NICK SABAN // PRESS CONFERENCE RECAP OPENING STATEMENT:

I was really pleased with the effort our players showed in this last game. They really played hard. They showed a lot of resiliency to keep coming back and give themselves an opportunity to even with 2:50 to go in the game to have a chance to have possession of the ball to win the game. But just too many self-inflicted wounds to overcome, regardless what the effort, the resiliency was. It would be easy to sit here and say the turnovers were the issue, but we need to have better fundamental execution of what we’re doing. Too many negative plays on offense. Too many big plays on defense. Too many miscues on special teams in terms of who’s blocking who. I think our players had tremendous energy in this game, but we have to learn to channel our energy and focus n the right places so that we get better execution on a consistent basis. That’s starts with me. It starts with us as coaches in terms of doing a better job during the course of the week in preparing guys to go out there and execute better. That’s really where it starts. The focus is to improve our team. We’re looking forward. There’s many lessons to be learned in the last game. Hopefully our players will learn those lessons and we will do a good job of improving our team in the future so that we can get more consistent execution. We’ve got to address the ball security issues. We’ve got to address turnovers. We’ve got to eliminate the big plays and the negative plays on both sides of the ball.
Two injury updates, (wide receiver) Robert Foster is going to be out. I didn’t think this was going to be this big of a problem, but he has a shoulder injury that will require surgery. (Longsnapper) Cole Mazza is out for medical reasons. When he can return, he’ll be back on the team.

ON THE UPCOMING GAME VS LOUISIANA-MONROE:

(Head coach) Todd Berry has done a really good job. He’s been there a while. These guys do a myriad of things on offense that are very hard to defend — a lot of formations, a lot of motions, a lot of adjustments. Fastball. Quarterback is very efficient, very accurate. They’ve got nine starters back on defense. They play physical, tough defense. I think the focus for us is to get our team to get better and it wouldn’t matter who we were playing this week. That would still be the focus on what we need to do.

ON WHETHER THE TIDE OFFENSE HAS FOUND AN IDENTITY:

No. I think we need to continue to develop that. I thought we had some identity in the first game and were moving in the right direction and then in the last two games, we’ve been a little bit scattered. We need some certainty in what we’re going to do. I think when Jake (Coker) came in the game he played with some passion (and) showed great leadership and energy when he played. We still have things we need to work on and improve. At this point, providing he does the things he’s supposed to do, I think we’ll start him in this game. But I still think that what I’m talking about applies to all positions, including the quarterback.

ON WHAT THE QBS NEED TO IMPROVE:

We’ve got to throw the ball at the right place at the right time. We can’t throw it to the other guys and that’s probably the number one issue. Executing and doing the things properly to how we’re coached to do it. Understanding it. We’ve got to do a better job of teaching it. We all need to do a better job of executing it.

ON WHICH WRS WILL STEP IN FOR ROBERT FOSTER:

Calvin Ridley played a lot in the game. He kind of took his (Foster’s) place and he has done a really nice job. We’re going to give lots of opportunities to lots of guys. It’s going be some young players that are going to get the opportunities. Richard Mullaney is certainly playing very well. We’ve got to get ArDarius Stewart playing with more consistency. He’s got capabilities of making big plays and he has made some plays. We’re going to need some of our young players to show some progress so that they can play. I think Cam Sims is probably more and more ready to come back. We’re probably ready to give him some more turns as well.

ON WHAT A FLUKE PLAY DOES TO THE PSYCHE OF A DEFENSE:

Obviously they snapped the ball over the quarterback’s head or he misses the snap and he just throws it up and it turns into a 75-yard touchdown. I think those are the kind of things that sometimes happen in a game. But it still goes back to fundamental execution. The defensive backs are never going to recover the ball. So they should’ve covered their guys. Somebody didn’t cover their guy. So somebody else had to come off their guy to knock the ball away from that guy, which left that (other) guy open to catch the tip and run for a touchdown. Fundamental execution still minimizes the opportunities for those things to happen. What you’ve got to have your players geared up to do is to play the next play and not get affected by plays like that when they happen and show the resiliency to play the next play. That was the first series of the second half (and) we wanted a stop there and it didn’t turn out that way. We’ve got to overcome it.

