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November 30, 2012
Q. We are joined by coach in this case sake on and we'll ask coach for an opening comment and then we'll take your questions.
COACH NICK SABAN: How's everybody today? Well, you know, it's certainly an honor and a privilege for the University of all Alabama, our football team, our football players to, have an opportunity to play in the SEC Championship Game here in Atlanta.
This is one of the best competitive venues I think that there is anywhere in the country. Other than playing in a National Championship Game, this is the absolute best competitive venue I've ever been involved in as a coach.
There's a lot of people responsible for us being here. We have a wonderful administration, a great chancellor in Dr.Witt; a great president at the university, Michael Moore, has done a fantastic job as athletic director sort of setting the table for giving us the things that we need to have an opportunity to be successful.
Our entire staff and the athletic department, our coaching staff and all of the other sports staff has done a wonderful job of supporting our players personally, academically and athletically so that they have a chance to be successful and the players who have bought into sort of the principles of the organization relative to trusting and respecting those principles and values and being a team, everybody being together in what they do, being positive in the energy that they end and in trying to do the things we need to do to be successful; the responsibility they take in being accountable to do the things that is expected of them on and off the field; and the hard work and perseverance that they certainly demonstrated in working their way to having a chance to play for the SEC Championship.
I think it speaks volumes of the SEC in terms of what it accomplished but I also feel there's a lot of people at the SEC, like Mike and all his staff, that do a marvelous job in this league of helping to continue the great traditions we have in this league and the success that we have had through the years.
It's certainly something that as a member of the conference, we certainly appreciate the leadership we get as a conference that helps all of the good programs in this conference, all of the great coaches in this conference have an opportunity to be successful and play in great competitive venues like the SEC Championship Game.
Q. How hard is it to go undefeated and why should these two teams be‑‑ the won/loss right now?
COACH NICK SABAN: Well, I think it's very difficult in this day and age, especially when you play in a league of our calibre, where we have six teams in the Top‑10 I think. I don't look at that stuff quite often but I know there's a lot of good teams in our league.
I think that the consistency in performance is what defines success and I think that's the most difficult thing to get any team to do, especially guys that are student athletes at the college level to be able to focus and play to a standard week‑in and week‑out I think is one of the most challenging things that any coach, or specifically we have to try to deal with, to get our guys to prepare for the game, focus on the right things. There's a lot of attention out there relative to just who gets in the National Championship game.
So there's a lot of external factors, a lot of external clutter that can affect young people and their ability to focus and continue to do the things they need to do to play at the highest standard. Those are all challenges that we have to deal with to get our teams to play with consistency.
So I think that if you don't have a lot of big games and you don't play a lot of teams that if you don't play well, you're not going to have a chance to be successful, which is just about every team that we played in our division, if we didn't play well, we may not have a chance to be successful. They had enough good players and enough talented people that they could beat us so, that consistency in performance becomes very, very important. There's no time to just, you know, sort of play a bad game and still have a chance to be successful.
So I think that's one of the difficulties of going undefeated. I think that you see it in players late in the season. I saw it in our players when we played Texas A&M that their personality sort of changes from a competitive standpoint and maybe it's feeling the pressure, I don't know. I saw it a little bit in some of the games that I watched with some other highly‑ranked teams.
But when you become outcome‑oriented, you get tentative, and you're not aggressive play‑in and play‑out. I think the most challenging thing we have to do to continue to play with success is focus on what's happening right now; and know that when you run for a Gold Medal, you're not really running for the Gold Medal. You're running to run a 19:30, 200‑meter race with Michael Johnson or whoever it might be.
So that's got to be the focus, run a good race; play a good game. It can't be what's going to happen if we don't. It's got to be, what do I need to do to do that.
Q. You mentioned a couple times here over the last month or so, the importance of getting a pass rush, which is four guys. When you look at Aaron Murray, how good do you think he is at finding the hole that's created on the back end when you have to bring a fifth guy to get pressure?
COACH NICK SABAN: You know, I think Aaron Murray is a really, really experienced, good decision maker, processes information quickly, gets the ball out of his hand quickly. A very good rhythm sort of quarterback and they have a rhythm passing game in terms of how they do what they do.
I think he does an exceptionally good job of executing that on a pretty consistent basis. And the balance that they have on offense and their ability to run the ball, also affects how do we play this team offensively, because it's not just the quarterback.
But I think that the key to being successful is that you can create pass rush with four guys. You can affect the quarterback with four guys. I think if you don't do that, and you can't do that on a fairly consistent basis, a good quarterback, which Aaron Murray certainly is, is going to find‑‑ have the time to find open receivers and go through the progression, because regardless of what coverage you play, if you're in split safeties, they have got a split safety beater over here; middle of the field beater over here, he's going to have time to figure it out, process the information and make the play that you need.
