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Coach Nick Saban Press Conference Transcript



Oct. 19, 2009

Opening Comments:
“Well, after reviewing the game and watching the game tapes, I certainly was proud of the way our players competed in the game.  We had a lot of guys play hard.  We had a lot of guys play winning football.  We certainly had to go out and earn it and we ran the ball extremely well on offense and there are also some things we need to improve in the passing game.  We did a really good job overall, defensively, but made some errors at times on third down, which affected our third down conversions, which kept drives alive and kept us on the field and helped them in two two-minute situations to continue to be able to move the ball.  We played well in the red zone to keep them out of the end zone.  Special teams did a good job, but we had five special teams penalties in the game, which is half of the penalties that we had.  We always emphasize to play penalty free in the kicking game. It affects field position tremendously, so we are going to have use better judgment in a lot of those situations so we don’t end up shooting ourselves in the foot, relative to making a good return and bringing it back.  That’s something I think we’re just going to have to continue to work and focus and get some different guys in there because you get a guy nicked up here or there and sometimes those guys don’t have the same experience or make the same kinds of decisions.  We need to do a good job of teaching them and helping them so that they can make good decisions in the game.

“I thought the drive at the end of the game was really a great drive by our offense.  Obviously a lot of great efforts by Mark Ingram, who is the offensive player of the week for the conference, and also he and Barrett Jones for our team, and the defense for not allowing them to score in two minute at the end of the game. So finishing the game was a real key in that particular game, which in close games it usually is. Defensively, Rolando McClain, Marquis Johnson, Lorenzo Washington and Ty (Tyrone) King all played extremely well.  We had more players have double-digit production points in this game than I think maybe we’ve ever had in the three years that we have been here.  On special teams, Julio (Jones) did an outstanding job stepping in as a returner. He also played very physical blocking.  I know he did not catch any passes, but he stripped the ball out causing a fumble and blocked well in the game. P.J. (Fitzgerald) did a really good job punting in the game and Roy (Upchurch) was very good on special teams as well.

“This is obviously a game coming up here with Tennessee that has a special tradition, in terms of their school and what they’ve been able to accomplish through the years, and what Alabama has been able to accomplish through the years.  These are two great programs that play in a big game every year and this is certainly a challenging opportunity for our team.  They are playing extremely well and they have a very good team. I think this is probably the best team running the football that we have played and the strength of their team is probably their backs, as well as their offensive line. (Montario) Hardesty and Bryce Brown are both really good, physical, down-hill, hard runners.  They both play with a lot of toughness. These guys are extremely well coached and somebody’s going to ask me about all this other stuff, but what it comes down to, is this is a well-coached team.  They are very well coached on defense.  They are very well coached on offense. Lane Kiffin does a really good job of that.  They are very disciplined.  They don’t get a lot of penalties.  They have made constant, steady improvement to play an outstanding game against Georgia.  The quarterback (Jonathan Crompton) is playing better and played his best game of the year against Georgia with what he was able to accomplish. Tennessee always has good skill players and they have a lot of good receivers with lots of speed and it’s going to be very challenging for us.  Their defense is very, very good, one of the top-ranked defenses in the country.  Eric Berry is maybe the best player in our conference, defensive player, in terms of his play-making ability and all the things he does. He is an absolutely phenomenal football player.  He is one of the best.  They’ve got some good pass rushers.  The linebackers run extremely well.  They’ve got very good statistics for what they’ve been able to accomplish, giving up the fewest first downs.  A lot of those things that lead to teams playing winning football. So, it’s going to be important for us to continue to be able to execute, make improvement and it’s going to be a very challenging game for us, all the way around.

“Nothing has really changed for our guys.  If anybody asks me any questions about where we’re ranked or what the poll is, what matters?  Why does it matter?  What’s changed from this week to this Monday to last Monday?  What’s changed?  We’ve got another game.  This is the most important game of the year. Hopefully, we’re going to respond to it, one of two ways emotionally.  You either respond with avoiding pain, or you respond to it to try and gain pleasure, in terms of what you want to accomplish. I’m very hopeful that we can stay on the positive side of it and be positive about our approach to what we are trying to accomplish and what we’re trying to do and not get risk-aversive and start playing to keep from getting beat and a lot of negative motivation about what’s going to happen if this happens and all that kind of stuff, not to avoid but to gain, is the way we’d like to approach it.”

On injuries:
“Dre’ Kirkpatrick had a back spasm in the game and he should be fine.  Whether he is fine today or not, we will have to see.  Javy’s (Arenas) going to try and work today. We have no idea of what he’ll be able to do or how much he’ll be able to do. This is not an injury that is something that is going to get worse. This is simply an injury of when you can manage the pain, you’re fine, but managing the pain, it still hurts and it’s still a problem.  The biggest problem is when he really tries to open up and go fast and all of that and hopefully that’s going to get better. How fast it’s going to get better, we don’t know and it will be day-to-day this week to see how he does and how it goes. (Michael) Bowman had a little patella tendon sprain in practice on Thursday and hopefully he will be able to go this week.  (Josh) Chapman has an abdominal strain and we thought he’d be able to play in the game and he struggled in pregame warm-ups too.  He’s going to practice this week.  These guys are all day-to-day in terms of how they are going to progress. That’s all I can tell you.”

