Countdown to Kickoff
Coach Nick Saban Press Conference Transcript



Nov. 9, 2009

Opening Comment:
“After reviewing the LSU game, the players really played hard in the game, really competed well, especially in the second half.  I was really proud of the way they responded to some of the adversity in the game, even though some of it was a little bit self-inflicted by some of the mistakes that we made.  So, what we’re all about right now is to correct those things we haven’t been doing well, capitalize on the opportunities when we have them in the game and be more consistent in taking advantage of the opportunities that we have, and be smart enough about understanding the paradox of success that you take one step forward in being successful and that you’re always at the risk of losing that in the next step that you take.  So, the most important thing is to stay focused on the task. It’s almost like one season is over and new season is beginning and each one of those games is very, very important to our team and that’s the way we’d like for our team to approach it.

“We had some outstanding performances in the game last week. Drew Davis, Julio Jones and Marquis Maze all did a fantastic job on offense with their production, consistency and performance.  Javier Arenas and Marcell Dareus played well on defense, with Javy also being named the SEC Defensive Player of the Week. Jerrell Harris had a couple tackles on special teams and did a really good job in kickoff coverage. Leigh Tiffin has also been named a semifinalist for the Lou Groza (Award).

“We want to put this game behind us, even though we’re proud of what our team was able to accomplish in the game and we look forward to the challenge that we have with Mississippi State. Dan Mullen has done a really good job with this team. Of their five losses, every team has been a top 25 team that they have lost to and four of them are currently ranked in the top 10 or 12, or something like that.  Anthony Dixon is a really, really good back.  These guys run the football probably as well as anybody we’ve played against this year.  They have sort of a Florida spread philosophy and it’s a little difficult, different preparation, so our players are going to have to have to do a really good job of getting prepared for this game and getting ready to stop the plays that they run, because they are not always conventional-type things that you see all the time.  Their defense plays hard, very physical and tough.  They’ve got a pretty good secondary and they really do a good job of coaching in special teams.  They really try and play good defense, don’t turn the ball over, score in the red area when they get the opportunity, which most good running teams can do that, and play really good defense. I think this team does all those things.  It will be a challenge for us.

“From an injury standpoint, I don’t think we have any new injuries to report. Terry Grant’s going to try and do a little bit in practice today and see where he is.  Colin Peek will try and do more and more in practice as the week progresses, including today.  We have normal bumps and bruises that guys typically have on Monday, but nobody that we expect not to be able to practice. Chance Warmack is sick, so if he is not out there don’t think I’m not telling you the truth.”

On some of the things you don’t think your team has done well:
“I think it’s fairly obvious that we need to play better in the red area on both sides of the ball. LSU was 2-for-2 both times they got down there and we have not been as productive as we would like, in terms of scoring touchdowns in the red zone.  I thought we played a lot better on offense in this game. I thought Greg did a good job.  We had great balance in the game.  We were able to run the ball, but also throw it and make some explosive plays. I was very pleased with the way we played offense, but again, it’s finishing drives. It’s sort of like shooting yourself in the foot. Last week, I talked about a penalty on the three-yard line, first and three at the three, I talked about fumbling a snap from center, this time we get third-and-one at the one and we get 12 guys in the huddle. That’s really not something that the other team is doing, so I know your next question is ‘what are we going to do different?’  We need to correct what we do. There is more in this game that’s about what we do than probably any game that we’ve played.  And it’s always going to come down to what you do and it was the same way in this game.  I just think its consistency and performance, better communication, better execution and little more discipline in what we’re doing.  I think those little things will help us get better results.”

On similarities to Florida’s offense and Mississippi State’s offense:
“I think it’s changed relative to the personnel that he has.  I think the core, the philosophy, the zone dive, zone option, counter plays and quarterback reads are the same. They also have No. 14 (quarterback Chris Relf) that they use more as a running quarterback when they put him in there.  (Tyson Lee) can run the ball.  He makes yards running it.  He is a great competitor, does a very good job of executing their offense and does a good job of reading for them. I think philosophically they are the same.  I think the way they utilize their personnel is a little bit different.”