So if you can't affect them with four guys rushing, when you start rushing more guys, you know, the more you rush, the more it becomes a little bit feast or famine. But I think to affect the quarterback, any quarterback, it is really, really important to disrupt the passing game.
Q. A year ago, you had to sit back and watch during the weekend; now that you have control, how much more preferable is it to have the pressure on you and to do it yourself?
COACH NICK SABAN: I think the pressure on us is play well; get our team to play the best game that they can play. Try to be physical, aggressive, compete each play of the game, one play at a time, like it has a history and life of its own and be disciplined in the way we execute and do what we do.
I think that's the challenge that if we can do that, we are playing against a very good team; as a coach, you feel like you've done a good job of preparing your guys to do that. You can sort of accept whatever the result might be, especially when you're playing against a very, very good team. You've got to make plays when plays are there to make and you can't make a lot of mistakes; turn the ball over, get punch‑blocked, things like that, have huge impact in games like this.
But, look, we expect to have to go to the SEC Championship Game and be successful in we are going to be able to go on to do something else. And I think that's how our team feels and we are certainly playing an exceptionally good team.
This is, whether we have a college playoff or not, I've been in this Game 3 times it's been Alabama every time it's been a playoff game. We played Florida twice, we are 1, 2. And now we are 2, 3; whoever is 2, who are whoever is 3 doesn't really matter. So it is, in effect, a playoff game.
Q. Are you pleased with the progress of this same efficient game up to this point? Or how would you say the team has progressed through the whole season?
COACH NICK SABAN: I'm very pleased with what this team has been able to accomplish. We have a much younger team. We lost a lot of really good football players and a lot of really talented players from a year ago.
In my mind, even though there was high expectations and high rankings going in, it was going to be a real critical factor for this team to have young players whose role was going to change from the year before; to be able to change those roles effectively, regardless whether it was a leadership role, a new position, a new player who had less experience.
And I think that the thing that has been most pleasing is the way this team has bought into the principles and values of being a good team, being positive, affecting each other with positive energy and attitude, being responsible for their own self‑determination in terms of doing their job on a consistent basis and really working hard as a team.
When we won the National Championship last year, in the first meeting that we had, I said, this is not a National Championship team. You guys are not a national champ. So if you played on that team that, team is gone.
So how are you going to sort of make a commitment to what you want to accomplish with this team. And I've been pretty pleased that this team has been able to play their way into this game, and obviously, you know, as a coach, you would love to see your team play their best in games like this.
Q. Georgia's defense is playing terrific down the stretch. What stands out to you most and what they are doing on that side?
COACH NICK SABAN: Well, they have got a lot of good players. They have got a lot of experienced players that have played for a couple years now together. I think they have really good team speed on defense. They have got some guys that are really good pass rushers that can affect the game when you get it to third down or passing situations.
So all in all, I think Todd Grantham has done a really good job of continuing to develop his group into one of the best defensive groups in the country relative to the way they played and the body of work they have been able to put together over the last couple years.
So I think this is an exceptionally talented, well‑coached, good defensive football team. You know, we are going to have to do a very good job of executing as an offensive team to have success against their defense.
COACH NICK SABAN: Well, it's usually going to be a combination of both. Lots of times when you turn the ball over, it's because of poor fundamentals, not putting the ball away, not carrying it properly. Sometimes a defense creates it with great hits or tipped balls, or, you know, putting their hand on the ball, pulling it out.
So most of the time, it's a combination of those things that create turnovers in a game. I think turnovers are always a critical factor in any game. Probably statistically one of the most telling tales of winning and losing is turnover ratio in a particular game or over time.
So we emphasize it with our players to try to get turnovers and we also emphasize it with our players on offense who try to have great ball security so we minimize turnovers.
Q. You've talked all year about the importance of getting better during the season. Wanted to ask how you thought your team has improved in the back half of the season, and have you noticed that kind of improvement from Georgia, as well?
COACH NICK SABAN: I don't think there's any question that‑‑ I guess the way I would sort of look at it, both teams responded extremely well to the difficulties of their season, which is the games that we both lost.
I think from that time, Georgia has really improved as a team and I think that since our A&M game, our guys have practiced, prepared, paid attention to detail and had a little bit different sort of level of intensity more like we had early in the season, which I think has affected our ability to improve, as well.
Q. How much did the tough win at LSU affect your loss at A&M?
COACH NICK SABAN: Well, I think we played‑‑ we went through a pretty tough stretch where we played three Top 15 teams, at least when we played them, Mississippi State, LSU and Texas A&M, right in a row. Mississippi State was undefeated when we played them, LSU was ranked in the Top‑5 or whatever, and Texas A&M actually had lost two games to Top‑10 teams by three and five points.
