Here's what Alabama coach Nick Saban after his team hung to beat Arkansas 24-21 Saturday:

Opening Statement

“I’ll tell you like I told the team: it’s great to win. It’s great to be where we are in the SEC relative to how we’ve progressed. But there’s a difference between beating the other team and winning the game. We played pretty well in the game up till 24-6, which was able halfway through the third quarter, and then we didn’t finish. We got penalties. The whole momentum is on the third-down stop. We get a grabbing the guy by the facemask after the play, which to me, it’s bad. I mean, you can say what you want, but a guy does that, it’s putting himself ahead of what’s best for the team and putting yourself in harm’s way of having a chance to win. And then they go down the field and score.

“The momentum of the game changes. We go three-and-out on offense, have a couple dropped balls, miss a couple throws and not executing, not hitting on all cylinders, let the other team back in the game. But had the resilience to take the clock at the end of the game and not give them the ball back, which was really, I think, important in the game. But hopefully, we can learn how to beat the other team. Not just win the game but beat the other team, which means you’ve got to play for 60 minutes. You’ve got to execute, do your job, have discipline, do it one play at a time for 60 minutes in the game.

“Look, if we didn’t have the intensity we needed in the second half, that’s on me. It’s my responsibility. I always get asked what the halftime message was, but obviously, this one was not worth repeating, so why would we even talk about it? Obviously, it wasn’t very good. But anyway, we’ve got a lot that we can learn from.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for this team. I told our team, I said, ‘This is going to be a different fight, aight, because Sam (Pittman) is an offensive line guy. He’s a tough guy. He’s a physical guy. And their team is going to keep fighting in the game, no matter what. They always do when they play us. So we need to be ready for that.’ Obviously, I didn’t make that point as well as I needed to.”

On the running game that averaged 4.2 yards per carry

“We ran the ball really well the first time we had it in the second half. I mean, we had 3-4 really good runs. Look, we think we’ve got four running backs that can play, so we’re going to play them when we feel like we have an opportunity to play them. That’s always the plan. Have we always been able to do that? No. Sometimes the game doesn’t dictate it. But I’m glad to see all those guys got to play, and I think they all had good moments.”

On the second half slow start

“It’s two games now. We came out a little flat on defense at Mississippi State when we were ahead at halftime. But the first drive was really the best drive we had in the second half. When we got the ball and got the kickoff, we went down the field. Didn’t finish the drive. And again, just didn’t execute the way we needed to execute. From the third-down penalty, Jaylen Key, we had like 1-2 penalties up until that point. We got multiple penalties after that. We got pass interference on third down, which would have got us off the field again, and then they had to kick a field goal. And we had multiple penalties on offense, which put us behind the eight ball. We’ve just got to teach and learn from all these things and hopefully realize what it takes not only in the game but in the week of preparation leading up to the game so that you can go out there and play the way you need to play against really good competition.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for Arkansas’ team. I mean, LSU beat them by three points, Ole Miss beat them by a touchdown on the road. This is not the kind of team that you all think they are. They’re a good team, and that quarterback is a handful. When a quarterback can take a major college football player and sling him off like a gnat on a cow’s ass, I mean, that was one of the most impressive plays I’ve ever seen a player make. But we said one gets a guy, you’ve got to hold on, you’ve got to hang on and we’ve got to clean him up. And we didn’t clean him up. We made a couple mental errors on defense in some of those drives that let them get back in the game, too. We run a stunt the wrong way, quarterback runs for 25 yards on a big play on 2nd and Long. But we learn from all these things.”

On if the team got his "nothing" message this week

“I hope. I hope so. I use you guys to send a message to the team, so if that’s the message you got, I hope they got it on Wednesday. That make sense? It wasn’t like I was just trying to you all. I don’t really lie. I try to be an honest person, tell you like it is. I don’t always tell you everything you want to know, but sometimes.”

On how to improve pass protection

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“We made some mental errors. We don’t fan the first sack of the game. We fan it to the left, the left tackle doesn’t fan, guy runs in there unblocked and sacks the quarterback. A couple times today we got beat physically. I mean, their rusher just beat our guy. But we have to handle pressure better. I mean, we have to be able to handle pressure and stunts better. I mean, this was a big boundary-pressure team. It’s exactly what they did. When 28 sacked the quarterback the first play of the game, it’s something we practiced a lot and get in the game. With experience, I think our guys will learn from every one of these things and hopefully be able to get it corrected.”

On Will Reichard becoming the SEC’s all-time leader in scoring

“I’m extremely happy for Will. Honestly, I don’t really keep up with those types of things, but really happy for him. He has been, probably, as good a player at his position – even though he’s a specialist – as anybody that we’ve ever had here. And he’s even a better person. I think that he wanted to come back and try to improve his kickoffs so that he would have a better chance to be successful in the NFL, and I think this is one of the good things that name, image and likeness brings to players, that the guy didn’t have to be poor and not be able to earn money and be able to come back and do that as a college player as opposed to going to the draft, being a free agent possibly, not making a team and you’re out. So that’s one of the very good things, I think, about name, image and likeness and players having opportunities to have a better quality of life while they’re in college because they can stay and enhance their career if they need to. And Will was smart enough to understand that that was something that could benefit him and his future.”

On injury updates on CJ Dippre, Trezmen Marshall

“I don’t think they’re bad hurt. One guy’s got a pulled muscle. The other guy’s got bruised ribs. I can’t tell you the extent of the injuries. I don’t even think we know that yet.”

On Terrion Arnold and Caleb Downs stepping in for Malachi Moore

“Malachi’s a huge asset for us because he’s the most experienced player in the interior to make calls and make adjustments. And I do think the guys played better having a week of preparation than what we did a week ago. It was tough when he went out because everybody hadn’t practiced enough at those positions to do the things we needed to do. But I thought both guys did a pretty good job today. We actually played Caleb (Downs) when they were in, what we call, silver people, which is 12 personnel – two tights and two wides. We played Caleb at Star, a little bigger guy, a little more physical against the runs. And when we played against three wideouts or more, we played nickel where Terrion (Arnold) was the Star. I think Kristian Story stepped up and did a pretty good job out there. Trey (Amos) did a pretty good job for us. Those guys were able to take advantage of their opportunities. We’re hopeful – Malachi actually even went out and warmed up today. We weren’t going to play him in the game, but he’s getting close. So hopefully, he’ll continue to make progress.”

“Hey, it was great, great Homecoming crowd, great enthusiasm. I think the enthusiasm that the crowd showed at the end of the game was really helpful to the team. It affected them at little bit. We got a big sack that got us the ball back, and then we were able to take the air out of it. So appreciate the crowd. Thanks.”

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Gallery Credit: Mary K

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