On Greg McElroy’s performance and does he put too much pressure on himself:
“I think number one you’ve got to go back to what got you there and you’ve got to have simple goals, in terms of what you want to accomplish, and you’ve got to remember the fundamental things that are most important to you being able to execute and playing winning football at your position. I think we’ve got to get back to that and maybe we’re trying to do too much and maybe we’re putting too much pressure on ourselves. I also think the people around us on our offense need to continue to improve the way they play, so the quarterback feels comfortable and confident that he is going to be protected, not going to get pressure in the pocket and are we going to have time to read and set our feet and throw the ball where we are supposed to, all of those things to me are part of what we need to improve on.  We’ve got too many good skill players not to be able to get them the ball so we can make explosive plays in the passing game.  It’s not what we need it to be.  It was not what we needed it to be in the game and we definitely need to improve on it.”

On team’s overall depth despite two key injuries:
“Well, I think we’ve have more than just two. I think from your standpoint, Damion Square is not a household name around here, but he was a very good player and had a significant role as a defensive end that was rotating in the games and we lost him.  Dont’a Hightower is one of the best players that we have. He did multiple things and we’ve had three different players sort of assume his role.  Javy does a lot of things and created an opportunity for Tyrone King, who did a really good job in the game, as well as Julio on special teams, who did a marvelous job in the game.  So, we just have to have people continue to step up and fill these roles, play hard, continue to execute and do the right things, so that we can execute together as a team and I think that is the most important thing and so far, we’ve been able to do that.  There’s no question it has a long term affect on the number of players that you have.”

On the importance of tradition of the Alabama-Tennessee rivalry as a coach:
“Well, every game is important.  I think to understand what’s important to the people, the institution and the tradition you represent.  Like I tell our coaches all the time, I can take bad news. I can take good news. I hate surprises.  So to me, if you’re working here, you ought to do everything you can do not to present me with a surprise, right?  It’s knowledge of the situation and circumstances. I think, in our position, we have to have knowledge of the situation and circumstance that we are in.  Every game is important, no game any more important than the other game. They all have a significant impact on the outcome of the season, whether you’re going to have a chance to go to the SEC Championship game or whatever you want to talk about, this game is no different than that, but, at the same time, we understand the importance to our fans with the traditions of our school the importance of rivalry games and they are important because of that.”

On Monte Kiffin’s defensive philosophy:
“Well he actually gained fortune and fame as a very good defensive coordinator in college for many, many years and probably made some innovations in the game, relative to coordinating fronts and coverages and doing some things that nobody had done before.  I remember going to visit him when he was at Arkansas and this was in the 1970s.  In pro football, he sort of developed what’s called “Tampa Two”, a coverage and way to play that was effective for a long time.  Right now at Tennessee, they probably do a combination of both of those things.  He’s just a really good teacher, a really good coach and has a lot of knowledge and experience and has done a really good job this year helping their defense develop.”

On Mark Ingram’s mentality to handle the attention he is getting:
“I really don’t know.  I haven’t talked to him since the game.  Usually, he handles it pretty well.  He’s a great competitor and a driven guy.  He works hard in practice every week.  He plays fast all the time.  He has a great competitive spirit and certainly will stay focused on the things that are going to help him continue to satisfy his goals.  I would say the same thing to him or to you asking the question, what’s changed?  You’ve had a lot of success doing things the way you do them and the best way to continue to have success is remember what got you there and continue to do those things, so you can continue to get a lot of positive self-gratification from your performance, in terms of how it helps our team and how it brings attention to yourself.  I think a lot of other people on offense deserve a little credit for this too.  I mean somebody was blocking a pretty good defense, a pretty good front, and our offensive line did a pretty good job against that group, who we have a lot of respect for.”

On wife Terry’s performance as co-host for homecoming parade on WVUA-TV:
“I did not catch any of it.  But whether I saw or didn’t see it, I’d say she did fantastic.  You can write that everywhere and show it everywhere and maybe it will help me out in getting my little bowl of cereal with yogurt every night.  It goes one or two ways, I either have to get it myself, or if I’m good, somebody gets it for me.  I think she liked it and she was happy with it. So if she is happy with it, I’m happy with it.”

Alabama Player Quotes

Junior linebacker Rolando McClain
On the Alabama vs. Tennessee rivalry:
“It’s obviously a big game, not just because of who we’re playing but because it’s the game we’re playing this week.  We’re facing a good team.  They have a very good offense, and I think their defense is very good also.  It’s tradition obviously, Tennessee and Alabama.  It’s a big game, but like I said before, we’re not going to overhype the game; we’re just going to keep our composure and not get overwhelmed with who we’re playing and the circumstances behind it.  We’re just going to try to go out and play our type of football.”

