Sept. 19, 2009
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Head Coach Nick Saban
“Well I was very pleased with the way our team came and started fast. Even though the first play wasn’t good, I felt like we dominated the line of scrimmage and the game for probably the first time in the beginning of a game all year. We played pretty well defensively for the kind of offense they have. It was a little different today. They didn’t run as many options because they didn’t have their quarterback.
I thought we competed better on special teams. We challenged our players to go out there for 60 minutes and try to dominate somebody for 60 minutes in a game. I felt like they responded to that. They had better intensity and energy today from start to finish.
We got to play a lot of players and the experience will be very valuable for them down the road relative to our depth. Obviously, when we put some two’s in one defense, they made a couple big plays and made some mental errors, but they’ll learn from those things and we’ll get better and that’s the kind of game experience we need.
I think for Star Jackson to get to play as much as he did today was probably a real asset for us relative to the future, especially playing with our first unit rather than just out there at the end of the game trying to get the game over. He did a pretty good job but was a little slow in the operations sometimes. We took a penalty down in the red-zone on the five-yard line - that was not good with the clock right in front of him. That’s what you learn from though. The clock winds when you go out of bounds outside of two minutes. Those are the kind of lessons that guys need to learn by playing and he did a good job today and I’m sure this is going to be beneficial to him in the future.
Overall, I was pleased with the performance that we had on special teams. We covered kicks a little bit better except for one but we got a penalty and we had errors on that one. For the most part, the coverage was better, the length was better and we did a little bit better job overall in the kicking game.”
On Greg McElroy’s play
Well, we’ve always said that Greg (McElroy) is very smart. He’s very instinctive. He takes what the defense gives him. He doesn’t have a big ego trying to force balls in places that he shouldn’t, and we probably made as many yards throwing it down to the checkdown as throwing it to anybody else. We have good backs that can run it, the coverage gets extended downfield, the depth of the defense takes away what we want to throw and the runners do a good job in space. Greg has really done a good job in his decision making, his accuracy. He got hit a couple times today where he shouldn’t have gotten hit, the offensive line didn’t do as good a job on a couple pass protections as we need to. We did a pass to start off the game, we got beat around the corner on the first play of the game and it cost us a turnover. But, Greg really played well, being 13 for 15 is pretty good no matter what, and he’s been that way since the second-half of the Virginia Tech game right on through he’s been pretty efficient.
On sharpening up the play today
I feel like until today, I wondered: Was this team really going to fulfill its full potential? Are they going to be responsible for their potential? I just wasn’t pleased with the lack of consistency we played with in the first two games. We played really well at times and at other times we didn’t, but I feel like we were much more solid today and we made some improvement. I know we have much bigger challenges coming up; the competition is going to get better. Probably the two things about the SEC is the skill-guys are going to be better and the defensive lineman are going to get better, that’s what kind of cuts the SEC out from other conferences. The SEC has defensive ends that can rush, defensive tackles can thump you inside and everybody’s got people that can run, but the skill people on offense are a lot better and so are the coverage people. That’s probably what makes this league what it is. In my opinion, we’re going to be much more challenged and we’re all going to need to ramp it up a notch in terms of what we do, how we play, how we continue to improve, to be able to be competitive in our division and in our league.
On the Tide offensive weapons
Terry has done a great job for us all year. I feel like we’ve done the best we can, under the circumstances, of trying to create a roll for Terry Grant. But, I also feel like Terry Grant has a lot to give to our football team and we want to continue to try to develop a role. I think the circumstances have really determined playing him at receiver one week, try to develop him as a receiver some in camp, someone would get hurt and we’d move him back to running back, and the same thing happened this week. I would think that Julio (Jones) probably can play in this next game. Roy (Upchurch) has a high-ankle sprain, he’s probably about 80-85%, if he continues to respond maybe he can play too, and we’ll continue to try to create a roll for Terry Grant. It doesn’t bother me when people ask about kick coverage. I don’t really mind getting criticized, when I agree with the criticism, I mean we haven’t covered kicks well: we have not kept the ball in front of us; our safeties have not been in the right position; we have not leveled our coverage right; we haven’t stayed in our lanes correct; we don’t go hand-to-hand when we should, keep the ball in front. I never criticize any of our players over it and when people ask “why don’t you make personnel changes?” I tell them I have all the confidence that the guys who are doing can do it, if they just do it right. Giving effort is one thing, playing with toughness is one thing, but being disciplined enough to do your job and do it with success, that’s all about execution and that’s not what we have done a good job of. I thought we did a better job of it today so hopefully we will continue to improve because I know we need to.
