Countdown to Kickoff
Coach Nick Saban Press Conference Transcript



Oct. 27, 2008

Opening Statement:

“Well, as I said after the (Tennessee) game, I am proud of the way our players competed in the game. We played a complete game from start to finish, actually kind of played a little better as the game went on. We had to deal with a lot of adversity in the game, I think especially defensively. I think there was a lot of perseverance by the offense, in struggling early to block some of their pressures and then got better and had some guys do a really nice job of staying focused and playing the next play. The coaches did a good job of making the adjustments that we needed to make in the game and I think that all contributed to it.  Obviously, the most important thing is taking care of business week in and week out, playing with consistency and hopefully building on the idea of playing 60-minute football games and keeping your intensity and focus on what you need to do to be successful.  We don’t really have any new injuries to report.  We do have some guys that are bruised up a little bit. That was a very physical game that we just played, but nobody will really miss practice today other than Terrence (Cody), so we will go from there.

"We had some outstanding performances in the game. John Parker (Wilson) played a very good game. They got a lot of pressure early in the game and he never lost his poise and really did a god job.  Roy (Upchurch) did a great job in the second half and really played with a lot of competitive spirit out there.  He really played hard and did an outstanding job on special teams as well.  The entire offensive line did a good job, but Antoine Caldwell probably had his best game of the year and really did a good job.  Of course, Julio (Jones) had over 100 yards receiving and being the freshman of the week in the SEC, also did a good job.  Defensively, Rashad Johnson, Rolando McClain and Bobby Greenwood, all did a really good job.  I thought we played really well as a team defensively.  I think that’s going to be important for us to continue to do that in the future. Chris Rogers, who has been one of the best players consistently on special teams throughout the year, did another very, very good job on kickoff coverage and is on almost all the special teams.  Leigh Tiffin had a good night kicking off, as well as making his field goals.

"This is a challenging game for us. Arkansas State, I think, has a very good football team. Steve Roberts has been there for seven years. They’ve got good players.  They’ve lost three very close games.  They score a lot of points. They’ve got a very good defensive team. They are a ball-hawking team. They are one of the top teams in turnover margin, at plus 10. The quarterback does a fantastic job of executing their offense.  He is probably as good a double-threat guy as we have played against, in terms of being a passer and a runner and making plays with his feet. They played really well against Texas a year ago in the opener and beat Texas A&M this year (18-14 in College Station on Aug. 30) and scored 83 points (ASU 83, Texas Southern 10 on Sept. 6) in a game. They have a defensive end (junior Alex Carrington, who has 14 tackles for loss and 9 ½ sacks and leads the nation with 2.0 tackles for loss) who can play for anybody. He is really a good player. They have really good special teams.  Their field goal kicker (Josh Arauco) is 15 for 15 (also 26 for 26 extra points).  They run the ball as well as anybody and they can throw it and make big plays. This is a good team. I know sometimes people don’t have the proper respect for these teams, but this team certainly has done enough this season, in terms of what they have accomplished week in and week out, to garner everyone’s respect.”

On the overall play of Roy Upchurch and his role at fullback of late:

“Well, he has been playing that position.  We’ve done that probably three games know. First of all, Roy has done extremely well.  We are trying to create a role for him and he has done the role extremely well.  He has played on third down quite a bit.  He has played in that package. He has also been the third runner in the game and he has done a very good job when he has been called on to do that.  So, I think the multiples of formations you can make when you have two backs - we call it “ponies” or whatever -  is something that can be an asset to us, especially when you have the kind of backs that we have.”

On Arkansas State offense and challenges you have on defense:

“They are a multiple personnel grouping.  They play four wide outs.  They play three wide outs and a tight end. They run some zone option. They run power running game.  They have a lot of good play-action passes as well as a vertical passing game that they do a good job with as well.  They are very, very multiple in what they do and it’s going to be very, very challenging for our players to prepare to be able to know what to expect in all the circumstances they present, as well as how to react to what they  like to do in those circumstances.  They will run some option and they will run some zone-read kind of stuff, but that is not all they do.”

On importance of lack of injuries to team’s success:

“I think it paramount.  When you can stay healthy and keep continuity with your players and not have a lot of injuries and disruptions. It’s certainly beneficial to improvement and it’s certainly beneficial to team chemistry, guys playing together and knowing what to expect and that’s been positive for us and hopefully that will continue and be positive for us down the road as well.”

On the importance of winning, but in terms of rankings winning a ‘beauty contest’:

“We don’t focus on that.  We are just trying to get our team to play as well as they can play. We are not concerned about that and we’re not concerned about the rankings or ratings. We want our team to play the best football they can play.  We’d like to get our players, individually, to play to their capacity, as well as our team to play with consistency and to their capacity and focus on improving and consistency.  I think those are things we can control and those are the things we focus on and want to try to do.  Those external factors are created for fans, which is great, and for the media, which is great, and it creates a lot of interest in our game.  But, as competitors, we have to focus on what we are doing and do it well.  There is a lot of good competition our there and so for everybody to continue to improve, so that we can get better are the things we need to be focusing on.”