TUSCALOOSA, Ala. The University of Alabama football team continued its work for Saturday’s Southeastern Conference road game at Mississippi State with a two-hour practice in full gear this afternoon at the Thomas Drew Practice Facility.
The 21st ranked Crimson Tide worked on red-zone offense, red-zone defense and third-down situations as the team continues preparations for Saturday morning’s game in Starkville.
“I think it’s critical in times like this where somebody’s true character kind of gets revealed, sometimes in adverse or tough circumstances,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “How you respond to that says more about who you are and what you’re all about. It will be everyone’s challenge to respond to this game in the right way.
“Practice was good today and as the week has gone on it’s gotten progressively better, in terms of guys executing, playing, moving and playing fast. That has been good.”
The Alabama-Mississippi State will be televised by Lincoln Financial Sports and will be shown mainly in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. The game will show on ESPN GamePlan outside the nine-state SEC region. Bill Rosinski (play-by-play), Dave Archer (analyst) and Jenn Hildreth (sideline reporter) will call the action to a regional audience.
Saban met with members of the media via the SEC Head Coaches Football Teleconference and then again after Wednesday’s practice. Here are some of his comments:
On upcoming Mississippi State game:
“We have as big a challenge as we have had all year, in terms of our preparation Mississippi State, which is a very good team and has had great wins against Kentucky and Auburn this year. They are sound in what they do. Sylvester (Croom) has done a great job there of establishing a tremendous amount of discipline. They are physical and sound on both sides of the ball and on special teams. They run the ball well. They have not turned the ball over a lot and played really good winning football. They have played well on defense. They have a great pass-rusher in Titus Brown. So, there are a lot of challenges and it’s really going to be a challenge to us, in terms of our character and attitude toward bouncing back from disappointment to prepare to do the things we need to do to be able to play winning football ourselves.”
On Alabama’s pass protection:
“You have to be able to protect the quarterback and you have to be able to handle the blitz, which sometimes the quarterback has a lot to do with in terms of reading and getting rid of the ball. LSU obviously has a very fine defense, I don’t mean to minimize that, but at the same time we weren’t able do that. We weren’t able to protect. We didn’t protect always when they had a four-man rush and we got sacked too much and the quarterback got affected in the game. That is not something that you can do and have an effective passing game. We do need to improve on that and we are going to play other good pass-rushing teams with outstanding rushers. The team we play this weekend has one. So, we are just going to have to do a better job.”
On the role of Jonathan Lowe:
“Jonathan Lowe is a guy that showed he had some quickness, speed and elusiveness in open spaces as a kick returner in the spring. We really couldn’t find a position for him. We tried him at receiver. He missed fall camp because of academics. So, when he got here we tried to teach him how to be a running back. We use him in that role a little bit. We used him in the last game because it was really the first time he was healthy all year. If he continues to do what he is supposed to do and do his job well, he will probably get some opportunities in the future as well.”
On increased number of interceptions in last few games:
“I’m not disappointed in the calls in why, shape or form, but sometimes you get interceptions because you have opportunities. We have had some opportunities in the last few games and guys have been able to finish plays and make those plays. I think mixing to coverages and mixing the calls are something that may help, but some guys have made some great breaks on the ball this year and had more opportunities than others and finished those plays. We need to continue to do that. On the other side of it, we need to minimize the big plays that we give up if we are going to be more successful in terms of being a difficult defense to score against.”
On being named semi-finalist for the Paul Bryant Coach of the Year Award:
“There are a lot of great coaches in the country and a lot of great coaches that have done a fantastic job this year with their team. It’s a privilege and honor anytime that you get recognized for what you are trying to do. I appreciate that. But, I also know there are a lot of other guys doing a great job with their team. The thing we’re most concerned about is how we finish. That is a word we talk about all the time. Finish games. Finish plays. Finish the quarter, the half. It’s something that you really have to learn to do. Sometimes you think you are finishing and you’re really not. How we finish this season will say a tremendous amount about the character this team has. They’ve worked hard and they deserve to finish it right and whether they are able to do that or not; that’s why we play these games.”