Countdown to Kickoff
Alabama Press Conference Transcript

ROLLTIDEDOTCOM Alabama head coach Nick Saban address the media on Monday.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban address the media on Monday.

Sept. 5, 2011

Head Coach Nick Saban
Opening Statement:

"Obviously there are a lot of things after a first game that you look at and say how some guys played extremely well and some guys did a lot of good things. Other guys have certain things that they can improve on. I think the biggest thing, probably, was that the biggest lesson to be learned for every player is that every fundamental error that we made and technique has a consequence. We didn't play very well in certain areas of our team because we didn't execute fundamentally the way we need to. Too many guys give you that, `I thought I could do this.' I don't care what you thought. What were you told to do? What's your job? What are you supposed to do here? How are you supposed to step? How are you supposed to block the guy? How are you supposed to play your gap? How are you supposed to blitz the hole? Whatever it is, on any part of the team, that every guy on the team should learn the lesson that if you don't do things fundamentally correct, there's going to be a consequence. I think that's the thing that we really need to emphasize with our team is that we've got to get better fundamental execution in a lot of areas."

"Now, there are a lot of good things in the game. You guys know what they were. My focus as a coach is on, it's great to get a win, is how much are we going to improve from last week into the next week? That's what we want to try to build on. Most good teams will make a significant amount of improvement from last week to this week."

"Most of the new players that played--most of--did not play as well as what we had anticipated or hoped. Whether it's anxiety, first game jitters, or whatever, we need to make an improvement in that area. We did not play with the consistency up front in the offensive line that we need to execute with. We've looked at some different combinations of guys in that particular game. We'll make some evaluations throughout the course of this week and see what we can do to try to make that situation a little bit better."

"We had some real positive performances. Offensively, Barrett Jones and Eddie Lacy are the offensive players of the week. Courtney Upshaw and DeQuan Menzie are both defensive players of the week. Specialist, Marquis Maze, Will Lowery, Trey Depriest and Vinnie Sunseri on special teams did a really, really good job."

"Kevin Norwood is really the only guy that we had that has a little bit of a sprained ankle that may not practice today, but should be back in a day or two."

"I know you're going to ask me about the quarterback situation. We're going to continue to develop both of the quarterbacks that we have. We're not going to name a starting quarterback today. Later in the week, as we see how the two guys practice, we'll make a determination as to which guy will give us the best opportunity in this particular game, or if there's some combination of the two that would be helpful and useful to us, we'll look at the option of doing that. I think the most important thing that we want to focus on with both quarterbacks is what do we need to do to play as well as you're capable of playing, and continue to improve and work through, with both guys, the importance of doing the little things right and the fundamental things right so that you can play the way you are capable of playing. I think both guys are capable of playing better than they did, not that we're disappointed in either one of them, but we still feel like we have two really good players at that position and both of those guys will continue to develop and help us somewhere down the road."

"Penn State is, I think, a very, very good team. [They are] a much different team than we played a year ago. They seem like they play faster. I think the circumstances down here that it was real hot last year, probably affected them a little bit. They have more experience. The quarterbacks are playing better, which is probably the biggest key, offensively. They have some very good runners. The strength of their team on offense is probably their three returning receivers. They were all very productive last year. They have seven starters back on defense and a couple of other guys that have started in the past and played in the past that were injured last year, or whatever, that are going to come back and play. This is more of a veteran team in terms of the experience that they have. They were a good football team last year, and we think will be a totally different team. They traditionally play very well at home. They're like 37-6 or something like that in the last five or six years, playing at home. They haven't lost many games to non-conference opponents at home for a long time."

"There are a lot of challenges here for us. We have to play on the road for the first time. This will be a good experience for us down the road. This is the kind of team, Penn State is always the kind of team, that they don't give you anything. You have to go take what you're going to get by playing sound, solid, fundamental football, and not giving them anything in the meantime. You're going to have to beat them with good fundamentals--playing on the line of scrimmage well, play blocks well, have good eye control and discipline in what you're doing, and that's no matter what position you play. This is a good team that we're playing. All Joe Paterno-coached teams are fundamentally sound in everything that they do. You have to match that with good preparation and good practice, so that you have an opportunity to execute the way you need to against these types of teams."

