Transcript: Nick Saban's Monday news conference after LSU

File Photo: Nick Saban
File Photo: Nick Saban

TUSCALOOSA, AL (WSFA) - Head Coach Nick Saban

Opening statement:

"I'm going to make one statement about the last game and then we're moving on. Our focus is someplace else. This last game, there's a lot to be learned. There are a lot of lessons to be learned. We played hard in the game.  We competed hard.  It was a physical game.  Everybody wanted to win the game and did the best they could from an effort, toughness and intensity standpoint. When you really look at it closely, the fundamental execution for what we needed to do to get the execution of some of the things you need to do to beat good teams, which we were certainly playing a good team, we didn't do. The whole idea is paying attention to detail, doing the little things right, all the things we tried to get everyone to focus on all last week, is exactly what we need to do to improve as a team. I hope that we learn and correct those things, so that we can move forward in a positive way. We can't do anything about what happened in that game other than what happens in the future, and what we can learn from it. That's exactly what we're going to try to focus on."

"We're playing against a very good team this week. Regardless of what their record is, they've only lost to ranked teams. They've lost to ranked teams in close games. They've got a very good defensive team, and they move the ball on everybody they have played against very effectively. They have a lot of starters back from last year and a lot of experience. That's what we're focusing on, and that's what we're looking forward to. That's what we want to talk about."

"We've got a couple of guys, from an injury standpoint, that won't practice today.  Barrett Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick and Brad Smelley are guys that will not practice today. We're hopeful that—these guys are kind of day-to-day—we'll get them back, but we don't know for sure quite when. I don't have anything on that."

"This whole experience of the last weekend had a lot of positive things come from it. It was a great atmosphere to play a football game in, as fine an atmosphere as I've ever been involved in. Obviously, a lot of people got to see the game on television, which was all good for the University of Alabama and college football. We're pleased about all of that, but we're moving on. We need to do what we need to do to take care of business on things we can control. When you ask me questions about things that I have no control over, those are the kind of answers you're going to get because I am focused on the things we can control, which is how our team plays."

On linebacker Nico Johnson's production in recent games:

"Well he's playing more. First of all, he played in nickel when C.J. [Mosley] was hurt, so he got more turns to play. He's always been productive. I bet you if we go back and say, 'Okay how many does he get per the plays that he played?' I don't know if that would be an increase, but he has played more. Now C.J. is playing more back in nickel, but we played a whole bunch of regular in the last game, so he was in the game a lot more, and C.J. was not in the game very much. Other than third down, we didn't play a whole lot of nickel because they played regular people most of the time. He has played very well. I don't mean to take anything away from him, but we've always been pleased with the way he has played. His role has just increased in the last few games, and he has been more productive because of it."

On what was learned from the last game to use in preparation for Mississippi State:

"I think I already said that. I think what I said wasn't about players wanting to win. It wasn't about their effort. It wasn't about their toughness. It wasn't about their intensity. It wasn't about any of that. It was based on, in critical situations in the game – what did I say last week? See a little, see a lot. Focusing on what you need to do, lining up right, doing it exactly like you need to do it. Reading where you throw the ball, how you throw the ball, who you throw it to, at every position on the field. On the offensive line, in the defensive secondary – every position on the field. 'Were you able to focus on doing your job in a critical time in the game, like you needed to, to do it correctly?' Because that is what really gets you results.  So you got to play smart. That's what we need to take from all this."

On the team's mental state heading into the next game:

"I'll see them today at 1:15. I'm a routine guy, so every day, on Monday, we meet at 1:15, and we have a meeting at 2. Nobody here is panicking. Maybe we should have had a meeting yesterday, but we're going to have a meeting today."

On preparing for another team with a two quarterback rotation:

"I think we talked about that last week. When the two quarterbacks actually do different things when they're in the game, I think it makes a more difficult preparation. Obviously, if you watch the game, the last game, the plays they ran with one guy in the game were totally different than the other. At first, we didn't adjust to that very well, but as the game went on, we did okay. I think you have to have an awareness of what those teams are going to do in both of those situations, with both those quarterbacks, and adapt what you're doing, and practice it that way the entire week. That's what we'll try to do, but it does make it more difficult."

On what Mississippi State did to play a close game against LSU in week three:

"They play really well on defense. That keeps them in the games. They're always close and keeping in the games. LSU played well on defense against them as well. Turnovers have been some pretty telling statistics about when they turn the ball over, what their success rate is, as opposed to when they don't. I think it will be really critical in this game as well, that we have good ball security, and we're able to create some turnovers by some of the things we do defensively, and on special teams."