On the strength of Tennessee’s football team:
“They have a good offense.  They run the ball very well, but we pride ourselves on stopping the run.  Even though we’re going to respect our opponent, at the same time we’re just going to do what we do and try to stop the run.”

On Alabama’s defensive mentality of not giving up any yards:
“That’s just how we are – we’re stingy on defense.  We don’t want to give up an inch.  That’s just how we are.   We practice that way and that’s how we play.  A lot of credit goes to Coach Saban, but at the same time a lot of credit goes to us because we listen to what he says.  Week in and week out we go out and try to execute the game plan.  We are stingy defense and we don’t want to give up anything.”

On player’s stepping up in the absence of starters:
“We don’t look at one guy as a hero.  I know Coach Saban puts the best guys in the best spot, but it’s hard to pinpoint one particular guy on this defense because everybody plays so hard.  We don’t really have a weak spot on defense because the defense picks up for anybody that is not playing well.  Tyrone King stepped in and did a great job, a tremendous job.  Obviously Marquis Johnson did well.   I don’t even know if he gave up a pass.  This past weekend he did great.  That’s something we need.  These are senior cornerbacks.  We know we have the potential to do great things and we went out and showed it on Saturday.  Even though we had that type of play last week, we’re not really worried about it.  We’re happy that we had it.  We’re going to watch film today, and that game is over.  Now we have to get prepared for a very good offense.”

Junior quarterback Greg McElroy
On the “Tampa 2” defense:
“We’ve seen the look on numerous occasions.  It’s a very popular defense, especially at the college level.  It’s just a good way to develop things and disguise.  It’s something that we’ll be ready for and something we’ll spend a lot of time looking at this week.  It’s something we’ve been around.  Our defense plays quite a bit of it, so we’ve had some looks against it.”

On a defense he’s faced this year that’s done the best job of mixing and disguising coverage:
“That’s kind of difficult.  I think each defense has done a pretty good job.  I think just the schemes and taking away the pass, I think South Carolina probably did the best job as far as having their players in the correct positions, making things difficult and really changing looks and disguising.  In this league you’re going to play defenses that are extremely well coached, are very diligent and are very good at what they do.”

On dealing with games in which he is frequently pressured by the defense:
“You have to put it behind you.  That’s why we play 12 of these things.  We play them every week, every Saturday.  It’s unfortunate and you’d like to have a great game every week, but look at Mark Sanchez, he threw five interceptions yesterday.  It’s his first year starting in the NFL.  It’s my first year starting in college.  You’re going to have some ups and downs.  Fortunately for me I have some great players around me to help me out with those ups and downs.  I’ve got a lot of confidence – a lot of confidence in the way we’re going to prepare this week and a lot of confidence that we’re going to be ready to go on Saturday.  I’m excited to get those mistakes ironed out and have a good game on Saturday.”

Senior tight end Colin Peek
On Tennessee’s defense:
It’s a tremendous defense.  Tennessee is always going to have superior athletes.  They’re in the SEC, they have a great defensive coordinator in Monte Tiffin, and they have a defensive candidate for Heisman in Eric Berry with the way that he plays and the intensity that he brings to their defense.  They’re going to be a very tough team to play against, but at the same time if you want to play top-caliber football then you want to play against the best.  We’re looking forward to getting out there and practicing this week, having a chance to get this rivalry renewed and hopefully it will keep swinging in our favor.”

On going against Eric Berry:
“If you get the chance to play against any top defender, Eric Berry or anyone of that nature, whether it’s a linebacker or safety, I think you should savor the opportunity.  I think it’s one of those moments where you can battle against the best.  I think any top-notch player in this league wants to go against the best.  You want to go against the best competitors.   Us as a team, we want to play against the best players and I think Eric Berry is the captain of the defense, I’m pretty sure he’s the leader of that defense.  If I get a chance to go against him one-on-one, you always look forward to those opportunities.  It’s not just Eric Berry himself, it’s also a tremendous defense.  They have great athletes there.  I think you look at him as one of the pieces in the mix, but you don’t try to highlight him as someone you especially want to go after.  If you go against him, then you go against him, but at the same time it’s always about beating the person you’re going against. “

On Mark Ingram being mentioned as a Heisman Trophy candidate:
“He really deserves it for the work that puts in, the type of kid he is and the type of player he is.  I think he’s really special to our organization.”

Senior defensive end Lorenzo Washington:
On the game against South Carolina being close at the end:
“You never know.  It really was a two-possession game.  We were up by two scores, but if they would have scored once, then scored again and got two points they could have won the game.  In high school I’ve actually been the team that’s won like that.  You can never let your guard down, especially against a good offense like South Carolina’s.”

On the play of Kerry Murphy:
“I think Kerry did really good, especially on short notice.  He’s been in there practicing and has been in the rotation a lot, but I don’t necessarily think he was expecting to play.  I think everybody thought Josh Chapman was going to go.  He (Chapman) wanted to go too, but he went out there in warm-ups and couldn’t go.  I think Kerry did a good job filling in.”