On whether he would prefer to stick with one quarterback throughout the coming game: "Well that's a hypothetical question. We know where we are playing this week; we know what it's like to play there. We have played there before, and we know what our quarterback situation is. I've already addressed that."

On Duron Carter:
"He is good. He practiced six practices, really practiced hard. He gave a good effort. I was pleased with the physical condition he was in, and he has been able to implement himself with some practice time in pads. We are going to see how he picks things up and see what kind of a contribution he can make."

On the challenges the offensive line faces when people are changing positions:
"I don't think that's the case. When you play on your toes and put your head down and whiff the linebackers, what's that have to do with who is playing where? It doesn't matter if you are playing center, guard, tackle, tight end. It really doesn't matter which position you are playing to be able to get your second step on the ground and butt the guy in the throat and finish the block. Guys talk about communication, so we need to communicate better. We need to play better, and we need to play with better fundamentals. I don't think it has anything to do with that quite honestly, but that would be a great thing for you to make a big deal out of publicly, but it doesn't really mean jack you know what."

On Cyrus Kouandjio's development since camp:
"Cyrus did a good job in the game, and I think like a lot of freshmen, freshmen sort of go where they improve and then they kind of hit the wall, and maybe the cumulative effects starts to get them a little bit. They almost regress a little bit, and then they get their sea legs back and start making that same kind of improvement. I think that same thing has kind of happened in the last week or so with Cyrus, and he played well in the game. I think that game experience will help him."

On whether or not we will see fewer home-and-home games versus neutral sites and whether it is good or bad for college football:
"I don't know if it's a good thing or bad thing. I think that probably a combination of those things is probably good for college football. I know that regardless of where they played the games, some of the games that were on this last weekend probably were very interesting to a lot of people. One game was played at a home site, Baylor and TCU, which is a great game. I know there were a couple other good games that were neutral site games that were interesting to watch for a lot of folks. I think there is good and bad in both, and I don't think that there is a significant consequence to it either way. I think that it almost goes without saying that you can say that they are made for TV, but the TV and the exposure that college football gets from TV is a tremendous asset for college football."

On his relationship with Penn State head coach Paterno:
"I think you have to go a long way to find somebody that didn't have a tremendous amount of respect for Joe Paterno, not just in terms of the number of games he has won, the longevity he has had in the same program and the consistency that that program has had for what is it, 46 years now? I remember when I was a kid in West Virginia, going to a game to see Penn State play and him running out of the tunnel when I was a kid. Then the way he does it. Just the character that his teams play with, the character they have, how they represent college football, the principles and values that are ingrained in the program, I think make it first class and make him first class all the way around. He has been a tremendous asset for college football. He's got great interest in the rules and the wellbeing of the players. I told the story last year about Duane Goulbourne; who was going to be ineligible and had to get in graduate school to get his sixth year and couldn't get in graduate school but could get in the continuing education program and they hadn't changed the rule in the Big Ten. Joe was the head of the committee and he changed the rule so the guy could play. Low and behold we are up there playing in the last game of the year and Goulbourne runs 50 yards for a touchdown and ties the game up with a couple minutes to go in the game. It gave us a chance to win but that never fazed him (Paterno). It was the right thing for the young man (Goulbourne), and he (Paterno) did the right thing and he has always been about that. Not just about what is good for his team. He is a good friend. He and Terry (Saban) are like Italian buddies, and they get along great."

On Saturday's game and what Marquis Maze meant both offensively and on special teams:
"Marquis had a really, really good game. He did some good things for us on special teams; changed field position especially with the punt returns, had eight catches offensively. We knew that we were going to put him in some positions in the game where he was going to have some opportunities, and he certainly played well. He has not been able to practice, and he did get a little bit tired in the game which affected him as the game wore on which is something that we need to remedy down the road. We obviously need more players on offensive to be able to make big plays, especially at skilled positions, and we need to execute better overall as an offensive team so more guys will have opportunity to do that."