On attention focused on interception call during LSU game and does that bother you after a big win:
“It doesn’t bother me at all. Does it bother you?  If it was an interception, that doesn’t mean they will win the game.  I saw it and it was hard for me to tell on our film. I don’t watch the TV stuff, so I can’t tell you or give you an opinion one way or the other.  I just really do believe this.  If I was an official and I was making what I made officiating, because I loved the game and I loved doing it and was getting criticized by the media, including our announcers on TV, like these guys are getting criticized, I think; I’d step back and say “I think I’m going to the lake this weekend, you guys can have this.’  That’s what I’d do.  Those guys do a great job.  They work their tail off and try and do a good job.  We have a guy jump offside and he doesn’t get criticized like that.  Both are mistakes, one way or the other.  Can somebody stand up and fight for these guys and what they do, for the game?  And probably get less for it than anybody.”

On the job SEC Commissioner Mike Slive has done:
“I think Mike has done a wonderful job. This league is thriving, not only form an exposure standpoint, but a trademark of what the league is all about, what it stands for and what’s been accomplished, but also financially and every other way. I think he’s done a fantastic job.”

On whether Rolando McClain ever surprises you:
“Ro has a high expectation for what he wants to accomplish and what he wants to do and we have a tremendous respect for him as a competitor and a leader of our team.  I know it means as much to him for us do the right things and play well as it does to anyone else around here. We have a tremendous respect for him.  He doesn’t really surprise me in anyway.  He does a great job.  I guess when you do that, that kind of becomes the expectation and he has played well for us all year long.  We’re pleased with him and proud of him and hope a lot of people recognize that.”

On how well this year’s team has bought into the one-game-at-a-time approach:
“So far, so good.  The challenge is the next game and how are you going to respond to the next game.  I think it gets more and more difficult to maintain that level of consistency, mentally, because each and every team that we play is capable of beating any team on any given day.  This team is right down to the wire with LSU, had it first and one at the one or two, or whatever, and didn’t punch it in to win.  But yet, LSU is the game of the year and this game is like … I don’t see it that way and I don’t want the players to see it that way.  That’s a perception that’s created by, and I would not accuse anybody in this room of creating anything of the kind, so I don’t want anybody to really think that; but in some kind of way it gets perceived and that’s what we call clutter.”

On defending the spread, is the nickel back look almost the base defense now:
“Well, I think every team goes about it a little bit differently.  I think some teams still play the spread with regular people.  We can do it both ways and we always make a decision on how we feel like we can adjust best to what they do, relative to the players that we have.  The most difficult thing in regular people, depending on your system and scheme, is not the basic formations, but how you adjust to all the other formations.  It’s a lot easier when you’re in nickel and have five defensive backs to adjust to formations like multiples, empty, four wide outs and those types of things and not get linebacker-type guys spread out in space where they are not used to playing.  We always have to make those decisions based on those types of things.  When you play a really good running team like this team, there is certainly a consideration to just leaving your big guys in there and just playing with them.”

On Javier Arenas’ biggest improvement since you have been here and how his personality drives the team:
“Javy’s been a good player for us for the last two years.  I think he is a very conscientious guy.  He’s a great competitor.  It breaks his heart when he doesn’t do it right and it really means something to him and he really wants to be a guy that really helps his team anyway he can, and his teammates.  He is a great competitor, plays hard, plays with a lot of toughness.  You just can’t respect guys like him anymore than anything in the world because of the great respect I have for great competitors.  He is certainly one of those guys.  He has made improvement because it’s important to him.  He always works on his technique and he is very conscientious about it and he plays lots of roles for us.  Besides corner, he plays nickel, also being a return guy and he contributes in a positive way in every one of those areas.”

On referring to the coaching 101 manual on how to bring the team back to earth after a big win:
“I really don’t have that manual, so I really don’t know.  I’ve got some of my Dad’s old books from Pop Warner (League), when we ran the single-wing.  There is nothing in there about it.  He used to make us run the hill more and bring more leaves down after dark.  There was a film about that some place, you know, when I was over in Birmingham speaking.  It’s pretty authentic, too, except they had to tape the movie in the daytime because the camera wouldn’t work at night. When I played we did it after dark, because we practiced until it got dark.  Anyway, I think what I talk about all the time is what you try and emphasize to the players.  Take care of your business and your business will take care of you. Focus on what you do and it’s about what you do and prepare yourself in practice and the way you need to be the best player that you can be.  Do your job for your team and that’s going to give us the best chance to be successful.  It takes a lot of discipline to do that and it takes a lot of passion, in terms of what you want to accomplish and that’s what we continue to do. That same paradox of success is still out there.  When you have success the next opportunity you can lose that and you’ve got to be smart enough to know what it takes to continue to try and improve and perform well. Remember this, the other guys that we’re playing, they’ve got scholarships too, and they’re not bad and they are pretty good. We have a tremendous amount of respect for them because they played every team they’ve played this year tough and we’ve only beat them once out of the last three years, which was last year, is that correct?  I remember going over there two years ago.  I’m like an elephant. I can tell you about how we lost a game in 1984, if you want to know about it.”


Quarterback Greg McElroy
On the criticism he’s faced throughout the season and his response following Saturday’s game:
“I think a lot of it is emotion. Sometimes as a quarterback you receive a lot of credit and you receive a lot of blame, and sometimes you feel like that’s deserved and sometimes you feel like that’s undeserved.  It’s not anything that anyone can do anything about.  It’s the nature of the position, it’s the nature of the school and it’s just the way things are.  It’s something that you’ve got to make peace with.  I think after the game I had some emotions as far as “take that,” almost.  It wasn’t so much that, it was just that I was so happy to get a victory against a top-10 team and obviously take sole control of the (SEC) West.  It’s really a good feeling.  I think that’s basically most of the way I feel.  Obviously I was disappointed in my play against South Carolina and other than that I think we’ve been pretty good, but obviously we had a good game against LSU and earned the victory.”

On how we prepared himself for the criticism he might face:
“There is nothing to prepare you for it.  You can watch people go through it.  You can see what John Parker (Wilson)  went through, a lot of credit, a lot of blame and all kinds of things that I was able to witness and watch how he controlled it.  When you’re in the situation and in the spotlight it’s just so much different.   You’d like to say that you’d do everything right at the position, you’d like to go out there and perform excellently and do everything off the field perfect, but sometimes you can’t.  I’m 21 years old and sometimes I get caught up in the moment a little bit, so you just have to take step back and realize what you are going through and the fact that so much is at stake that revolves around Alabama football.  Sometimes that can be a negative and sometimes that can be a positive, but in most cases it’s positive because we’re having a great season.  Obviously, we’ve got three more games to play and the SEC Championship.”

Linebacker Rolando McClain
On what aspect of his game he can improve upon at this point in the season:
“I can always improve, just as far as my technique and doing the little things as far as being a football player.  As a football player you always feel like you can get better.  I think I can get better. I think I can get better at doing my technique and playing a little bit lower.  I also still think I can be a greater leader.  I think I’ve done an okay job up until now, but getting into the end of the season the mistakes are little bit higher. “

On what can be learned from last year’s experience of clinching the SEC Western Division with three games remaining:
“We’ve just got to keep pushing.  Even though we’ve clinched the West so far, we’ve still got a lot to prove.  I think it’s still stuck in our mind when we lost to them (Mississippi State) two years ago.  We are playing a very good team.  They’re a very good team at running the ball especially.  That’s what they pride themselves on.  They have two good backs and a very strong offensive line.  I think we’ve got to do our part at stepping up and stopping the run.”

Cornerback/Kick Returner Javier Arenas
On whether or not this is his first time being honored as the SEC Defensive Player of the Week:
“I think Honorable Mention was the closest I’ve gotten to the mountain top.  I’ve had to settle for that.  It’s not at all (a big deal).  What’s the big deal is how I feel that I played and that’s going to control my confidence level.”

On what is his driving force every week:
“I don’t know, it’s just who I am.  After that first play, even if I don’t feel like going out and doing something, after I finally get that first lick – if I don’t feel like eating cereal and I take that first spoonful it’s like, “alright I can finish the rest of it,” – but after that first hit out there it’s on.  I’m like, “let’s go.”  It’s just who I am.”

On whether or not the team has thoughts of a possible let down:
“Why would we have any thoughts of a possible let down.  No one in their right mind would even let that thought come up.  We keep a positive mindset, and we try to keep that circulating around the whole complex, even the people working the front desk.  We try to let them know to keep a positive mindset just to keep the whole environment in a positive state.”