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December 6, 2008

Nick Saban


Florida 31
Alabama 20

CLAUDE FELTON: We'll begin and ask Coach Saban just for a general thought or two on the game, and then we'll go to your questions.
COACH SABAN: First of all, I'm very proud of what our football team was able to accomplish this year. The only team that plays in a real BCS conference that went 12-0, which is very difficult to do, and I'm very proud of the way our players played, with consistency all year, the way they competed.
You know, football is a lot like life; you know, you get what you expect, and these guys had a high standard for how they competed and how they played, and they certainly played hard and played with a lot of toughness and tenacity in this game tonight.
I'd like to congratulate Florida. They've got a fine team and played outstanding, and every time that they needed to make a play, Tim Tebow made plays in the game that made a difference in the game. A couple big plays that they hit on us made a really big difference.
The challenge for our team is every great team -- every team in the country has lost a game, and the teams that are going to play in the National Championship game have lost a game, too, but sometimes when you lose them at the end, it has a greater consequence in terms of your chances of being able to do that, and that's certainly the circumstance for us.
But in each case for every one of these teams, they prove that they're a great team when they come back and play good football after they lose, and that's a challenge for our team. We're going to have an opportunity to play another game someplace, and that's exactly what our expectations will be for what we'd like to get our team to do.
You know, we didn't get the result that we hoped for today. I'm very, very proud of the way our guys competed in the game and the way they've played all year. We kind of run out of gas in the fourth quarter a little bit in what was a very tough, physical game. I think both teams played extremely well in this game. There weren't a lot of penalties.
Probably one of the critical things in the game for us I thought was in the second quarter when we lost Leigh Tiffin. We made two errors on special teams that really changed field position. We had the ball on the 30-yard line or something, and we didn't think this was in the guy's range, but we were going to try to kick a field goal anyway and take the points.
But when we called the fake, the fake is based on the look. They weren't in the right look for us to run the fake, so we should have kicked the field goal.
Now, it would have been tough for the guy to make it probably. It was probably the limit of his range, but it was a little bit too close in there to be punting. We have another way that we can punt the ball, but we weren't sure the freshman could do that, either. So we got kind of stuck there.
When they scored on that drive, we get the ball on the 40-yard line, if we just let the ball go out of bounds and we put ourselves in bad field position and they stop us, we don't change the field position and they get good field position to go down and score again. Those two special team errors in the second quarter I think were critical in the game, and it is in all games, and I always tell our players this.
I want our players not to hang their head. They've got a lot to be proud of in terms of what they accomplished, but it's going to be about what we did. When we sit down and watch the film, we're going to see the mistakes that we made and what we didn't do correctly and how that affected the outcome of the game.
It's all about execution. When you play great teams the premium is on execution, and Florida is a great team, and we absolutely wish them the best of luck in representing our league and hope they win the National Championship.

Q. Two things: First of all, you touched on the fake field goal. You had about three opportunities in Florida territory where you either got a field goal or no points. Could you talk about the significance of that in trying to win this game? And also, the way y'all played on defense, held Florida to the fewest points that they've scored, and just thoughts on how your defense played overall.
COACH SABAN: Well, first of all, I think that it's important to have good red zone efficiency, and I think when you play a team like Florida, you definitely need to be scoring touchdowns when you get down there.
I think it would have been a big, big, big momentum deal in the game if we would have scored a touchdown the last time we were down there instead of kicking a field goal to go ahead 20-17, to get 24-17. That would have been huge. But we were down there twice and didn't and didn't have our kicker a third time to kick another. That's the difference in the game if you add it up.
Second question, the defense. Our defense, I thought our defense really played well, and they handled the adjustments in the game well. But we gave up big plays. One of the big things that we harped on, corners, you've got to keep them cut off. If they kept short passes, we've got to have -- because the way we're going to have to play them to stop the run, we're going to be in three-deep zone or cover one a lot, and you've got to keep them cut off, and we can't get the ball thrown over our head. I think we got the ball thrown over our head three times, which were big plays and they changed field position. I think they scored in every one of those circumstances, some kind of points.
So that was probably the difference in the game. The red area and the big plays.

Q. You've mentioned Tebow's ability when they needed plays to kind of make plays. Just elaborate on how he just seems to come up time after time with something that makes it happen.
COACH SABAN: Well, he's a great competitor, no doubt. I think he takes his team on his shoulders a lot. I think his leadership is something that really affects his teammates and they respect him tremendously. They have a lot of confidence that he's going to make plays, and they played that way.
They scored two touchdowns, man, we had them covered about as well as you can cover them, and that ball is in a small space that they made good catches on. They have a great team. They believe in each other. I thought we did a good job in the game, we just didn't make the plays at the end of the game that we needed to make. When the score is 20-17, we didn't finish like we needed to, and they did. That's the difference in the game, and he made a lot of those plays.

