people only know what they see on Saturday. They don’t pay attention to injury unless it’s a QB or star player (Kenyan Drake’s injury would be noticed nationwide if he was on any team other than Alabama), and they don’t know who is experienced and who isn’t.

    Alabama’s team wasn’t experienced this year and by a large margin, one of the youngest teams in the country. Then the injuries in the Ole Miss loss alone made that team even “younger” in terms of experience.

    And now they’re gelling.

    They’ve gained experience and seemingly have learned how to work together as a unit.

    At least at home, that is.

    This road test at Tennessee might be the perfect setup for Alabama. They’ve been a different team at home vs on the road. The strengths on offense and defense against the Volunteers should make this one less than competitive, but Neyland is a hostile place and that might be the best place to go in preparation to play “our game” against LSU in two weeks. LSU, by the way, is a young team like Alabama, and they’re also learning quickly how to gel. They aren’t going anywhere any time soon, and they absolutely could ruin the season for a team like Ole Miss or Alabama.

    TAMU isn’t a good team. That’s not to say Alabama isn’t good, but that UT will be a greater test, particularly for Alabama’s secondary. That’s the unit I’ll be most interested in this weekend. Tony Brown, for example, didn’t play until late in the TAMU game, and then on a single play, Brown’s man got free and essentially tripled TAMU’s offensive performance. Brown is young and needs more in-game experience, so here’s hoping he can get some if Eddie Jackson can help lead the Tide to a big enough lead in the first three quarters.

    After all, Butch Jones knows what he’s doing, and he’s got a QB that can torch an unprepared secondary. Alabama’s still likely too top-heavy everywhere else for UT to be a threat, but this game will give the safeties and corners some crucial learning opportunities against talented QB’s…unless Alabama’s defense can get constant pressure on UT’s QB, which certainly seems likely.

    I never discount UT. One day, they will be very good. But I also still don’t know what this Alabama team is capable of consistently. As good as they played against TAMU, it’s hard to put them in the top 4, and this game will probably not change that perception. Meanwhile, the first official playoff committee rankings come out after this weekend….and before Alabama’s bye-week. It’s a very interesting time for Alabama fans, and college football fans.

    Still, I’ve got an extra cigar ready for Saturday night’s game against one of Alabama’s greatest all-time rivals, the team that has beaten Alabama more than any other, lest we ever forget. Burn it to the knuckles, boys. Roll Tide.

    1. Looking at UT the biggest thing that jumps out at me is the lack of a running game. 414 yds for their leading rusher after 7 games is not impressive.

      But, again, at 3-4 this is their opportunity to save their season. Alabama needs to take the crowd out of the game early.

    2. Oh and about Bear Bryant. I know, I think it is funny when someone tries to take his contribution to Alabama’s record and toss it aside. What if FDR were never President of U.S? What if the South had won the Civil War? What if???

  2. Poor Nicky Satan getting his panties in a wad from being asked about Lame Kiffin’s return to Knoxville!! Maybe Nicky should have thought about that before hiring such a scum bag like Lame!


    I can’t wait until the Crimson TURD program implodes due to Kiffin. It will be funny as hell!

    1. Coincidentally, Saban wanted Kiffin before Tennessee did.

      I can only imagine the world we would live in now if UT hadn’t hired Kiffin in the first place, but don’t worry, he’s not going anywhere any time soon. Roll Tide.

  3. “But people only know what they see on Saturday. They don’t pay attention to injury unless it’s a QB or star player (Kenyan Drake’s injury would be noticed nationwide if he was on any team other than Alabama), and they don’t know who is experienced and who isn’t.”

    Maybe I’m in the minority here but I damn well know an injury to one of our offensive linemen (especially our center) is just as if (not more) important than a skill position. (As Kelly’s injury has borne out.

    If I were the coaching staff at a SEC school, I wouldn’t let the stupidity of the reporters in front of me reflect on the intelligence of the fan base. (concerning football anyway)

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