Countdown to Kickoff
Coach Nick Saban Press Conference Transcript



Oct. 5, 2009

Opening Comment:
“Obviously there were a lot of good things in the game after reviewing the film.  The guys played hard and competed in the game. It’s always good to win on the road in this league. I think turnovers were a huge part of that. We had a great 97-yard drive right before the half.  I think we played better in the second half offensively and maybe not as well defensively in the second half.  We also have a lot of things to work on.  We need to continue to clean up penalties, even though we only had six or seven in the game and they were very costly, especially when these penalties are undisciplined-like penalties.  We had a couple of illegal formations, jumping off sides, especially when we were in bad field position.  Defensively, we did not stop the run as well as we would have liked to.  We didn’t create the situations that we wanted to create. We have to get back to striking people up front and getting off blocks, playing gap-discipline and tackling people better.  We had a couple of opportunities to stop them in the red area and we didn’t do it.  The kicking game, even though there were some good things with kickoff returns, I thought that was a lot better.  We didn’t punt the ball particularly well and we didn’t do a very good job of covering some of those punts, although I do think the wind was a big factor in that regard.  Some people think winning cures everything and I am certainly happy that we were able to win, but I also think you have to focus on the symptoms of what you need to do to improve.  It’s no different than when you start to get a cold, if you do nothing about it, you’ll surely get the flu, but if you try to take care of yourself, do something about it, rest, do the right things and make adjustments in what you’re doing, maybe you minimize your chances of getting sick. Certainly, that’s what we want to do with our team to maximize our potential to continue to get better to continue to improve, not only the knowledge and understanding, but get the right people on the field that have the ability to execute what we need to do and have the right motivation and the right discipline to carry it out when we get to a game.

“(Mississippi) is probably the best team we have played to this point, all the way around.  They have a lot of experience, a lot of good players, and a very good defensive team.  Houston Nutt does a great job coaching any team that he has coached and we have had some great games in the past.  Their defensive team is very highly ranked.  They’ve got a very good front, a couple of dominant up front guys and couple of good pass rushers and play well in the secondary.  Offensively, they’ve got a very, very, very good quarterback.  They get the ball to (Dexter) McCluster, who is probably as dynamic a player as there is in this league.  (Shay) Hodge is a very good receiver. They’ve got good runners. Their offensive line has done a good job.  They are very sound and solid in the kicking game.  So to me, this is the best all-around team that we have played.  I think our team needs to be focused on what we need to do to improve and play the kind of winning football it’s going to take on the road to beat a good football team like this.

On the play of Rolando McClain:
“He is very smart.  He has got great knowledge and understanding of football.  He’s got great knowledge and understanding of what we do.  He does a great job of implementing it in a game, in terms of his performance as well as the leadership that he provides for others. He’s got good ability.  He’s got the skill to execute the things we need him to do at his position.  He is a very motivated guy.  He’s got a tremendous desire to succeed and be as good as he can be and he’s got the discipline to carry it out and usually plays his best in the biggest games. That is always something you like to see in great players.”

On the number of giveaways and takeaways:
“I think when I mentioned turnovers I sort of talked about the turnover ratio; the fact that we didn’t have any, which is outstanding and the fact that we got four. The difference in that and the difference that made in the game is probably really significant.  I think we’ve done an outstanding job of taking care of the ball and I think that’s really important to play winning football and we certainly need to continue to do that, especially when we are playing on the road.”

On Julio Jones’ production this season:
“It’s a combination of several things. I think first of all, the guy has been a little bit hurt.  He missed a game, really actually missed two games.  He missed almost all of one game and the next game. He’s worked hard to try and get back to where he was.  I do think he gets a significant amount of attention in the game and I think that creates opportunities for other people, which really without developing statistics, you are doing a lot to help your team win. I also think that we continue to try and get him involved in what we can do.  He has been on top of people and we haven’t gotten him the ball.  I think if he continues to do the things he is doing his time’s going to come.”

On offensive production in five games:
“I think we’ve had good balance offensively.  I think we have been efficient in throwing the ball, which is important.  We have been effective enough running it and I think the balance that we’ve created has probably been the key to our success and think it’s going to be a key to future success that we continue to do that.  If we can do both things equally well it will keep people off-balance and we have a multiple number of guys that are contributing to do that and making plays.  We have several backs that have done a really good job.  Greg (McElroy) has done a really good job.  Our skill players have done a good job and our offensive line has given them all a chance to do a good job. I think it’s really a team thing and everybody is involved in it.  I think our continued improvement is going to be important as we go down the road here.”

On fourth quarter dominance relating to your off-season program:
“I think that’s why you do it, so you can perform to your maximum capabilities for 60 minutes in a game and you have the strength and physical stamina to be able to sustain the kind of relentless competitive effort that is our expectation for how our players play.  It takes a lot of mental toughness to do that as well.  If you wear a player down, everybody wants to play hard in the beginning of the game, it takes a long time to wear a player down, so you have to have a tremendous amount of mental toughness to be able to do that, to sustain it yourself.  Those are the types of things that you actually build in an off-season program, probably as much the mental toughness and the physical and conditioning.  What we did last winter probably doesn’t carry over a lot right now, but it increases the capacity and the expectation of a player, but it also mentally creates the toughness that they need to be able to persevere difficult situations, physically and emotionally.”