On the pluses of Alabama and Penn State traditions from a program standpoint:
"I'm not sure I know exactly what you are asking me, but I think tradition is something that we all value. I think that everybody that is associated with the tradition here values it because there is a significant number of people who have worked hard through the years to make the tradition what it is. I think there is a tremendous pride in that for everyone. I think that when you play in games like this you have to have a lot of pride not only in yourself, and how you go about it but also what you represent which is the tradition and all the people who have worked hard to make it what it is and your responsibility to make sure that you are performing, playing, coaching and whatever it is that sort of elevates that standard to what it needs to be."

On searching for the right 11 on the kickoff team:
"I think that we had some guys that did extremely well on kickoff coverage. We had four or five guys that really did a good job. We had a couple other guys that did an okay job. Then we had a couple guys that probably didn't do it quite the way we would like for it to be done, and I think those guys have an opportunity to step up their game a little. We also have an opportunity to look at other people that might help them step it up, but that's that way at every position. Just because you played last week doesn't mean you are entitled to play this week. I think somebody told me there were like 30 former pro bowl players that got cut this past weekend or something. Is that right or wrong? I can't justify or verify that statistic, so I'm not trying to get quoted but how does that happen? How does that happen?

(Reporter answers Saban's question with salary cap)
Well I've been in the salary cap (with the Dolphins). You don't cut any good players because of the salary cap. You don't cut anybody that's being productive on your team because of the salary cap. Some kind of way those guys can't stay in what's happening right now to understand what they need to do is about now, this week, this game, this practice, this preparation. I have to go perform and have a high standard of excellence that I am going to perform too, or there is somebody out there that is going to take my place. That's what it means. I know you guys think that once you get a depth chart it's like chiseling that baby out in gold, and it has to stay that way for the rest of time but it isn't that way at all. I can promise you that."

On the scene before last year's Penn State game with Coach Bowden and Coach Paterno on the field:
"Well first of all, personally, I really like Bobby Bowden, and I really like Joe Paterno. I have known both guys for a long time. At different stations of my career, I have looked up to them. As a kid growing up Bobby Bowden was a coach at West Virginia. I played against him as assistant coach and just have always looked up to him, but the stations of your career sort of make you realize and respect what they do even more and how long they were able to do it and the success that they had. I don't know how many games I have won as a head coach, but I know it is not a third as many as Joe Paterno has had. I think about that, and I say that is unbelievable. It is unbelievable that you would be able to sustain at the same school all these years and do it in such a first class fashion in every way. So, I love those guys. I love Coach Stallings. I have such respect for coaches. I guess when you grow up as a player and your coach means so much to you. Maybe besides your parents, your coach meant more to you than anybody else. My high school coach probably other than my parents was as much as a significant impact on me, my future, career, going to college and doing all these things that anybody had. You kind of look up to people in a special way that are coaches when you are a player. Now these guys to me are the highest of the highest when it comes to people in our profession. I absolutely love them, and I love what they do and how they have always done it."

On the receivers:
"I think that we had a lot of young guys playing. I don't think they played fast all the time. I think there was a lot of anxiety. I don't think we had very good ball security, and I don't think we looked balls in. I think we played in a hurry and cut the routes a little bit short and didn't do it exactly right, which sort of affects the timing of what you are trying to do and makes it a little bit more difficult for everybody. I think it goes right back to the fundamental discipline of playing and understanding the importance of doing it right and getting it right. I think a lot of players are going to learn a lot from that game, and I think it will help their performance in the future."

#92 Damion Square, Defensive Lineman
On not forcing any fumbles against Kent State?
"It's something that we've been working on through the spring and through camp. It's part of our defense. It's something that we continue to work on to be a better defense. It's something that can determine the game."

On preparing for two quarterbacks at Penn State:
"We have guys that break down the film and tell us what we need to prepare for, so that's how we are going to approach the practice for Penn State. We really don't know who is going to play, and we don't have any control over that. We have to be prepared for both of those guys."

On last year's game against Penn State:
"It was a physical game. That's what Penn State prides itself on. On a defensive front, we've got to control the line of scrimmage. Those guys are pretty physical."

