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What Nick Saban said after Michigan football beat Alabama in the Rose Bowl

PASADENA, Calif. — They said it couldn’t be done. Michigan football couldn’t beat a Nick Saban-coached Alabama team that had a month to prepare. They said that the Wolverines couldn’t win against an SEC team in the College Football Playoff — or win in the playoff at all.

Yet, the Wolverines looked the better team for much of the Rose Bowl, though momentum shifted in the third quarter toward the Tide. Michigan came back, tying the game late in the fourth before winning, 27-20, in overtime.

After the game, a somber Saban took the podium to discuss why the maize and blue were able to overcome the Crimson Tide, praising the job the Wolverines did in the Rose Bowl. Here is everything he had to say:

Opening statement

Photo: Isaiah Hole
Photo: Isaiah Hole

Well, obviously we’re very disappointed about the outcome of the game. I don’t think we played great in the first half, but I was really, really proud of the way our players played in the second half.

We just didn’t finish the last four minutes of the game like we would like to, and we’re all very disappointed, and the players are disappointed, as well.

But one thing that I told them in the locker room after the game, this is one of the most amazing seasons in Alabama football history in terms of where this team came from, what they were able to accomplish and what they were able to do, winning the SEC Championship, and really, really proud of this group.

I just wish that I could have done more as a coach to help them be successful and help them finish, and all we can do now is learn from the lessons that sometimes failings bring to us.

Playing in the Rose Bowl

Photo: Isaiah Hole
Photo: Isaiah Hole

Yeah, I grew up in the Big Ten, coached in the Big Ten for 12 years, and it was win the Big Ten Championship and go to the Rose Bowl. That was always special.

We’ve had several opportunities to do it, but this is a great atmosphere here today. It was a great football game. Congratulations to Michigan. They played a really good game.

I just wish that we could have finished a little better, but it was a great experience for our players, and we really appreciate all the Rose Bowl folks who did a wonderful job of creating some really, really fine hospitality for us all week long.

Why this was one of Alabama's best seasons despite losing to Michigan football

Photo: Isaiah Hole
Photo: Isaiah Hole

Well, I just think that I don’t look at it necessarily from winning and losing, you won the championship, you can’t win the championship. As a coach, you’re always trying to get your team to improve and be the best that they can be, and I think this team probably improved from the South Florida game and the Texas game early in the season as much as any team I’ve ever coached.

That takes a lot of hard work. A lot of people being very committed to doing things that they need to do to self-assess and improve their game, and all these players bought in on this team and did it in first-class fashion.

That’s why I think for me as a coach, maybe not for everybody else, it’s one of the teams that I’ll always remember the most and always be the most proud of.

On Michigan getting pressure in the first half

Photo: Isaiah Hole
Photo: Isaiah Hole

Well, not one particular thing. There was a couple times where we could have redirected the protection, which we kind of put on the O-line to a large degree, and we didn’t do it.

A couple times the shot clock was running down and we didn’t get a chance to do it, and a couple times we didn’t fan and mis-executed up front in terms of getting the right guys blocked when we were in the right protection.

It was a combination of several things. I thought we did a better job in the second half, but we didn’t give Jalen an opportunity to make some plays, nor our receivers to make some plays down the field, which was a big part of this game.

On the final play of the game

Photo: Isaiah Hole
Photo: Isaiah Hole

We called three plays. One they called timeout, one we called timeout and the last one that didn’t work. The fact that it didn’t work made it a really bad call. You know what I mean?

But we called timeout because we had a bad look. We had a good look on the first one. They must have known it.

But Tommy just felt like the best thing that we could do was have a quarterback run, which was kind of our two-point play, one of our two-point plays for this game.

The ball was on the 3-yard line, which is just like a two-point play, but we didn’t get it blocked so it didn’t work. We didn’t execute it very well, and it didn’t work.

They pressured and we thought they would pressure, but we thought we could gap them and block them and make it work, and it didn’t.

On special teams in the game

Photo: Isaiah Hole
Photo: Isaiah Hole

I think special teams did a good job tonight. We did a good job of controlling field position. I think both specialists did a really, really good job. James did a great job of punting.

They had time to maybe go two-minute at the end of the game, and the fact that Christian bobbled the 2-yard line or 1-yard line or whatever was really, really good.

Will made some huge kicks, what, two around 50-yard field goals. They missed a field goal, which put us in great position to have a chance to be successful at the end of the game.

But us not finishing a couple drives, and if you really analyze the game, one of the biggest things is we didn’t play well enough on defense when we needed to, and the second thing is we had too many drive-stopping plays on offense. I mean, we shot ourselves in the foot. A sack is a drive-stopping play. Getting a penalty usually is a drive-stopping play.

Some of those things we self-inflicted. I told the players after the game, I told them before the game it’s going to be about what we do, and when you look back at it, it’s kind of about what we did and what we didn’t do.

Not taking anything away from Michigan. They played a great game. They’ve got a good team. They’re really well-coached and wish them the best of luck in the future, but we could have done things a little better, as well. That’s on me, on the coaches. It’s not anybody else.

Appreciate what the media has done all year long. It’s great you create a lot of interest in our sport. Thank you for that.

Story originally appeared on Wolverines Wire