Q. You had the ball for over ten minutes in the third quarter and you outscored them 10-0. Looked like you had things going your way, and then in the fourth quarter they had it for more than 12 minutes. Is there something you would pinpoint how things got away from you?
COACH SABAN: We had a couple 3rd-down opportunities to get off the field on defense. You know, the penalty, the facemask penalty, was big in terms of field position and having an opportunity to stop them, because that would have been another 3rd-andshort situation, I think. They do a really good job when you get in those 3rd down and 2, 3 and 4 situations because of their ability to run the ball with the quarterback out of empty and out of reload from empty, and they made those plays.
You know, we stopped them on 3rd down a lot when it was 3rd and 6 or more. He scrambled a couple times in the first half and kept drives alive. But we did a good job on those down and distances. The short ones, we didn't get it done. We didn't get it done on 3rd and 5 at the 5 when they scored on us a couple times, 3rd downs. So that was the difference in the game. We didn't make the plays that we needed to make.
We had a bad series after they scored and went 3 and out, and then they turn around and score again. That was the most critical series for us offensively in the game. He tried a long pass and didn't hit it. Didn't run it well on 2nd down. Don't make it on 3rd down. It was critical for us to respond right there and move the ball, change the field position, and we didn't do that.

Q. What was your message to the team after the game?
COACH SABAN: I pretty much said it in the beginning of my statement here of how proud I am of what they accomplished this year, that every team in the BCS leagues have lost a game this year except them. They accomplished a lot. They played with a lot of consistency. That's a very tough thing to do and I'm very proud of them. I was proud of the way they played in the game today, but I said, as always, we'll look at the film and we'll say there's a lot of things that we could have done better, with better execution, that would have probably helped us have a chance to get the result that we wanted in the game. But because we didn't do that and they did, they got the result that they wanted.
And I also told them that all great teams have a loss, and it's how you come back from a loss that really makes you a great team. And that's the challenge for you in whatever game we play in next.

Q. This is the first time you've come not only to this building but into this game and not walked away a winner. What emotions are you feeling right now?
COACH SABAN: That doesn't matter to me. I mean, I'm upset for -- I'm proud of what our team has accomplished. I feel badly that I could not have done more to affect our players to be able to play with more consistency, play better, not make some of those mistakes. They wanted to do it correctly, you know, coach the corners better so they wouldn't have got beat. You know, help the offense be able to do the right thing so we wouldn't have gone three-and-out in the fourth quarter, done something to help Javi not catch the ball when it would have went out of bounds and it would have given us the ball on the 40-yard line.
I feel responsible for everything that didn't go right, and I only wish that I could have done more to help all those players, coaches and people do more to help make it right, and that's my feelings and that's my emotion. I'm responsible for it, and I just wish that I could have done more to help them because our players really wanted to win the game, there's no doubt about that. They worked hard. They accomplished a lot to have the opportunity to do it, and I feel badly for them and our fans who have been great all year long in supporting this team.
My feelings, it's not about me. My feelings are about everybody else. I serve them in what I do, and I feel like I failed them by not doing enough to help them get what they really wanted.

Q. What exactly happened to Leigh Tiffin, and obviously you were able to get him back eventually?
COACH SABAN: Right. He got hit on the kickoff that they broke out to about the 50-yard line. He's a safety. And I didn't see him get hurt. He just got a slight concussion, and they would not clear him at that time. He was not capable of -- he cleared up and was okay at halftime, so he was able to kick. But that was a tough management situation. I probably didn't manage it very well because it didn't work. We didn't execute it correctly. We should have kicked the ball. If we would have missed, it would have got it there anyway. The look they were in, we should not have run a fake, and that's what we practice all the time.
We made a mental error, and because it didn't work it was a bad call. They all are, whether they did it right or not.

Q. It's been a tremendous year so far. Is there one thing you want your fans to remember about this season?
COACH SABAN: I think all the things that I talked about our team, and I also think that this team should be remembered as, and have a legacy as, a team. The seniors on this team should have a legacy on this team and be remembered by they were the team that brought a lot of pride back to the University of Alabama, to the football program and to the people of the state of Alabama who support it. And I think that should be their legacy, that they went undefeated in the regular season, which is a very difficult thing to do.
I just wish that there was more that I could have done to help them win the championship, which I know was certainly their goal and expectations.
CLAUDE FELTON: Thank you very much.

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