On defending the read-option plays by Mississippi State Quarterback Chris Relf:

"It's different, but we've practiced against this stuff quite a bit throughout the course of the year. Of course their presentation is a little bit different in terms of the formations that they do it, and how they use their personnel, and all that kind of stuff, which will be adjustments for our players to make. They are good, they do a good job of executing what they do, and I think we are going to have to be very disciplined, sound and solid in our responsibilities, versus how we try to defend it."

On the kickers heading into the next game:

"First of all, I think that it's not really fair to put this on the kickers, for anybody. We had the ball, I forget exactly the yard lines – on the 23, the 24, the 25, the 27, and maybe there was one more in there somewhere, I might be missing one, but we end up going backwards in every one of those circumstances, so it makes it a much more difficult kick, and the percentages kicking the ball from the 23 yard line, or the 24 yard line, is a lot better than they are from the 49, 50 and whatever the rest of the kicks were. Even in pro [football], for a pro kicker, to hit a high percentage of 50-yarders, and now it's like it's all about the kickers. Well what about the four plays that happened before the kicker had to go in? I want our guys to be positive and confident, and the technique that they need to use to be effective at what they do, and we need to continue to help our guys do that, so they can do a good job of not being effected by the negative things that happen."

On if he feels good about the psyche of the kickers:

"I do. I do. Just like I said 40 years ago. 'I do.'"

On linebacker Alex Watkins' return to the team from an injury:

"Alex Watkins is an amazing guy. He has been a great leader for this group and really cares about the team. He has done so many good things to affect other people, and I don't get surprised much when guys come back from injuries, but this guy never missed a day. I mean he gets his arm operated on, and a plate put in his arm, on Sunday or Saturday night, or whenever, and runs out onto the field on Monday like he's ready to practice. I said, 'Well at least put a black shirt on so you don't get hit.' He didn't do a lot for a week or 10 days, or whatever, but when he started feeling a little bit better, he started gradually getting back into things, and we were able to use him on special teams, and probably will be able to continue to increase his role this week."

On the status of running back Dee Hart:

"Well you know Dee Hart is four and a half months out from – I don't know to the day, so don't hold me to that. I mean I'm sure you could gather that information pretty easily, and he has been cleared to practice and do football related stuff for the last three or four week, and he's done that. He's getting better and better. Now he's been in a black shirt, we haven't had contact, but we just thought the next stage of development of bringing this guy back would be to dress him out for the game. Now we had no intentions of playing him in the game, but he is getting closer and closer to being ready to play in a game. This was just like another step in if we need to do that. No we probably won't do that, unless we have to do it, or need to do it, relative to the health of some other players. We're certainly not going to put him in a situation that he's not ready to physically be able to be safe in, and that's going to be up to the medical staff, but he is at that point now where he's starting to get very close to being able to come back. We don't really have any timeframe to say 'He's going to play in this game.' Or even that we would play him in that game if he was cleared to play in the game."

On running back Eddie Lacy's ongoing recovery from an injury sustained earlier in the year:

"Well I think Eddie's difficulty is how much he can practice every week. It's not when the game comes. It's probably my fault because he could play a lot more in the game than what he plays. Maybe we should play him more in the game than what he plays, but I'm sort of trying to protect him a little bit, and not play him too much, trying not to make him worse so that maybe gradually he is getting better. I know he's very anxious to play, and wants to play more, and that's how you would like to have every player from an attitude standpoint, so we just have to manage it day-to-day and week-to-week."

On speculation that the Southeastern Conference may go to a nine game conference schedule:

"I haven't thought about it. I hadn't heard about it. I don't listen to the radio, and I haven't been on the internet today, and I don't text message anybody so I didn't even know about it. I can't really respond to it until I sort of get the information and that sounds like speculation and hypothetical stuff to me, and with the decisions that I have to make, week-to-week, I would really like to just stay with the things that aren't hypothetical. I have enough mental energy going on trying to answer the real questions that we have to answer, and solve the real problems that we have without creating some."

On what can be taken from the offensive game film going into the Mississippi State game:

"When we did things correctly, we moved the ball really nicely. We had over 300 yards until the last series, when we went backwards in two-minute drill. There were some good things done. I just think there were too many occasions where we didn't do things the way they were supposed to be done, and I'm hopeful that the players will see that the importance comes in execution. Fundamental execution, is really, really important in everything that you do, and doing the little things right really do add up. Whether it's what the split is supposed to be, or whatever. I mean we run a play and gain 10 yards, and 10 yards [again] on it and then don't line up right, and let a guy come in and tackle the [ball-carrier] for a loss. After we lined up right twice. So what would you take from that? Is there any lesson in that? Like if I do it right, this is amazing. It works."

#99 Josh Chapman, Defensive Lineman

On how physical the LSU game was:

"It was a physical game. We knew coming in that those guys were going to be physical. I mean, it's the SEC. You're always going to have a physical game. Those guys kind of came out trying to run the ball, and that's going to be a physical game and we knew it."

On if he knew it was physical more the next day when he was waking up:

"Every Sunday is always a sore day, but it's about going in there, getting rehabbed, getting in the cold tub and getting your body back right. We have a physical team to play against this week."

On getting your mind right after a loss:

"You've got to let it go. I mean we are going over to Mississippi State, and they are a great team and they are physical. One thing you don't see about our guys – you don't see a lot of heads down hanging around. Those guys see the Bulldogs. Let's go out there and finish this thing strong."

On if they should make Alabama-LSU best of 10:

"It was a great game - a physically tough game and both teams came out fighting. It was a great brawl."

On linebacker Nico Johnson having 11 tackles in the LSU game and why he is playing at such a high level:

"Nico watches a lot of film. The guy likes learning, and he knows the system very well. He makes a lot of calls out there. The guy kind of improved from last year to now and you can see that he really wants it a lot for this defense, and he's going to his job. That's one thing everybody can count on. You can count on 35 to do his job."

On C.J. Mosley getting injured and if Nico Johnson looked at it like an opportunity or not:

"I mean, he kind of has. Nico is going to do anything to help the team out. On the defense he has stepped in for C.J. He and C.J. are kind of real close from what I see. They watch film together. Nico kind of teaches him. I feel that Nico looks at the things that C.J. does well to help him out also. We have a great linebacker corps. It is fun when I see a guy got 11 tackles behind me. I mean, that's fun."

On Alex Watkins playing with a broken arm:

"I've been around a lot of guys but he is one of those types of fighting guys. He's from the country – you know that. He is one of those guys whose pain is temporary, and he'll get it fixed later on in life. Right now he loves being here, and he is one of those guys that is the heart and soul of this program."

On if they talk to Alex Watkins and ask if it hurts:

"We know Alex. He could have broken both legs, and he is one of those guys that it's not going to stop him from playing."

On if part of that comes from the fact that he has been here for five years and now it's finally his turn to play:

"You can see it in Alex. The guy loves playing and he loves competing. People have different types of pain and that's one thing that he really doesn't have is pain. The guy has a broken arm and messed up knees, and it's just going to be a temporary thing."

On how the routine is different on the road versus a home game:

"The routine is pretty much the same like an early game at home. You've got to hit the road and land down there in Starkville. Those cowbells will be ringing. That's something we do in the summertime - we know those cowbells and when those Mississippi State guys hear those cowbells that's when they get their edge, but sometimes we are pumping too. Cowbells – it's a country thing and it's a country time but they have a great offensive line – those guys are big strong country guys. (Quentin) Saulsberry - my boys around there. The offensive lineman has always been a hard guy to go against in my five years here."

On people considering it an "LSU hangover" if we don't dominate Mississippi State:

"We are going to come out strong. That's one thing we have been practicing on doing. A few games ago we came out slow, but that's one thing we will do is come out strong."

On if this last game is going to affect the team in a negative way:

"No. It is past us. We took a loss but it's time to move on to the Bulldogs."

On preparing for Mississippi State like LSU since they both have two quarterbacks:

"They have a strong team. Mississippi State –those guys always play as hard and physical. It's just another battle - Alabama over in Mississippi."

#37 Robert Lester, Defensive Back

On if this was the most physical game he had been involved in:

"Yes I would say so. They were just real strong, physical guys."

On how hard it is to bounce back from defeat:

"It's one of the toughest games we've played. We can't sit there and be down on ourselves about the loss. We have to keep pushing forward and get ready for our next game. We have to forget about it, and act like it never happened. We don't pay attention to our record as it is. We focus on what we need to do. Mississippi State is our next team, and we are going to focus on them and do what we need to do."

On getting an interception:

"It was the second one, and it came in a big game and the time it was needed."

On moving forward:

"Well it's just like last year. We lost three games and the first loss came at South Carolina. We can't let it affect us or it will turn into another loss. We just have to look past it and focus on what we have to do."

On only dropping one spot in the BCS:

"That's something else that we don't pay any attention to. We feel that if we do what we need to do and win the games that we need to win, everything else will fall into place."

On the atmosphere at the game this past weekend:

"Playing at home and me being a veteran on the team, I don't let the crowd play a factor in my game. I've learned to block it out. It's always good to have your crowd cheering for you. It's motivation when they do get loud."