#37 Robert Lester, Safety
On the effect Penn State's quarterback situation has on him:
"No matter who their quarterback is, I'm just going to do my job and do what I need to do to be able to get interceptions. Whichever quarterback is playing, I'll study that quarterback. You never know which one will be in the game so just study them and be able to make plays on the ball."

On dealing with dropped interceptions:
"I take it personally. I don't like to drop interceptions, so I'm pretty sure that this week the guys that did drop the interceptions are going to hit the jugs and make sure that they are ready for this game."

On changing the way that you communicate during a game on the road:
"We want to use more hand signals and make sure that we are looking for the call if we don't know what it is."

On the defensive communication this season versus last season:
"I think it's a lot better. We are still running the same calls, and some guys' confidence levels have risen. They know the play, so they're not really looking for the call as much as they did last year."

On going to Happy Valley for the white out:
"This is my first time ever going there to play, and I'm excited about going up."

On the intensity last year when playing a team like Penn State:
"Game planning them, the coaches told us that we don't want to overlook this team. This is a big team, a great team, a very disciplined team. That's how we are going to look at it this year. We can't just go in and think that because we beat these guys last year that we can beat them again. They're eager to come in and play us, and they're going to give us a great game."

On the performances of Trey Depriest and Vinnie Sunseri against Kent State:
"I could see it coming. They did the same things in practice. If you do it in practice, it carries over to the game."

On building on last game:
"We are going to go and look at the game from last week and fix our errors. Just like we did last week, we will go in and try to execute our game plan and cut out all of our mental errors."

#32 C.J. Mosley, Linebacker
On if anything jumped out after watching the film:
"I wouldn't say too many things jump out like what I talked about the other day with us getting to the ball and competing every play. You could kind of tell that was going on. Everyone was moving fast to the ball. Hopefully the coaches can point out things to us, so we can get better today and during the week."

On expectations of stopping the run:
"It's a greater challenge, but that's what this team is all about and what the defense is all about. We come with the mindset that we are going to stop the run first and the pass second."

On what he remembers from Penn State last year:
"Well last year I didn't play as much since it was the beginning of the season, so hopefully I come in and watch film from last game and see what they did so I can put myself in better situations for this year's game."

On the atmosphere between Penn State and Alabama:
"I expect the same atmosphere that we had down here to be out there. They're going to be at home, having their white out, so we just have to come prepared and be ready for the worst that can happen."

On the defensive communication in an environment like Penn State:
"It (the communication) has to be great. When we come to practice we have speakers with the loud crowd blasting, so we can have ourselves ready and be prepared for those kinds of things."

On if communication has improved since last year:
"It improved a lot from last year because the coaches got on us about communicating during fall camp. We started off pretty well last game, so hopefully we can keep going."

#4 Marquis Maze, Wide Receiver
On how he feels physically:
"I feel pretty good actually. I'm a little sore but that just come out there every game."

On the differences at quarterback from his perspective:
"There really wasn't any difference. Both guys did some things great. Both guys made mistakes, so I guess once we watch film we will learn a little bit more."

On how the other receivers did:
"I think they did a fairly good job. DeAndrew White made a few plays. Brandon Gibson made plays. Guys blocked down field pretty good. I think overall the receivers did a pretty good job."

On the nervousness from the younger receivers:
"I tried to step in and tell them to calm down. You know you can do this. Just being a leader, so you try to help those guys out when you see it happening."

On if he feels more pressure this week because he knows that Penn State will probably stack the box against the run:
"No. I don't feel any pressure. It's just football to me, so I just feel like I will go out there and execute what we have been practicing each and every day."

#73 William Vlachos, Center
On areas of improvement being cleaned up quickly thanks to experience on team:
"We've got a great coach, so I think we've just got to pay attention to detail and continue to work to play to that standard that Coach Saban always talks about. That's something that we've got to do. Barrett (Jones) and myself, we've got to be the leaders and make sure everything gets done."

On where to put the responsibility of offensive improvements:
"I think if the offensive line does a great job, then the running game will be good. I think we're probably the most important part of the running game. We've got two great backs, so if they're not getting a bunch of yards, then it's probably not their fault. There's a bunch of things that play into it, but I think that if the offensive line does their job, then you should have a good day rushing the ball."