So we played three really good teams in a row. You know, I think that we didn't play our best game at LSU. They played extremely well. We put a two‑minute drive together to win the game at the end of the game and that was a very emotional win. I don't think that we responded, you know, very well the next week, and didn't play very well early in the game and got behind.
So I would say that it had some effect, either the three‑game stretch had an effect, or the LSU game, being a very emotional game, had an effect, because started out very poorly in that game. And A&M has a good team, they made a lot of plays, they have a great young quarterback, so I'm not taking anything way from them or the way they played, but I don't think we played our best, especially early in that game.
COACH NICK SABAN: Well, the thing that I always try to explain it, which may not explain it very well‑‑ when I came to Alabama, and all the books and all the covers, it said: The process begins. The process of what it takes to be successful, the hard work, the decision, the discipline, the overcoming adversity, players buying in, being a team, all of the things that you try to build a program with.
But then when you have success, everybody starts to think and expect that you're just going to have a continuum of success, which never really ever happens in anything. You know, the process is ongoing. Every year, it's a new process with new players and 25percent of your team leaves and you've got new freshmen coming in.
So you have a new process of what you need to do to make that team sort of be what they need to be. It's the same way in recruiting. It's the same way in academic sport. It's the same way in personal development.
As soon as you lose sight of the process of what it takes to be successful, then I think that it's going to be very difficult to sustain that success.
But I also think it's human nature that when things don't go well, people respond to that much better than sometimes they respond to being successful. So on the other side of that spectrum, I think you have to have special people who understand the importance of playing to a standard, and know that the importance of what you're doing right now, is the most important thing.
You know, what you did in the past‑‑ I heard Michael Jordan say this: I don't care how many game winning shots I've ever made and how many games I've ever won with game‑winning shots, the one that I'm getting ready to take right now is the only one that matters, because the rest of them don't matter, not in this game.
That's kind of the way it is. I think when you're in any kind of competition, any kind of sport, any kind of profession, that's the way it is.
Now, that sounds reasonably easy. But from a human condition standpoint, unless you have special people, special leaders, a special understanding of what it takes to continue to be successful and the standard that you have to play to to do it, it is challenging.
COACH NICK SABAN: Well, you know, I think that system and scheme is always important in being a sound, in terms of what you're asking the players to do. I'm sure somebody is going to have some trick or something happen in this game that's going to have some impact on the game.
All in all, the game is probably going to be decided on who executes best down‑in and down‑out, both sides of the ball, kicking game. That's how most games get decided and most of the time when you don't have success and you sit and look at the game, you see that you contributed quite a bit to the success and failure by what you did, how you did it and that's what you control.
So that's the challenge for our team, our players, our coaches, to prepare our players and have the best opportunity to execute with discipline, effort, toughness, all those kinds of intangible things that help you execute well in football.
Q. Last year worked out unusually for you, but was there a gap in not winning the SEC and not being in the game this year; was that a disappointment in any way?
COACH NICK SABAN: I don't think there's any question about it; it was a disappointment to our team.
When you don't get in this game and you don't give yourself a chance to be successful in this game, you really can't determine your own self‑‑ you have no control of your own self‑determination.
So somebody else has got to beat somebody else and all of that kind of stuff. But, you know, you're here, you have an opportunity, and if you have success, you control your destiny.
Q. I was wondering, to win play‑by‑play, a game, is emotion detriment and is it better to be even keel in your experience? What are you looking for?
COACH NICK SABAN: Well, I don't think that if you're in a boxing match that having great emotion in the first round necessarily will win you the fight. I think you've got to be punching in the 15th round, too, and you carry emotion through to that.
I think it comes a little bit more to competitive character and determination, a lot of other things that helps you overcome adversity as a competitor, the challenges that you have of competing against other people who are exceptional in and of themselves.
So even though emotion is important, I think more it's competitive character and attitude, intensity that can be sustained for 60 minutes in a game, is probably more important so that you can continue to do the things you need to do to be successful.
I mean, I think that regardless of the competitive event, I don't care, everybody wants to win when the game starts and everybody is emotional about winning. It's who can sustain for the entire game to play well in a game I think is really critical to being successful.
I'd like to say one other thing if I would be allowed. I know that sometimes there's a perception that I'm not a fan of the media. You know, I want everybody here to know that that's not really the case. I really do appreciate what you do. I think you bring a tremendous amount of interest and attention and continue to generate passion and enthusiasm for our game and other sporting events by what you do. And I think you provide a tremendous amount of positive self‑gratification for the players who work hard, and I think that's very much appreciated by them and certainly by me, because I have a tremendous respect for great competitors and people who try to do what our players have tried to do this season, last season, whatever season.
So I do have a special thanks and appreciation for the media and what you do. So, thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports