TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) - Alabama coach Nick Saban says some of his players were believing the hype and buying into all the accolades being heaped on the Crimson Tide .
The result was a dose of humility. The eighth-ranked Crimson Tide began preparation Monday for the Mississippi game having finally seen its 19-game winning streak end. Now, Bama learns about life on the rebound after a 35-21 loss at South Carolina.
Saban says despite all the attention Alabama is "not the best team in the country" and has proved nothing so far.
Tailback Mark Ingram says some of the players who hadn't lost a game with the Tide started to believe they could just show up and win "because we're Alabama."
South Carolina shredded Alabama's defense, made the running game a nonfactor and sacked quarterback Greg McElroy seven times.
NICK SABAN 10/11 NEWS CONFERENCE
"I've stood here before you just about every week that I've been up here, which I think is since we started, and I always talk about improving as a team. Everybody, individually and collectively, doing the things that you need to do to make yourself better so you can play to a standard, so you can be the best you can be at what you do. Sometimes that's very difficult to do, especially if you're satisfied with the success you've had to that point. It doesn't become about playing to a standard, it becomes about winning a game. I know to fans, that's probably the only thing that is important, but to competitors and football players, and really players in any sport, it's always about aspiring to be the best that you can be and focusing on the things that you need to do daily in terms of preparation, in terms of practice, in terms of how you take care of yourself, in terms of the intensity that you're ready to compete with when the game comes, which we all have to be responsible for. Everybody has to be accountable to a standard and the question is 'What is everyone doing to impact the success, to impact the standard, individually and collectively?' That starts at the top with me all the way down to the players and we need to continue to work on getting better, playing with more maturity, being more consistent in what we do, which I think comes with maturity, those two probably go hand-in-hand, but that's what our team needs to do. You make errors at critical times in the game then you don't end up making the stops that you need to make or making the plays you need to make on offense to have a chance to be successful in the game. Between third down, red area, fourth-and-two, when we had a chance to stop them on defense, we never made the plays to do it. On offense we moved the ball effectively most of the game but when we got in the red zone we were unable to make the plays to come away with the kind of points that we could have, and that's really the difference in the game and there's really nothing else to talk about.
"Players of the week – Julio (Jones) had an outstanding game. Josh Chapman and Marcell Dareus did a nice job up front on defense. Wesley Neighbors, Cade Foster and Trent Richardson played really well on special teams.
"Julio Jones hurt his hand in the game. Nobody really knew it was broken. He played the whole game – it was broken in the first half – played the entire game with it. When he was x-rayed Saturday evening we decided, the doctor decided, the best thing to do was to plate it and screw it. He did have a fractured hand that was surgically repaired. The prognosis for it is as soon as he can tolerate … That may be three or four days, it may be a week, I don't know, but on Wednesday we'll probably assess where he is and obviously go from there. He played the whole game with it so it may or may not be an issue but we can't really tell right now. D.J. Fluker has got a pretty severe groin injury that will probably keep him out at least a week, if not longer, depending on how he responds to treatment. Courtney Upshaw will probably be slowed for a day or two. Chris Jordan is still recovering from a hamstring injury; he really didn't play last week but hopefully he'll be better this week. That's probably the extent of the injuries we have right now.
"Anytime you play Ole Miss it's a tough game. Anytime you play a Houston Nutt-coached team it's a tough game. They bounced back with two quality wins. As (Jeremiah) Masoli has gotten more comfortable with their offense they have been very, very productive and one of the leading teams in the country in terms of scoring points. In the last two weeks they've put up 55 and 42 points so this is a different kind of offense. There are a lot of options, a lot of reads, a lot of different formation variables, a lot of different personnel groups. Defensively they've got five or six guys back. They've got two really good defensive tackles. This is a team that has gotten better, really bounced back and playing better right now. We know from our experience in playing against them in the past that it's always a difficult preparation. The key to it is going to be how we respond, how we prepare, how guys respond to doing the things that they need to do to continue improve so that we give ourselves a better chance to be successful in the future. Consistency in performance is a big part of being successful."
On wide receivers Darius Hanks and Marquis Maze:
"They did a great job in the game. I thought we had some guys open and couldn't get them the ball at times because of pressure. I thought those guys did a really good job. Hanks had one he could have caught that he missed over the middle early in the game, but that may be a first for him for the entire season. Those guys are playing extremely well. Some of the plays that Julio usually runs in the game Maze ran and was very productive doing it. We have confidence in our other guys. Earl Alexander is healthy and playing fast and did a nice job in the game. We're pleased with that entire group."
On the performance of tight end Michael Williams this season:
"Michael Williams has played great for us all year. It is certainly a challenge for him to replace a very good player in Colin Peak that we had there last year. He is a very good blocker, has great size, he's very athletic and has good hands. We haven't utilized him in the passing game a whole bunch, but he is very capable and has been a very consistent player for us. Mike has a great attitude, has worked hard and has really done a nice job."
