SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: GEORGIA v ALABAMA
December 1, 2012Richmond High School
ALABAMA – 32
GEORGIA - 28
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Alabama head coach Nick Saban and MVP Eddie Lacy. We'll ask for an opening comment and then Eddie Lacy.
COACH SABAN: Well, I really couldn't be prouder of a team, not only for the way they competed in this game, the way they came back in the game on several occasions, twice in the game, overcome a lot of adversity; the competitive character that they showed out there against a very, very good Georgia team. I mean, I couldn't be prouder.
But I also couldn't be prouder of what this team has accomplished this season. You know, we had a young team coming back. We really only have nine seniors on the team, and a lot of people had new roles, and for this team to now have a chance to go back to the National Championship Game is a little unprecedented, which you know, they could have taken the idea that, hey, we won last year, we can take it easy this year but this team made a commitment, did a lot of hard work, so it's a challenge that the coaches accepted and the players accepted and I just can't be prouder of a group of guys.
We kind of had that, I would?not?be?denied attitude out there today. I'm not saying we played our best football game of the year in terms of execution, but the way we were able to run the ball, especially in the second half, was probably the difference in the game. And the offensive line, the two running backs, Eddie, did a fantastic job.
This conference will test your mettle. There is a lot of good teams in this conference. We beat a really good team out there today. We really couldn't handle their pass rush and it was difficult for us to throw the ball, but you have to give our offensive line a lot of credit for getting a hand on a hat and doing a great job of blocking so that we could run the football so we could run for 350 yards and come back in the game a couple times.
It's a great win for the University of Alabama and our players and team and our coaches and our entire administration and all of the people that support our program. We are really pleased and happy that we are a part of what we have been able to accomplish, and obviously we want to enjoy this for a little while but we have some big challenges ahead now, as well.
EDDIE LACY: I think we came out and played great. It wasn't our best game like Coach said, but we was able to stay and weather the storm. Our offensive line did a great job blocking and making holes for T.J. and I. AJ did a great job passing. Coop did a great job as well. It was a good game, a hard?fought game and we knew we had to play hard for 60 and we came out and did it.
Q. On the touchdown drive, it seemed like some of those were the biggest holes that you've seen all season, maybe a credit to your offensive line did, it feel that way to you?
EDDIE LACY: Yeah, that's how I felt, offensive line, they made big holes for T.J. and I and we was able to hit it for big gains.
Q. Talk about how this was worth the wait and what you learned watching those guys.
EDDIE LACY: When you're playing behind Ingram, you can't do nothing but learn. They played on this stage and they played on the next stage, as well. Watching them you have to know to be poised and know that things are not going to go right all the time but we are in a position where we are able to make big plays to get the momentum on our side. So from sitting behind them and watching them, that's what I learned being able to take it into this game.
Q. When you saw Mark after the game; what did he say to you?
EDDIE LACY: He just told me congratulations and that I did a great job running and it was the best he's ever seen me run and things like that.
Q. After the last touchdown, you had to stand on the sidelines and watch the defense play with the game on the line. What's going through your mind and what are your emotion the at that time?
EDDIE LACY: Just nervous. Just hope we get the stop, you know. I mean, there's only one emotion. But at the same time, you have to be confident and know that they are going to make that stop for us and that's basically how I felt.
Q. After the A&M loss, did you ever think this moment would be possible?
EDDIE LACY: After that loss as a team, we just had to stay focused and we wasn't worried about the outcome of other games. We just worried about what we had to take care of and the chips fell where they fell because we played the way we were supposed to, the next few games, we were able to end up here.
Q. As a coach, is there a particular level of pride that you take in having a team come back from three deficits in a single game and stay the course the way this team did tonight?
COACH SABAN: Well, I think it's really a credit to the competitive character of the players. We tell them that this is kind of what we are training you to do; to have the mental toughness and the physical toughness to overcome adversity and persevere things when they don't go right in the game and focus on playing the next play.
I think that's what our players did in this game today, and you know, I think the fact that we can move the ball offensively and get back into the game at 21?18 was really, really huge.
Again, we didn't come out and start the second half very well on defense. You know, Georgia put a great drive together, and we missed some tackles and didn't play as physical as we need to. But you know, our offense did a fantastic job of moving the ball in the second half. I think that was a real key for us. I think when your offense plays well, you know, it sort of controls the tempo and the momentum of the game for you a little bit. And I think that's what happened for us today.
Q. I believe you've said that this team doesn't have any star power; it's not the most talented team you've ever had as a coach but would you put it right up there at the top in terms of its resilience and for lack of a better word, it's pluckiness?