On if the offensive line wasn't recognizing changes, or wasn't executing:
"Maybe a little bit of both. Teams like that aren't going to come in and play man-to-man, and say, `Hey, see if you can beat us.' They're going to do stuff like that. They're going to move around. Sometimes it happens like that. That's why you have practice; that's why you have meetings, and that's why we've got to get it corrected."

On Penn State's big defensive players:
"They're a very physical team. I think it played in our advantage playing here last year, being hot and all that. We're expecting a whole different deal up at their place. I know they're going to be excited. We'll have a great week at practice this week and get it cleaned up."

On how the quarterbacks handled themselves after the game:
"I think they did well. I think that there are some things that they'd probably like to have back, and there are some things that they probably were proud of themselves about and some things they can build upon. Those guys are both really good players, and we look forward to having their back the whole year."

On the excitement about getting to play at Penn State during his career:
"That is exciting. Ever since we scheduled them, it's something I kind of looked forward to. Just a legendary place with a legendary coach and a lot of history. Growing up, watching games on tv and stuff like that. It's just something that I'm very fortunate to be a part of."

On Jalston Fowler's run against Kent State:
"He is a big, strong guy. If that defense is tired, that's not who you want to come in there and run the ball. He did a really good job. I've been proud of him all camp. He's really picked up the slack and taken advantage of the opportunity he's gotten."

On Eddie Lacy:
"Lacy ran very well. We've got good running backs, like I said. They're very good. We need to get our stuff cleaned up so that we can have a good rushing game."

On Cyrus Kouandjio's preparedness after getting experience:
"I think the experience was great, and I think he did a really good job. From my standpoint, I couldn't imagine him to go there (Penn State) as a true freshman, but I think he's a special player. I think if that's what the coaches want to do, then that's what we'll be ready to do. We'll help him out the whole way. I think this game is big for him, though, as far as finally getting some game experience."

#75 Barrett Jones, Offensive Lineman
On what it means to him to go to Penn State and be able to play there in his career:
"It's definitely something that's really special to me. Happy Valley is a place that there's a lot of football history, a lot of rich tradition. I think it's going to be a great opportunity to go up there and play, especially experience a white out and all that kind of thing. I'm really excited for that opportunity."

On neutral site games killing home-and-home games:
"No, you've got to have good balance. There are good things about neutral-site games. We really enjoyed playing in those college kick-off games in Atlanta, but there's also some good things about home series."

On being more comfortable with one spot over another:
"I've been preparing for all those spots. I felt good in all of them. I've got a lot to work on in all of them, but I felt comfortable because I've just been practicing there so much."

On coaches being close to settling on a spot for him:
"I'm not sure, honestly. I think that's something that the coaches are going to decide this week after we watch the film."

#3 Trent Richardson, Running Back
On the other running backs:
"I love the way they play. They keep me on my toes every day we have practice, every day we're out there just grinding. I thought those guys did tremendous. I can't wait to see what they're going to do against Penn State this weekend."

On his performance last year against Penn State:
"That was one of the biggest games of my life. I know it was going to be big for me, simply because I know Mark [Ingram] was out, and I knew the team was going to count on me. I knew it was going to be a fight. I know it'll be like just like that this weekend and I know the guys are going to bring everything they can. They're going to throw everything they can at us. We're just going to go out there and execute and play like we've been coached. We've just got to do everything we can."

On his mindset going into the game and early in the game last year:
"A half hour before the game, I was praying for real. I was getting ready, getting my mindset ready. I tried to look at everything as I'm in the backfield, thinking I've got to get that first down. I've got to get that first down. I've got to finish my pass forward, finish my block, get downfield, square up, get vertical."

On the offensive line taking responsibility for the running game:
"I don't want to say that's fair. It's all as one. You can't just blame it on the offensive line. I have to say we had a lot to do with that too. Sometimes we were too patient, we did miss our hole, or something like that. I think the offensive line did fairly good. I can't blame it all on them, because we are one team."