“I thought we made plays when we needed to make them,” Alabama Coach Nick Saban said following the Tide's win over West Virginia in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. “There’s a lot of things we can improve on. I was pleased with the way we controlled the ball on offense (with a 37:47 to 22:13 advantage in time of possession).”
Many questions after the contest centered on first-time starting quarterback Blake Sims (24-33 passing, 1 interception and 42 yards rushing). Said Saban: “I thought Blake Sims really settled down in the second half and was able to play better. In the second quarter, Blake got a little rattled. I told Jake (Coker, Sims’ backup Saturday) to loosen up, that we might have to put him in the game. Then I said to Lane (Kiffin, the Tide’s first-year offensive coordinator),’Let’s go no-huddle,’ and Blake got back in sync. I’m happy with his performance."
On Kiffin, Saban had some terse words about his coordinator’s critics. “Lane did a great job today. He helped Blake with some of his checks and managing the game. You guys (in the media) need to fess up: the guy’s a really good coach. Most places that don’t like (Kiffin) are mad because he left, not because of anything he did while he was there. Do a little research on that.”
Saban added that he felt having Kiffin on the sidelines was very beneficial to Sims and “that’s why we did it.”
Asked to expound about Sims’ success with the no-huddle, Saban said, “We could do it as much as we want. We’ll do what benefits our players the most.
“Now, we run a (regular, pro-style) offense. We’re like the ‘Dinosaur Age’ when it comes to offense. But, I’ve found out that, because everybody else is running spread and no-huddle, it makes it more difficult to defend us.”
Another man doing his job full-time for the first time was sophomore kicker Adam Griffith, who nailed four field goals and all three extra points. “We’ve always had a lot of confidence in ‘Grif,’” said Saban. “There were times last year when we thought about making him the kicker. When we had him as a sophomore at our camp, he was as good a kicker as we’d seen. We’re excited about his future.”
Saban had mixed feelings about a defense that gave up but 28 yards on the ground but 365 through the air to the Mountaineers. “We didn’t play the gap fits on the run a few times. The two big stops we made inside the 10-yard line were big for us. We made a lot of mental errors, but we had two new starters at linebacker (Reggie Ragland and Reuben Foster). When you have leadership on defense and everybody concentrates on the call they’re making, and then you go against no-huddle… But, these are all things we’ve executed against before. There were some plays out there (today) where I thought we could have done better (like the WVU kick return for a touchdown). We had a missed tackle on that return, and that’s something we’ve got to clean up.
“I like our team’s attitude. I like the way they work. At quarterback and some other positions (like linebacker and cornerback), we don’t have the experience. You (in the media) ignored that. I couldn’t. I really thought West Virginia had a better team than everybody thought. (The media) created the perception that this was going to be a lop-sided game. I thought this was going be like the Virginia Tech game here (in Atlanta in 2009, when Bama won 34-24).”
Saban said senior receiver DeAndrew White left the game with a shoulder problem and “should be out about a week.”