ON WHETHER HE LEARNED SOMETHING ABOUT THE TEAM’S COMPETITIVENESS BY THE WAY THEY KEPT COMING BACK:

We’d never been in that situation before, so you never know how the team is going to respond. But I liked the resiliency that we showed. We had the ball with 2:54 where we could’ve had a chance to put a drive together, and we threw a pick. So I was pleased with the way the players responded in the game. I was really happy with the fans. I thought the fans really helped keep the players in the game by their energy and enthusiasm. I was really kind of happy about it to be honest with you.

ON HOW THE SECONDARY PERFORMED:

There’s some things we could do better. But the stats always look bad, because there’s about 150 yards on those two (pass) plays. We miscommunicated what we were doing (on the pop pass). We busted in the secondary on that play. That play should’ve been covered, but it was not because of a mental error. But I’m not down on our players in the secondary. We had a few missed tackles. We had some things we could’ve done better. We could’ve covered some things better. But they did not really have sustained drives in the game. They got the ball in great field position and they scored and they made big plays and scored. They drove a couple of times and made field goals. So all in all, other than those few plays, which they have to be eliminated with fundamental execution and communication, it wasn’t terrible. It wasn’t all that bad, but we need to improve.

ON HIS ASSESSMENT OF THE OL:

I think the offensive line played okay in the game. I think it’s important for the offensive line to dominate. I think we struggled to reach block number 5 (Robert Nkemdiche) and get him blocked with his quickness a few times. I think we were a little better when we ran direct runs. When we ran the ball sideways, we had a difficult time blocking their quickness. I thought the offensive line okay was, but I think it’s important for our offensive line dominate the line of scrimmage.

ON WHETHER HOW THE TEAM RESPONDED AFTER LOSING TO OLE MISS LAST SEASON WILL BE HELPFUL TO THIS TEAM:

It depends on how they respond to the loss. Just depends on how they respond. That’s all I can tell you. I mean, we’re going to try to do the right things. I like the character and chemistry of this team. I thought the game we lost last year, we lost completely different than we lost this game. We had energy. We had almost fanatic energy, but we didn’t channel it in the right direction. We kept coming back in the game, but we also shot ourselves in the foot so many times that it made it difficult to overcome. Last year, we got ahead in the game and got sort of relief syndrome or something where they got the momentum and we could never get it back. That never really happened in this game. We just came up short this time.

ON WHETHER HE SEES COKER’S PASSION AND ENERGY CARRYING OVER TO THE NEXT GAME:

I can’t predict any of that stuff. I don’t have a crystal ball up here. I can look in this coke bottle and see. But it still goes back to execution. We can’t throw interceptions. Can’t throw the ball to the wrong place. We’ve got to execute and do what we have to do to have the whole offense function, the whole offense function. That’s something we’ve got to keep working on. It’s our responsibility as coaches to help these guys do better.

ON WHETHER HAVING A SURPRISE STARTER AT QB MAKES IT DIFFICULT TO GAMEPLAN:

We kind of knew we were going to do that. If you know you’re going to do something, it’s not difficult. Just because you didn’t know doesn’t mean we didn’t know.

ON WHETHER THE QBS MIGHT BE FORCING PLAYS TRYING TO EARN THE STARTING SPOT:

I have no idea. If it is, they’re totally off base, totally wrong. Nobody is forcing them to make plays. Everybody is telling them to take what the defense gives. Throw to the check down if it’s not open. The most important thing is the ball, the ball, the ball. If every offensive possession ends in a kick — a punt, a field goal or an extra point — I’m good with that. So you tell me what part of that is going to make you force the ball.

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