On how the team has responded with their demeanor after their first loss:
"I haven't seen them since after the game. They were a little upset after the game. We start our meetings today. Sunday is the players' day off, so I'll see them at 1:30 today. They might ask you after the meeting 'How did coach respond? What's his demeanor?'."
On how his 2004 LSU team recovered after their first loss off a national championship:
"2003, what is it 2010 now? Do you think I can remember this stuff from seven years ago? Kristen (Saban, his daughter) was in sixth grade, I don't remember her birthday party either. We've lost a lot of games, most people do. It's unusual to win every game that you play and I think that there are reasons for the loss and you learn from those things. How our players learn the lessons that they learn, from what they have and have not done, we build on the things that they have done and correct the things that they have not done. It's not just about this game. This is a cumulative effect of what's happened all season in terms of choices that people make, in terms of what they do and how they do it. How they improve what they do. How they develop confidence in what they do. We've got some young guys out there on defense that have been playing for six games now and we quite frankly expect them to start maturing, play with confidence, not make mental errors and be able to make adjustments that we practiced, that's our expectation. Maybe early in the season we knew that it would take time to develop, but we've had some time to develop them and people need to be accountable to the standard they need to play to. That's the same thing for every position on our team. It all goes back to the psyche of our team, is it what it needs to be? What happened last year means nothing to what happens this year. Have we had the same psychological disposition on this team towards being successful as last year's team? That's a question I'm going to ask."
On offensive line minus D.J. Fluker:
"(Alfred) McCullough will probably be the guy that will go in the game, he was the guy that went in the game. He's been sort of our swing guy, third tackle, and will move up as a starter. The offensive line did a good job in the game. We had sacks because we held on to the ball. Probably five of those sacks we had ample time to throw the ball and we tried to create plays – I'm not being critical of Greg (McElroy), he tried to create plays by moving around and scrambling in the pocket and then got sacked. Two times we did not do things the way we needed to do them and he got quick pressure and got sacked early. Everybody could have done things better. We could have played better on the offensive line. We could have played better at every position on our team and that's going to be the focus is trying to improve on the things that we weren't able to do effectively in the game."
On the standard and knowing if the guys are playing to it:
"Who you are is who you are every day. How do you practice? How do you decide to do things? What choices do you make about how you do things? How important is it for you to do things the right way? And that all carries over into how you're going to play in the game on Saturday so all these things are important. Everybody needs to focus, be accountable and be responsible for doing the things that they need to do to improve. I've been saying this every week, all year. This is not new, it's not a new message. It just happens to be after we lost everybody is willing to listen because you all are like everybody else, like the fans, 'Oh he's just saying that because he's the coach. They're doing everything they're supposed to do. They won.' That doesn't mean that you're doing what you're supposed to do. That doesn't mean you're playing the best you can play. What did I say last week? At this time of the year if you're not doing things right you're going to get exposed. Well, we had some guys who got exposed, whether it's the left tackle, whether it's the right corner. What are you going to do about it? That's the question."
On the players becoming content:
"I can't speak for the players. I don't know what they think. If players did think that way, and I'm sure other players would know more than I would about how players think and what they do, that's exactly everything that I'm talking about, exactly what I'm talking about. The focus is not on what you need to do to be successful. It's drinking the Kool-Aid thinking that just because they say it on ESPN it's so. Just because you beat Florida 31-6 people start talking about you being the best team in the country. We're not the best team in the country. We had the best team in the country last year and we proved it. We proved it over 14 games. This team hasn't proven anything and that's how I feel about it."
On the few carries Richardson and Ingram had:
"When the game goes like the game went and you get behind 21-3, what is the priority? Is it to get those guys their carries or is to try to get back in the game? When you get behind 21-3 are you trying to get back in the game or are you trying to make sure Mark (Ingram) and Trent (Richardson) get their carries? What's the priority? To me it's to get back in the game. Sometimes the game determines that and sometimes, like last year when we had all the yards against South Carolina rushing, it's because we were ahead of the game and we were taking the air out of it because they couldn't stop us from running the ball so someone gained 200-plus yards. It was different circumstances in the game. We have a game plan to utilize all our players. We have lots of good players. We have three really good receivers, three really good runners, and I think we have to utilize all those things and take what the defense gives us. If they're going to have the defense up there to stop us from running the ball and we need to throw the ball to beat them, then we have to do that. It's not about this guy's going to carry the ball this many times and that guy's going to carry the ball that many times. No matter what, that's hard to do and we want those guys to make a lot of plays. Whether they're catching the ball, whether they're running the ball, they have to do their share so that other players can be successful when it comes to their blocking and being a complete player at their position."
On forgetting a loss being as easy as forgetting a win:
"I would hope that it isn't. We have to move on. It's over and done with. There's nothing we can do to get it back. Whatever the players didn't bring is gone forever so we have to learn from it. It's a great lesson to learn from and that's what we're focused on moving forward. Our attention needs to be on Ole Miss and what we can learn from the experiences that we had so that we can improve and get better, no more and no less. If you're a great competitor the loss doesn't just go away."
On DeMarcus Milliner and what he needs to do to get better:
"All of the young players on defense need to play with more toughness, aggressiveness, competitive spirit, confidence, and it's about being able to overcome adversity in the game. If something bad happens, being able to make adjustments and not be affected by the circumstances around you. I think it would be unfair to say that one player has to do that. I think we have a number of players on defense that need to do that and when you get everybody doing that, it develops a chemistry and continuity that everybody believes in everybody else and trusts each other. That helps everybody play better because everyone trusts that the other guys will do their job. We need more responsibility and accountability on the defense because a lot of the young players on defense that we have need to show maturity."
#12 Greg McElroy, Quarterback
On what the last two days have been like for him:
"It has just been disappointing. I have tried not to be alone as much as possible. When you surround yourself with people you care about, it makes the time go by a little bit faster, but I have just been disappointed. Every athlete is going to experience some type of letdown in their career, so I think it is the great athletes that can bounce back and see how they respond the following week."
On how much he has replayed his decisions throughout the game:
"Of course the game has been on my mind non-stop. We usually have a 24 hour rule for the wins, but the losses seem to linger a little bit longer. I have replayed decisions and I have replayed plays and thought what if we did this here or that there and what might have been different. I think everybody was just really disappointed with what happened, but it seems to provide a lot of opportunities to learn and grow. It should allow this team to really grow over the next couple of weeks."
On how being down 21-3 impacted the offense:
"I don't think it put a lot of pressure on me. I think, being in that situation, we tried to throw the ball a little bit more and had some success through the air. We know we have to capitalize when we get down in the red zone, and we have to limit mistakes when we get down there as well. It is just disappointing. I can't say that word enough. I think that is probably my most common term used over the last couple of days. At the same time, it is just going to give us an opportunity to grow."
On if he has talked to wide receiver Julio Jones about his injury:
"Yeah, I saw him in the training room this morning. He was still a little out of it after the surgery. He is just a warrior, and he will be back. He will give his best effort to get back onto the field as soon as possible. We are looking forward to having him back. He has made some big plays for us. We didn't have to do much in the Florida game, but if you look at the South Carolina game, he made some great plays and had some pretty big numbers. Our timing has been good and we are clicking pretty well, so it is disappointing to lose him, but hopefully he will be back soon."
#22 Mark Ingram, Running Back
On how having one loss changes the rest of the season:
"Our main focus is that we can still do the things that we want to do as a team. We can still win the division and have a chance to play for the SEC Championship. We still control our own destiny as far as that goes. Our main focus is just getting better. It is gut check time, and everybody needs to improve."
On what he did yesterday:
"I just relaxed and hung out. I didn't really do too much. I didn't watch the game yet. Coach gave us the day off, so we will handle all of that today. We will watch all of the film and make the adjustments and corrections."
On if he knew Julio Jones was hurt during the game:
"No, I didn't know he was hurt until after the game. He is tough and he always pushed through everything. Even if he is hurt, he probably wouldn't tell anyone until after the game. He always pushes through pain and makes big plays for us. It didn't look like he was hurt at all."
On what the South Carolina defense did differently from other defenses this season:
"They had two weeks to prepare, and they had a good game plan, which they executed. Obviously their No. 1 thing was to stop the run and make us throw the ball to win. They were successful at stopping the run. We just didn't execute well on offense. We have to get back to the drawing board and start from scratch again."
On if falling behind 21-3 limited the running game:
"Whatever Coach calls, we just have to execute, whether it is a run or a pass. That is the main thing. We don't question the calls, we just try to go out and execute the calls."
#57 Marcell Dareus, Defensive Lineman
On how he thinks the team will respond coming off of a loss:
"We are just going to go to practice and work hard. We are just going to go out there and try to capitalize on Saturday."
On how motivated the defense is after giving up 35 points:
"We just had a lot of blown assignments. We have to go out there and capitalize on those assignments. We have to get that down as a team. We just need to work together."
On the defense missing several tackles against South Carolina:
"We just had a lot of blown assignments. Those are those little things we have to critique and get better at them. Coach Saban has always spoken about missed tackles and blown assignments, which are things we messed up during the game."
On the importance of the defense starting the game off well:
"Coach Saban talks to us every day about starting the game off strong and finishing strong. I don't think we have played a complete game yet as a defense. From the first snap to the last, we have to play to the best of our ability. We have to start the game off strong, so we are really going to work on that this week and the rest of the season."
On the defense's struggles to get stops on third down against South Carolina:
"It was crazy, but we are going to get better at that. There are just so many things we have to work on individually and as a team. There is a lot we have to do, and Coach Saban will get with us and have a lot in store for us."