On passing game utilizing a number of players and taking what defense gives you:
“I think it’s totally taking what the defense gives you.  There is an old saying, if you take what the defense gives, they will eventually give you the game.  So, if the people aren’t open or they are dropping deep in zone and taking the vertical throws away and you drop the ball down to the check down and the guy gains six, eight 10 yards, that’s a positive play.  We have good guys and that’s just another opportunity to get them the ball in space.  I think the tight end is probably the best mismatched player on the field.  I’ve always said that, in terms of who is covering him, where he lines up and how he gets defended.  All these things are positives in my opinion. The quarterback makes good decisions and gets the ball in the right places and he’s got the patience to do it and that’s one of the reasons we have not turned it over a lot is we’re not putting the ball where it shouldn’t be going.”

On the number of 90-yard drives in last three games and how that affects the defense:
“Well, I think when defenses play long drives it can have an effect on them.  I thought, and maybe this is reversing your question to some degree, but Kentucky had a long drive against us early in the game. I don’t know exactly how many plays - 14, 15, 16 or 17 - I don’t know how many it was. It affected us a little bit in the game. We had gone three and out several plays on offense, several series on offense, and were on the field a lot in the first quarter and it affected us in the game and it may have affected the way we played the rest of the game.  I think when you have those kinds of drives it does take something out of the defense, physically and emotionally.  Those are great drives.  There is a lot of discipline and execution to make those kinds of drives. I was really proud of what our offensive team has done in all three of those to get that kind of execution, but this one was big on the road.”

On the play of Mark Ingram:
“Mark is a very good player and he has done a very good job for us.  He’s a great competitor. He runs hard in the game.  He has great balance and body control.  He has good instincts and vision as a runner.  He can change direction and has some explosive speed and he’s got good hands.  He’s really a good all-around performer for us.  I don’t like to compare players. I think of Mark Ingram as Mark Ingram and we are happy to have him on our team.  He has had a great year so far.”

Alabama Football Player Quotes

Defensive back Javier Arenas
On Mississippi quarterback Jevan Snead:
“This will be my second year going against him.  It was a good competition against him last year.  He’s a great athlete, smart, a decision maker and he carries all those attributes into this year.  So it will be the same type of environment, the same type of everything.  It’s another test.”

On what was said to him following the touchdown completion to the man he was covering:
“He (Coach Saban) was angrier with me being able to make the play and being in a position to make the play, as opposed to me trailing or completely getting beat.  All I had to do was turn my head around, and I didn’t turn my head around.  I was just as mad as he was.  That’s really all he said, was for me to get my head around and I would have picked the ball off.  There really wasn’t much else to say, because that’s really all it was.  It’s a lesson learned though.  I will go out and try to avoid him saying those things when I come to the sideline.”

On Kentucky’s effectiveness on offense serving as a wakeup call for the Alabama defense:
“In any situation, even outside of football, a wakeup call or a shock or anything that will open your eyes is always good.  I think it gets you back on track and helps you maintain positive focus.  That was it for us.  Again, seeing things that you can do better and trying to improve on things that you might have done but can obviously do better.  So, it’s a wakeup call or a test all rolled in one.”

Linebacker Rolando McClain:
On stepping up his game in the absence of Dont’a Hightower:
“You just have to be disciplined and play assignment football.   You’ve got to be able to trust the guys around you really.  I knew that Cory Reamer was a good player.  I knew he would step in and be able to do a good job, so I just had to trust the guy beside me. “

On making extraordinary plays:
“I don’t know, I’m just trying to take my game to another level.  Playing under one of the best coaches in the game, it’s hard to not think like that really.  Now being in my third year I understand the defense and it gives me a little bit more time to think about what I’m going to do during the play.  I don’t really have to worry about my assignments too much, now I can just play football and play off my instincts really.”

On Mississippi’s preseason rankings and expectations:
“That’s not something we are worried about.  We let those people (the media) make those decisions.  That’s what they’re paid to do.  We’re at school on scholarship to play football, so that’s what we’re going to do – worry about football games and worry about winning football games.  It’s obviously a big game because it’s the game this week against a very good team that is very well coached.  We’re going to do our best to try and stop their offense and win the game.”

Quarterback Greg McElroy:
On what 90-plus yard drives do to a defense:
“It’s obviously a momentum changer.  Anytime you get pinned inside of your own five-yard line or inside the 10-yard line, it’s obviously a swing in the other team’s momentum.  The fact that we’ve been able to overcome it is really a testament to our determination to change the outcome of the game.  The way that things have happened and the time that those drives have occurred, they’ve been detrimental points of the game when we really needed to make a play.  So, the fact that we were able to do that this past week and the weeks prior is really encouraging to us as an offense.”

On what Mark Ingram brings to the huddle:
“Mark’s great in all aspects.  He’s a really good person and a really hard worker.  He’s a really good teammate and a really good guy to have in the backfield.  One thing that I will say about Mark is that he takes as much pride in his blocking and protection assignments as he does in running the ball.  He is as happy when you score a touchdown via the pass as he is when he runs it in himself, so he’s real quick to credit success to other people around him and he’s got a great a mentality in what we’re trying to accomplish around here, and that’s a team mindset – as long as we score points it doesn’t matter who does it.”

On Mississippi defensive end Greg Hardy:
“He is a very good player.  All of his accolades that he’s accounted for over the years are well deserved.  He’s a tremendous athlete and can really pose a problem for a lot of offenses.  We’re going to have to find a way to neutralize him or do something to make him less effective, because in what they ask him to do he can really cause a lot of problems.  We’ll have him figured out hopefully.  He’s obviously a great talent, and he’ll be a tough matchup for us, but it’s definitely a matchup that we need to win in order to win the game.”