On what a road trip is like compared to playing at home:

"You just have to have a lot of mental focus and be able to block it (distractions) out. Like I said now, that I'm a veteran it comes easier. You have to stay focused on your job and what you need to do."

On the kickers:

"We don't blame one player for a team (loss). It's a team game. If we lose, then it's a team loss. No one player lost the game. Everybody lost. We want to keep him up. He plays a big role on this team. We need him to kick field goals in our future games. We don't want him to get down on this. We know that he's a great kicker. If not, he wouldn't be out there. We are just going to keep motivating him to do well."

On Alex Watkins playing with a broken arm:

"I didn't even know he was injured the last game. I'm not that impressed because I expect that from him. He's a hard working guy. He came back after his knee injury. It's expected from him. You can put him anywhere on the field and he's going to give it his best."

On any of the ESPN or extra hype being a distraction:

"Not at all. I knew they were here, but it didn't play any factor in it. They weren't there for everything we had to do to get ready."

#73 William Vlachos, Offensive Line

On what surprised him about the game after seeing the film:

"I think we played well for the most part. When it came down to it with the plays that counted, they made the big ones and we didn't. We obviously didn't play perfect. That was a really good team we played against. In between the 30 and the 30 we moved the ball pretty well. That doesn't win games though."

On it being the most physical game:

"Yeah it was physical. They are all physical in this conference."

On Barrett Jones having a busted ankle and coming back out:

"I was proud of him. He obviously wanted to play in this game. He had a really good player across from him that he had to block. He had his mind right and he was locked in. He handled that pain and injury during the course of the game as well as anybody could. I'm really proud of him and he played really well. He will be day-to-day but knowing him, if there's any chance he can play he will be out there on Saturday."

On how long he holds onto a game like that and what could have been:

"Obviously I'll remember it the rest of my life. At the same time I've got three games left in the crimson jersey, so I'm trying to do my part as a leader on this team and get better every practice and finish the year strong."

On only dropping to number three in the BCS and still having a shot:

"Our goal is to win a national championship. Obviously that took a hit on Saturday. All we can do is focus on what we are doing. We've got to be locked in a ready to go in the games that we have and play our best football."

On Mississippi State:

"We are starting on them today. They are always physical and have a good defensive line. It's one of their trademarks. We look forward to getting into the game plan today."

#3 Trent Richardson, Running Back

On how he feels after such a physical game:

"I feel good. I know we had a physical game but that's one thing we need. It shows what the team is. It's a good way to learn from our mistakes. We just have to get everybody ready to go for this weekend. Don't look back at the past. It was the most physical game I've been in all year, maybe since I've been at Alabama. Both teams are fighting for our season, the SEC and the national championships. We were fighting for pride too."

On what the hits were like:

"It was just a whole bunch of collisions. Imagine two 18 wheelers going at it, kind of like in that movie the Matrix. That's how it was out there."

On having met some of Alabama's good running backs such as Shaun Alexander:

"They just say I'm doing a good job and to keep doing what I'm doing. They give me a whole bunch of compliments, and I'm looking at them like 'I should be saying that to you.' It's an honor just to have them even speak to me. They are legends. Shaun (Alexander) and I have a strong relationship. He always gives me advice and he's a good guy with the Lord and stuff like that so he keeps me up on my spirit too. When I talk to him, he's talking about more than football. He just knows where I'm coming from with a lot of stuff. He doesn't like to mention football most of the time because it can be a lot on you so we have a really good relationship out of football."

On being number three in the BCS:

"Looking at the game, we don't deserve to be No. 1 or No. 2. If you look at how we played in our games like that, you don't see anyone putting up 50 points on either one of us. Neither of us scored touchdowns. It was won by field goals. Who wouldn't want to see a rematch? That's probably the biggest game you're ever going to see like that unless we do get a rematch."

On what was proven on that field:

"Who wanted it the most. We both wanted it, and both of us just went at it. It was just a play that got them in good position to score a field goal, and that's what won the ball game."

On what the issues were when they got down to the 30:

"Miscommunications. A couple of bad calls or miscommunication or bad step is what did it. That's what is big in this game. That's what kills you in a ball game like this. When you have to teams like this that are elite in what they do, a little mistake will cost you the game."

On if a play or two stood out in the film:

"Not really. Like I said when you have a ball game like that, you can't really say that we didn't give our best effort on each play. We did on both sides of the field. You can't say I wish I had that play back because there's nothing you can do about it."

INFORMATION SOURCE: University of Alabama Athletics