Alabama Confirms Nick Saban’s Frustrations
Alabama head coach Nick Saban entered the week in quite the mood, and the Crimson Tide's performance Saturday afternoon in Bryant-Denny Stadium reflected the source of his frustrations.
Yes, Alabama cruised to victory on the scoreboard. Statistically, Alabama was the better team too, holding Mercer to 14 points and less than 220 total offensive yards. The Crimson Tide scored 41 offensive points and average 4.7 yards per carry on the ground.
For any college football fan that didn't watch the game from start to finish, they see Alabama's 48-14 win as business as usual. For those who watched the entire process unfold, they know that's not the case.
Despite a handful of exciting moments, like Koolaid McKinstry's first career interception, the Crimson Tide looked out of position and uncomfortable.
Saban questioned if the team's practice efforts were being disrupted by a lack of respect for Mercer or media rumblings. Despite Alabama's talents proving too much for the FCS-level Bears, Mercer showed up with clear intentions of winning the football game and made Alabama look silly at times.
Alabama committed nine penalties for 95 yards in its home opener. Barring one questionable defensive pass interference call on a severely under-thrown pass, the majority of these errors were mental and preventable, especially one of the first flags thrown on Jameson Williams for unsportsmanlike conduct.
"You know, these are all choices and decisions that players make," Saban said. "They make a decision to throw their helmet, they make a decision to grab and throw another guy on the ground. Whether it's controlling your emotions... Because when you're emotional, you make bad decisions. You've got to play with intensity, but not out of control. We've got to make better choices and decisions."
Most of the struggles came on the offensive side of the ball, though; poor blocking, sacks, drops and mental errors plagued Alabama the whole game. Statistically, the Crimson Tide looked fine: 266 passing yards, 158 rushing yards. To the naked eye though, the offense wasn't clicking, and Saban wasn't pleased.
"If it stinks, it stinks," Saban said. "It smells bad for everybody.
"We did a poor job of blocking, they did some movements up front, we didn't sustain blocks. We didn't have much success running the ball. We stopped ourselves four times in the first half with a dropped pass on third down, a dropped pass that would've been a big play pass and two penalties. One penalty brought back a touchdown, one penalty stopped a drive. So, I mean, I don't know how many possessions we had in the first half, but there's four right there where we stopped ourselves."
Right tackle Chris Owens echoed Saban's frustrations and knows if the problems that faced the Crimson Tide aren't settled soon, they can creep up at an inopportune time down the road.
"One of his favorite things to say is 'It'll get you when it gets you,'" Owens said. "It may not be today, it may not be tomorrow, but some point down the line if we play like we're playing now, it's going to get us. We shouldn't have to have something bad happen in order for us to change our habits."
Saban preaches fundamentals and execution, always. And he brought those points to the forefront throughout the week. He laid down the warning and Mercer brought exactly what he needed to prove his point.
Alabama opens SEC play next week in The Swamp against Florida. There's no doubt Saban will sound like a broken record this week to his players. The difference is, he'll have the receipts from this game to make his point understood.