On the offensive line
The offensive line has done a good job, but we’re going to be challenged in the offensive line in the future by better fronts. We’re going to have to continue to make progress and make improvements. The one thing that gets overshadowed a lot is that we have two really good backs. They are not easy to tackle, they make people miss, and they have some strength as runners. Roy (Upchurch) is not far behind when he’s playing so we really have three good running backs and Terry Grant, he gives us a different dimension. Hopefully we can keep those guys healthy and continue to get a hat-on-a-hat up front and those guys can continue to do what they do very well. I’m pleased with the way our receivers responded today. We caught the ball fairly well; we didn’t really have any drops. Different guys got opportunities to develop confidence and that was good as well.
On the return game
They were obviously trying to kick the ball away from (Javier Arenas) and kick it out of bounds. We knew if we could ever get a feel that they were over-squeezing we’d hit them to the field, and we did a couple of times and made some big returns. He’s a great competitor; he wants to make plays. I think our guys feed off his energy, in terms of wanting him to be able to make big plays. We did have a good kickoff today which was a good drive-start. The thing is our drive-starts have been good, it’s not because our return game is good, it’s because we get alternative kicks. They squibbed one today and then we take over at the 45-yard line. When we did get an opportunity in the second-half we did get a good drive- start and had a little better execution on that team. That’s important; you can’t affect the momentum of a game if you don’t have good kickoff coverage because you’re always kicking off after something good happened. Especially on the road, kickoff return is important because the other team has momentum because something good happened to them so when you get a good kickoff return, a good drive started, that really goes a long way to control the momentum a little bit back towards you.
Linebacker Dont’a Hightower
On the defense’s performance:
“Today we came out and we wanted to start early. We haven’t been doing it the past couple games so we had to this game. We’re not just a finish team, we’re a start and finish team. We came out with the right mentality and right focus and we were obviously communicating very well. I think that was the key for us today.”
On the defensive mentality for next week against Arkansas:
“It’s the same mentality. We’re going to play the same way we’ve been playing. We’re going to practice and practice hard. We’re going to come into next weekend’s game against Arkansas with the mentality that we can’t let them run on us.”
Defensive Back/Returner Javier Arenas
On the return game play:
“Our play in the return game was pretty good. I think it improved a little bit. We still have some things we need to work from an individual standpoint. I still have a lot of things I need to work as far as ball security.”
On how the team will get ready for Arkansas:
“Same thing we’ve been doing, things have always been serious for us. Every game is always a big game for us. We’ll do the exact same thing with the exact same mindset and just come out playing strong.”
Senior offensive lineman Drew Davis
On the overall play of the offensive line:
“We finally did what we wanted to do by coming out and having a fast start. We really wanted to keep it up for 60 minutes and we were able to come out of the locker room at halftime and do exactly that.”
On the play of the running backs:
“I am really proud of our running backs, we have some great runners. It really fires the offensive line up with their ability to break tackles and run hard on every play.”
Freshman Quarterback Star Jackson
On his first extended playing time:
“I made a couple of mistakes but we will go over it in film and get better. It was great to get out on the field and help the team. I just have to continue to work and wait for my time.”
On the play of the offense:
“They did a great job today. Trent did an excellent job running behind Mark (Ingram). Darius (Hanks) has really stepped up for us this season and (Brandon) Gibson made a big play in the corner so overall the receivers have done a great job.”
On the offensive line:
“Our lineman last year left a legacy but we have really come together and so far we have played really well. They have done a great job in making their calls and enabling us to make plays.”
Sophomore Running Back Mark Ingram
On the play of the running backs:
“It is really nice to have success as a unit. As we start to get into the SEC schedule we will need everyone to contribute.”
On the offensive line:
“They are improving each and every week and are making excellent strides. The whole unit is making it easy for us to make the reads and hit the holes. The receivers are making big plays down the field which is opening things up for us.”
On the offensive balance:
“It feels good to know that we can either throw or run the ball. We have so many weapons on the field that the defense will have to respect the run and the pass. The coaches have done a great job play calling and Greg (McElroy) has been a great leader on the field for us.”