Because of lack of communication from the officials with what down it was, Alabama ultimately ran a quarterback sneak on third-and-5 on a drive in the third quarter, which wouldn't have made sense for a play call on that distance.
Nick Saban explained his view on the situation after No. 12 Alabama (3-1, 1-0 SEC) defeated No. 16 Ole Miss (3-1, 0-1) by a score of 24-10 on Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
"I got hot about that one," Saban said. "Most of the time, the guy who marks the ball will signal first down. He came and marked the ball, and when they put their hand down, it's like it's short. We assumed it was short. Called a quarterback sneak, which cost us a down. We tried to do it fast before they could line up. Then, all of a sudden, right when we're snapping the ball, they're moving the chains. The chains didn't move until we were snapping the ball. Now, the referee says I signaled first down. I said, 'Why didn't the guy spotting the ball signal first down?' That was another one of those ... when something like that happens, the football gods aren't with you. It's just a miscommunication. We did not think in the press box the guy made a first down. Most of the time, it's right away, it's a first down. Then the guy running the ball didn't signal first down. It's bad on our part. If we weren't trying to go fast, we would have been able to recover the situation, and that costs us really, and we had to kick the field goal."
The point differential didn't end up costing Alabama the game in the long run as the Crimson Tide won by 14. Still, the score could have been greater if not for the blunder.
"When it was second down at the 16, the 5-yard gain from Alabama, at the 11-yard line was really a first down,” rules analyst Gene Steratore said on CBS. “The down-box indicators moving near that stakes showing third (down), it was actually first. And that is what upset Coach Saban naturally, because he thought he had third-and-inches when he ran the quarterback sneak, and it was really a first down and 10 from the 11 when they ran the sneak. So they missed that down there as far as the communication as to what down that was.”
Nick Kelly covers Alabama football and men's basketball for The Tuscaloosa News, part of the USA TODAY Network. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him @_NickKelly on X, the social media app formerly known as Twitter.
This article originally appeared on The Tuscaloosa News: Nick Saban discusses officials costing Alabama football a down vs. Ole Miss