COACH SABAN: Well, I think that based on what this team has been able to accomplish and what this team has done ?? and we have some good players. I don't ever want anybody to think that I don't have a tremendous amount of respect for the good players that we have.
We have a little different kind of team. We have a really good offensive line, good runners, good quarterback, some good receivers. We have had some guys injured.
Defensively, we are probably not as good and talented as we have been in the past. But you know, this team really plays together well. It's a team that kind of trusts and respects the principles and values of what we try to promote and teach in terms of competitive character, positive attitude, being responsible for your own self?determination, hard work. I mean, this group has been fantastic when it comes to all those things, and I'm just incredibly proud and happy for them that they were able to accomplish something of significance, and something that last year's team didn't accomplish, which is win the SEC Championship.
Q. How do you describe Eddie's performance? Some of his teammates says it's the best they have seen him run.
COACH SABAN: He was pretty relentless the way he was competing in the game, no question about that. Very physical runner and made it difficult for them to tackle him and made it difficult for the defensive backs to tackle them. Our offensive line does a good job of making some of those holes but Eddie did a very good job of finishing those runs and being very physical as a player.
Eddie did a fine a job as anybody has ever done for us in terms of the way he played today.
Q. You played a lot of players in your past, that seems to be your trend, but haven't you played more this year, going down to your twos and threes more than you have in the past?
COACH SABAN: We lost more players for the year this year than at any time that I've been coaching. And, you know, every guy that has had to play has stepped up and done a good job.
Some of them had to play before they were ready to play. But I think that the older players on the team supported them and I think that's very, very helpful to them developing the kind of confidence that you need to be able to compete in a game like this.
I think that things that happen in a game, and how things affect people mentally, just like when we thought we intercepted the ball at the end of the game?? all right, when we went back out there and played defense, it was a completely different mind?set than we had in terms of what we had prior to that happening. Everybody thought we won the game and everybody is sort of celebrating on the sidelines and now you have to go back and really make some critical plays and critical stops. It takes a tremendous amount of maturity to re?center yourself and put yourself in the right psychological disposition to compete and we gave them three bang?bang plays where we put them down there where they had an opportunity to score.
But I think all those things show maturity in players and that's how players learn and our players will obviously learn from some of those experiences that they had today good, and bad and get better from it.
Q. The way the game unfolded with the momentum swings, was this pretty much a perfect example of how difficult it is to win this league and this Championship Game?
COACH SABAN: Well, you know, I don't think there's any question about it. When you have six teams in the Top?10, my sister did the math on that. That's 60 percent. (Laughter).
She also said, "Why does only 20 percent get to go to the BCS?"
I'm going to tell you, that I think it's a crying shame if Georgia doesn't get to go to a BCS Bowl game. They should get to go to a BCS Bowl game. They played a tremendous game out there today. That was a great football game by both teams. And they could have won at the end just as soon as us, and it came right down to the last play.
So I mean, I think it's ridiculous.
I watch teams playing that are 7?5 that are talking about they might go to a BCS game because they won their championship? Something's not right here. I don't know what people think of the SEC, we have a great program and great teams and a great commissioner that has done a great job of promoting our team through the years and we have a great TV contract. I don't think it's fair to the Georgia players, coaches and their institution if they don't go to a BCS game.
You didn't really ask me that question, did you? (Laughter) You gave me an opportunity to give that answer. I appreciate it.
Q. You mentioned how your success running the ball was the difference in the ballgame, had to have been a difference on the last touchdown past. Do you feel Georgia came up maybe a little bit further in the box there on that last play? Is that why you decided to go deep?
COACH SABAN: Right, well, they did. They actually?? when we were running the ball early on, they were playing split safeties and we were in slot formation most of the time. Even though they were in an eight?man front of sorts, it's not like when you play man?to?man and actually put another guy in the box.
So they started playing an eight?man front and actually putting another guy in the box, which means they were playing single coverage with a middle of the field safety with the two guys in the slot. We were going to take a shot the first play of that series. I said, let's try to take the clock and the game, make a first down or two, and then take one, and they kept playing that same thing, trying to stop the run.
So it was a big play on third and 5? to get a first down running the ball. We would have gone for it on fourth down there I think for sure. Then we took the shot and AJ made a great throw and Coop made a great catch.
Q. You've got NotreDame coming up next. You just won the SEC title. I'm wondering you personally, how long will you celebrate this win? How long will you let it soak in and when will you start preparing for NotreDame personally?
COACH SABAN: You're asking a lot of tough questions there. First of all, you know, we have our team banquet tomorrow night, so my focus right now is to sort of give our players the positive self?gratification and recognition that they deserve for what they have accomplished in this season to this point.
