TUSCALOOSA, Ala. The University of Alabama football team practiced for two hours in full gear Wednesday afternoon as preparations continue for Saturday’s regular season finale against arch-rival Auburn.
The Crimson Tide worked on red-zone offense, red-zone defense and third-down situations during Wednesday’s session during a light rain through the early portion of practice.
"We are really working hard to re-establish some fundamental qualities of playing great team football,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “We haven’t done that in the last couple of weeks. To have trust, collective responsibility, everybody caring and having pride in their performance, especially in a big rivalry game that we have a tremendous amount of respect for in Auburn, who has a very good football team and has had a great season this year. We have a lot of respect for this rivalry and would always like to represent our part of it in a first-class way and do a great job in preparing our team to play the best they can play, or they have played all year long, in this game and I am sure the other team will do the same. “
"They have only had two losses in the last eight games and they have a great defensive team and run the ball effectively and play very well as a team. They have good special teams. They are a very well-coached team. This will be a tremendous challenge for us and something that we are certainly looking forward to and to be part of such a great rivalry.”
The Crimson Tide and Tigers will meet for the 72nd time on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium and kickoff is set for 7 p.m. (CST). The game will be televised nationally by ESPN with Mike Patrick (play-by-play), Todd Blackledge (analyst) and Holly Rowe (sideline reporter).
Coach Saban met with the media via the SEC Head Football Coaches Teleconference on Wednesday morning and again following practice. Here are some of his comments:
On blocking schemes on the offensive line:
“I thought our offensive line played very well through a number of games this year, probably through the Tennessee game. We’ve just had so many combinations of people, the continuity has not been the same and I think that has been reflected a little bit in the performance. If you are going to run the ball, you can zone block, you can man block or gap block. When you pass protect, you can slide the protection or man the protection. We do all of those things, really. It’s not one simple way that you do it. You try and mix it up so one team can’t get a bead on what you are doing. That makes you more susceptible to the blitz. In most cases, because the quarterback has got his hand on the ball, they can always blitz one more and sometimes overload a side, which you got to be able to handle that. Sometimes the quarterback has to handle it as well as the offensive line.”
On Auburn’s pass rush:
“I don’t think there is any question any time a team can affect the quarterback is not good. I think it’s critical that we do a great job. I think the best way you can do that is create balance in what you’re doing, so that you don’t get behind in the down and distance and you don’t give them those situations where they have the pass mode on their mind and they are rushing and making it most difficult for you to block, whether it’s a four-man rush or a pressure.”
On changing culture and mindset of football players, both on and off the field:
“Well that’s one of the things that we have certainly tried to do here and I have been very pleased with the way the players have responded. I don’t know if we just ran out of gas in the last couple of weeks. We haven’t played as well. We have more injuries and more guys not playing than we have had. We just have to get that fixed and have more consistency in what we are doing. As I said on Monday, the concept of recovery and response sometimes occurs when adversity occurs. You get positive change, togetherness and sense of spirit and sometimes a true spirit and unity become evident when things don’t go well. Hopefully, our players will respond to that in a positive way and play a lot better this week in this big game that we have.”