Alabama will once again have its work cut out for it on the road this weekend when the Crimson Tide travels to Oxford to take on the Ole Miss Rebels.
There are plenty of storylines to follow heading into the SEC West battle and the mindset of the Crimson Tide may be the most important.
With SEC and national title chances nearly out of the question, it is important for the pride of the program to finish the season strong.
On Monday, head coach Nick Saban addressed the media as the Crimson Tide begin its preparations for Lane Kiffin and the Rebels. Here is everything coach Saban had to say:
“I think the No. 1 thing we want to focus on … I know some people have written us off to some degree but at the same time I think we have a lot of pride as an organization. I think we need to get focused on what it takes to win games. Play the game. Win the game. Prepare for the game. Know you’re going to go into the game with confidence and understanding of what you need to do to be able to have success in your position, which is something that we need to do a better job of as coaches so that players feel that way in the game. We’ve had four games that have come down to, basically, the last play of the game. We won two of them and we lost two of them by a total of four points, and we didn’t execute down the stretch the way we need to. So I don’t know what that is, but we have to get away from that because great players and great competitors rise to the occasion and make the plays they need to make at critical times in the game when you’re best is needed and certainly we need to do a better job of that and I think it’s a challenge for all of us to have pride. We’re going to play a good team this week, and I’m sure they’re going to want to put up on their mantle ‘we beat Alabama,’ too. So it’s just a matter of whether we’re going to let that happen or we’re going to go do everything we can to try to avoid it because Ole Miss has a really good team.
“Lane’s (Kiffin) done a great job there. The are one of the best running teams in the country. They’ve won eight games so they’re really, really good all the way around. They play good on defense. They’re hard to score on. They’ve got really good players, good receivers, good running backs, quarterback is playing well for them. They’re aggressive on defense so and they play good on special teams. This is a really good team. They wouldn’t have won eight games; they wouldn’t be 8-1 right now if they weren’t a really good team. So we have to get ready for the challenge.”
On the Lane Kiffin offense
“Well, I mean, they do a really good job with formation multiples, motions, trying to get the defense to adjust and then they’re basically running — they’ve got really good running plays but they’re running those same plays out of all those different multiples, which trying to put different players in different positions so you make a mistake, you have a gap open and they hit a play on you. So this is one of those where you have to have 11 guys on the same page doing the right things or they’re going to find a way to get to you. They make a lot of explosive plays in the passing game because they’re a very good running team, which is not abnormal because you have to play to stop the run. They do a good job of taking shots off of those running plays so that’s what makes it very difficult.”
On his evaluation of the offense and Bill O'Brien
“Look, there’s things we need to better in every part of our organization. I’m not gonna analyze somebody publicly, good, bad or indifferent. We’re all working hard together, we’re all responsible for what we do. Do we need to play better on both sides of the ball? Absolutely. We gotta play better up front. We gotta make less mistakes overall, organizationally, and there’s not a coach or a player in this organization that can’t do things better to help our players have a better chance to be successful. And I think the players themselves also have to be accountable and go out there and do things that they’re supposed to do, especially at critical times in a game.”
On the 'Bama Standard
“First of all, I don’t think it’s really fair to the team to create the kind of expectations that it created for the team before they ever have a body of work, but that’s kind of the nature of the beast in this day in age. I think being able to handle that – not putting pressure on yourself to try to live up to that expectation – sort of creates a lot of anxiety in some cases. You put pressure on yourself, whatever it is, which means you’re really focused on outcomes, not process.
“I think that’s the biggest thing that we gotta get our players back to doing. When I say ‘You got to focus on what it takes to win and enjoy winning’ that’s what I’m talking about. Not the pressure to win and then the relief when you win, rather than the joy that you won. There’s a difference in all that. I’m not blaming anybody for it, it is what it is, but you gotta be able to handle that and not let it affect you. I’ve done, I guess, a pretty average job of getting our players out of that mode.
“The pyramid downstairs doesn’t say ‘Win the SEC Championship,’ it doesn’t say ‘Win the National Championship,’ it says ‘Be a Champion,’ and these are the things that you have to do to be a champion. If you can do those things, you have a chance to win a championship. So if you’re focus is on the championship, are you really focused on doing the things you need to do to get there? And I would say that’s the thing that we need to do a better job of focusing on.”
On Bryce Young's limitations in practice and performance at LSU
“All indications in terms of what he says to us, to me, to the medical staff, is that he feels good. That he’s fine. I guess you would have to ask him to really get a sense of how he feels. But he is telling us that he is fine. He said he was fine at practice relative to what he did.
“But, look, we need to do a better job around Bryce. We’ve got to protect him better. We can’t let people push the pocket on him. We’ve got to do a better job of running routes so that we have trust that the people are going to do exactly what they’re supposed to do. And then we’ve got to read it out and throw it to the right guy.
“That was the goal going into the game, and that’s something that we all need to do a better job of.”
On the defense not being locked in (2-point play in OT)
“We were in dime personnel because they had receivers in the game. And they went to two tight ends and two wide receivers, which we wanted to play that in regular. So that’s why we had to change personnel. We had to do it from the time they ran on the field as they’re over there in the huddle. But that wasn’t the issue. We were lined up. We were ready to play. We played what we were supposed to play.
“We just needed to tackle the guy a yard shorter than what he made. So that wasn’t an issue.”
On his assessment of the coordinators in-game performances
“I hear every play that’s called. I hear every defense that’s called. And I have the right to veto every one of those things. Do I think coordinators are in an important position of leadership and have a huge impact in preparation for a game? I don’t think there’s any question about that. I don’t think anybody would question that. But ultimately the responsibility for what happens on the field comes down to me, aright, because I have the right when we’re planning to say we need to do more of this or we need to do more of that.
“And also have the right to say we’re doing too much. We’re not doing enough. We’re not taking advantage of this. Is this too complicated for the players? So that’s all on me. Now, are we all responsible to some degree? I think anybody in a leadership role in the organization is responsible. Everybody has to be responsible and accountable for their role. I’ve kind of defined those roles, but the ultimate responsibility is with whoever’s in charge.”
On why Terrion Arnold was absent at LSU
“He was sick. He had the flu. He missed Tuesday through Friday practice. Kind of got better but hadn’t practiced all week and was still feeling pretty weak. So that’s the reason he didn’t make the trip.”
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