You know, we usually don't practice our way to a game. I don't even know what the date of the game is; I'll look at the calendar sometime tomorrow and I'll do a schedule and we probably won't practice for a couple of weeks. Then we'll practice so many practices and go play the game.
And I'm not going to get ready to play them until we start practicing. So I've got a couple weeks, I think. That's how we've done it when we played all these games. You know, you can't practice your way to the game. It's too long. The players get, you know, too stale and too bored with it. So it's a one?game season.
So that's how we try to approach it. I'm pretty good at not answering questions (Laughter).
Q. Are you saying you would like to see the SEC have more than two teams in the BCS, just do away with the limit of two rule?
COACH SABAN: I don't know. I think that some kind of way?? I thought the BCS Bowl games were supposed to get the best teams in the game. So now it's all about the conferences sharing the money.
But I still think they can share the money however they want. It's not a financial decision. It's a player decision and reinforcing the players in a positive way for the great season they had. Florida should go to the BCS game, too. If you only lost one game in this league, you should be in a BCS game. If you got in this game, you should be in a BCS game.
Q. And on the decision to go for the two?point conversion in the third quarter, what went into your??
COACH SABAN: I always say, go for it late in the third quarter or the fourth quarter. That's kind of our philosophy.
So, you know, it was late in the third quarter. There's four minutes to go or something like that in the third quarter. So got the numbers in our favor.
Q. When you were down 21?10, did you feel at all that the momentum had shifted and there might be a problem?
COACH SABAN: When I saw that No.9 running down the field with a blocked field goal, I said, yeah, that's a problem (laughter). It was a problem the way we blocked the field goal protection; so that he blocked it, and it was a problem that they ran it for a touchdown and we got behind by 11 points.
But you know, I told the offensive players, all we had to do was score one time to get back in the game. You know, the defense made a couple stops?? the biggest stop of the game to me was when they got the ball back with 3:52 to go and we sacked them and got off the field.
Now we didn't make a first down and we didn't milk the clock. But attention to detail and doing little things right, I know y'all don't want to hear this stuff but we are playing 33 zone so they can't get out of bounds. And we let the guy get out of bounds twice over there without a first down. We tackle the guy in?bounds one time and the game is over because it will take them 25, 30 seconds to get the next play going by the time they regroup and run back to the formation and all that kind of stuff.
So all those little things add up to the opportunity that they had at the end of the game. And you know, our players need to learn and execute things?? like I told them, the most important thing in this game was to execute the plan. The second most important thing was to have a relentless competitive attitude that you will not be denied what you want and you will have to play 60 minutes in the game and it will be like a heavyweight boxing match and you have to punch your way right to the 15th round. And that's what they did.
Q. At senior day they said this is most successful senior class, ever, at the University of Alabama, just wondering if you can comment about the opportunity that they have here with one game left to go.
COACH SABAN: Well, you know, I am very proud of our senior class, but there are other guys that would be in this class if they weren't first?round draft picks who made a significant contribution to this class, as well.
And you know, these guys, a lot of these guys came to Alabama when we weren't worth a hoot. We were 7?6 going to the Independence Bowl. Rinaldi asked me the other day what's the biggest difference between going to the Independence Bowl or a game like this, I said, people like you don't come and interview you when you go to the Independence Bowl. You don't get that kind of star power.
I'm really proud of what this class has been able to accomplish and they have sort of an unprecedented opportunity to accomplish something of significance with the next game that we play. But again, that game is going to get decided on how we play, and we can't get outcome oriented, and I thought we got that way today; rather than just going into the game and competing like we need to compete and playing every play one play at a time like it has a history and life of its own. Thought we did it in the second half, especially on offense. There's a lot of things that we did today that we need to improve on, and Georgia should be getting a lot of credit for the way they played in the game because they did a fantastic job.
Q. You've been talking about how more SEC teams need to get into the BCS; do you think Florida deserves to play for the national title more than NotreDame? If you were setting that matchup, do you think they deserve it?
COACH SABAN: You know what, I don't want to get into all that. We are going to have a playoff. We had a playoff today. I've been to three National Championship games with Alabama and we had to play our way into every one of them. We played Florida here and lost when we were 1 and 2 and they won the championship. We played Florida here the next year and we won and we won the championship. Now here we go again, we had to play to get in the game today, the No. 3 team in the country, so we had our own playoff.
I love the competitive venue, this is great. But what does that mean. And I think, you know, Florida has got a doggone good team, I really do. So until we have four teams playing in a playoff, you really won't know. And then we'll have a big two?hour ESPN show on the four teams that didn't get in that could have got in, should have got in and all that. We'll still have that. But I think in most cases you'll get the four best teams playing in the game, and I think that's going to be good for college football.