ALABAMA COACH NICK SABAN
September 1, 2013INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
Alabama – 35
Virginia Tech – 10
COACH SABAN: As a program, we certainly appreciate the opportunity to participate in a game like this against a great program like Virginia Tech. Their players really played hard, deserve a lot of credit in this game.
Defensively they're one of the toughest groups that we played against. They certainly did a great job against us tonight.
We have to create an identity as a team. I don't think that we did that maybe in all phases of the game today. But at least we know where we are. We know what we need to do to improve. I feel like we have a lot of players on our team that did a lot of good things and we have some players that probably could do a little better, play with a little more consistency.
I think our players also have to learn that you have to be a little more relentless as a competitor. You can't be satisfied with where you are. You got to work hard every day for the next challenge.
We actually showed our team Michael Jordan playing in 1996, whenever his last championship was, where they're down by 3 with a minute to go in the game. The guy makes every play in the game. Makes a shot, steals the ball, makes the next shot to win the game.
What did he have to prove? That was his sixth championship, the third time they won three in a row. This guy is playing at 35 years old like there's no tomorrow. It was interesting for a guy that had nothing to prove, be out there playing like he had everything to prove.
That's what our team needs to do, that's what we need to do as a team so we can make the improvement we need to make.
We have a bye week coming up. Certainly we'll look at this film, make a lot of corrections. If we're going to have a good football team, we're going to have to improve as a team. We're going to be technical about in terms of how we approach our players and what they do.
Q. Talk about coverage on special teams.
COACH SABAN: Special teams was great. Cody did a good job punting. To get a kickoff return and punt return for points in a game is outstanding. We had a couple other big plays that changed field position in special teams. And the coverage was great.
The number one goal in special teams is control vertical field position. I thought that was a big part of this game tonight. Not only the return game, but the good punts, the good coverage, the drive starts created by the kickoff coverage team, several inside the 20. Those things are huge advantages. Affects the offense in terms of what they can do.
Q. Last year 30 attempts. Tonight just exploded. Is that something you make an effort on to get him more opportunities the return game?
COACH SABAN: I think that people take for granted that just because a guy has a lot of skill, that it doesn't take experience to be a good returner. I think it does. I think just the judgment of when to take the shot, catch the ball, run with it, when to make a fair catch.
Last year was Christion's first time doing this stuff. He had some opportunities last year, but he learned a lot from it. He's done a great job in the off?season.
I think we have really good team speed so we have a lot of guys that are good on special teams. That's helpful. Some of them are young players, but they certainly did a good job tonight.
We want our return game to be a weapon for us, and it certainly was for us.
Q. What was their offensive line doing?
COACH SABAN: They moved on us up front. We whiffed a few times because they have good quickness. You know, they overloaded the sides, then would slant back. They were running us down the backside. They outplayed us up front, if you want to know the truth.
Their 99 gave us a lot of problems in pass protection. Pushed the pocket. We were soft. Didn't have a solid pocket. Quarterback didn't feel comfortable. Timing in the passing game wasn't what it needed to be in terms of how much time we had to throw it, how much time we had to get open. Those are the kind of things I think we really need to improve on.
We didn't handle their pressure or movement very well. We didn't get much movement when they didn't move. Those things all add up to being not so good.
Q. How did the competition tonight prepare you for A&M?
COACH SABAN: I think playing a good opponent makes your team realize what they need to do to improve. I don't think there's anybody in our locker room that's satisfied with the way they played. They certainly appreciate the fact we were able to win against a very good team that we have a lot of respect for their program and players, the way they played tonight.
But I think everybody realizes that we need to improve. I think when you play good opponents like this, it makes your players realize where they are, what they need to be committed to, to play to the standard that it's going to take to beat good teams in our league. I think we learned that tonight.
Q. It is much easier to stay at home, schedule a game. This is your third trip here. What is it about this game that makes it worth coming instead of staying home?
COACH SABAN: First of all, I think it helps prepare our team for playing in our league, which is very difficult; playing on the road in our league, which is very difficult. I think when you play against a good team, sort of what I just said, it makes you realize what you have to do to play against the good teams in our league, how we need to improve.
So I think there's a lot of benefits to it. I think there's a lot of exposure that we get because we play in these games.
I think playing in these games in 2008, 2009 did as much to kickstart our program as anything we ever did because it was game day. In those days it was the only game. We got a tremendous amount of exposure. We played Clemson and Virginia Tech who were ranked teams and were able to beat them both. I really think that helped kickstart our program to become what it's become.
Q. You had several new guys in there tonight.
COACH SABAN: New guys where? We had them all over the place (laughter). Can you be more specific? If I started to go through every young guy that played tonight, everybody would leave. Who do you want to know about?
Q. Some of the guys on the offensive line.
COACH SABAN: Well, we've been talking about the offensive line. We need to improve on the offensive line. But I don't even think the guys that had a lot of experience playing played as well as they need to play on the offensive line.
I don't think we're talking about the inexperienced guys not playing well. I think we're talking about the entire group realizing they need to play a little bit better, play a little bit better together, be a little more physical.
We have too good of skilled players not to give them more opportunities to make plays in the game. I'm not going to single out young guys. I think the entire group needs to do a better job.
Q. What did you think of the defensive line's ability to put pressure on Logan and keep him contained?
COACH SABAN: I thought we did a really good job defensively. They didn't do anything on offense that we practiced against, all right? We didn't know how they would use their personnel. They ran a lot of option plays, a lot of two?back option plays. We played against it before. Our players on defense did a fantastic job of adjusting in the game.
The 77?yard run where we got out of position, the secondary didn't squeeze the ball properly. I think the defense did a good job all night. We got a lot of respect for Logan Thomas. I thought he played well, executed well. They dropped a couple balls. That probably hurt his stats. I think the guy is a really good player.
Q. Talk specifically about your secondary.
COACH SABAN: I think there's a lot of things we can improve on in the secondary. We've got some new players playing. I thought they played well and adjusted well in the game today, which I think is really critical.
I mean, Jarrick has never played starter before and did a really good job in the game, John Fulton did a good job in the game, Vinnie did a nice job. The whole group did a really nice job of adjusting to the things we had to adjust to in a game.
I think our players on defense understand the system, they kind of believe in it. They have enough experience out there that they can adapt to things that we haven't played or practiced against.
Probably played more players, if we had practiced against some of the stuff they were doing, which was a good scheme.
Q. (Question regarding T.J.)
COACH SABAN: I thought he did well under the circumstances. He didn't have a lot of room to run. But I thought he made good things happen. I thought he ran hard. I thought he was physical. He did miss a block once. We got sacked because of it. Had an opportunity for a big play.
You can't put all this stuff on the offensive line. It's really all about the offensive team all doing things the way they need to to execute together, trust and believe in one another so we can make this work.
It's going to take leadership, it's going to take people recommitting themselves to a standard that's going to help us improve and get better. I'm sure we will do that, and T.J. will too.