The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather

    Excerpt:

    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower

    Excerpt:

    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships

    Excerpt:

    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

2 days ago

Allen Flanigan leads the way for Auburn as the Tigers defeat Kentucky at home

(Auburn Basketball/Twitter)

Auburn Arena wasn’t as crazy as it usually is when Kentucky comes to town. Yet, the game was just as exciting as ever.

The Tigers defeated Kentucky 66-59 on Saturday in a back and forth game in which neither team had a lead larger than seven points. Sharife Cooper becoming eligible has changed the way Auburn plays, and the ball is being spread around more in the last three games than it has all season.

Cooper had 11 points and seven assists against the Wildcats, but it was Allen Flanigan that led the way in scoring. Flanigan finished the game with 21 points along with nine rebounds, which were both the highest numbers on the court today.

After the game, Bruce Pearl praised Flanigan’s style of play saying, “Allen Flanigan is a man out there, he is a full-grown man.”

So far this season, Auburn hasn’t looked like the same team of the past couple of years. Shooting on the perimeter has been a struggle for the Tigers, only hitting 4-23 in this game, and Auburn has only shot 33% from deep this season. However, Bruce Pearl is letting his team play to their strengths.

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On the inside Auburn has a big man, TJ Thor, who is built for the NBA. Thor only had six points against the Wildcats but was able to create havoc down low in the paint to create space for other players to get clean shots at the rim. Stretch Akingbola is another big man who had zero points today, but his presence was felt down low opening up the floor for his teammates.

Pearl would be the first one to admit that his team was struggling earlier this season without Cooper being eligible to play. For that beginning stretch of the season, Auburn didn’t even have a true point guard on the court, but now the Tigers are starting to trend upwards.

Before the game, Pearl explained what it meant to play Kentucky. On what it takes to beat the Wildcats team, he said, “We’ll have to play our best game of the year to beat Kentucky… They’re the benchmark of our league.” He continued, “People will be measured on how you play against Kentucky, and that’s how you should be measured.”

At the end of the day, Pearl’s team was able to measure themselves against Kentucky to see where they stand in the league.

On his team’s win over the Cats, Pearl commented, “Give Kentucky credit, but we managed to to score 42 points in the second half to get the victory.”

Kentucky isn’t the same juggernaut that college basketball fans are used to seeing, but a win over the Wildcats is always a big deal for any team. After the loss today, they fall to 4-8 on the season and are 3-2 in conference play after starting off 3-0.

The two SEC teams to beat the Cats this season were the two teams from the state of Alabama. While Auburn has recently become the “basketball school” of the state, Alabama is the top team in the SEC at this point of the season with five straight conference wins.

The Tide look a lot like the last few Auburn teams who lived or died by the three-point shot.

These two Yellowhammer State teams will meet again later in the year, but for now Auburn have their sights set on Arkansas. Auburn will travel to Fayetteville to take on the 10-4 (2-3 in conference) Razorbacks on Wednesday night at 8:00 p.m. CT.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

5 days ago

Alabama basketball team defeats blue blood Kentucky by 20 to stay undefeated in conference play

(Alabama Athletics/Contributed)

Just a day after Alabama’s football team won the national championship, the Tide basketball team pulled off a 20-point victory over the Kentucky Wildcats.

Nate Oats is in just his second year as head coach of the Crimson Tide hoop squad, but he is already putting the program on the map. Kentucky is one of the biggest names in basketball and the biggest in the SEC.

This is only the second win for the Tide in the last 14 meetings between the two teams, and the first win in Rupp Arena since 2006.

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After the game, Oats sat down for his post-game interview to discuss the victory they just had over a historically good team. On his team defeating a great Kentucky team, Oats said, “Obviously Kentucky is a little down this year, but they are still Kentucky. They have got pros on that team that our guys went head to head with and guarded.”

Oats has come in and revitalized the school’s basketball program and is now 5-0 in conference play for the first time in a long time. To do this Alabama has had to defeat big names like Florida, Auburn and now Kentucky.

Of all of these, none were as impressive as defeating the Wildcats by 20 points, considering they were also undefeated in league play.

On the keys to getting the win against a great team, Oats said, “I thought the whole defensive philosophy and just getting stops when we needed to. … Obviously, it helps when you make threes. So, it’s great when you have shooters like Petty and Shack. Our big guys can also make shots and Primo played good as well.”

The Crimson Tide are loaded with experienced upper-classmen, and they came through in a big way Tuesday night. In particular, senior John Petty had a fantastic showing with 23 points and shooting over 50% from beyond the arc.

On what role he had to play with a few players out against Kentucky, Petty advised, “The same role I’ve been playing. Even though Herb went out, we still have got leadership on our team.”

Petty continued by saying, “It was just a collective effort, everybody holding each other accountable, and everybody responding to the adversity. I feel like all of our guys stayed focused on staying locked in on the game plan to get the W.”

Petty has struggled to get going at times this year, but really came alive on Tuesday and led the team in scoring. He also added five rebounds to his stat line.

Herb Jones is probably the Tide’s best player and is on average hitting over half of his three-pointers. His coach and teammates brag about the leadership he has in the locker room.

In the first half of the game, Jones went out with an unfortunate hand injury. The extent of the injury is unknown, but he did not return to the game. This could be a huge loss to the Tide, and the team will be hopeful for some good news coming from the trainers soon.

On Jones’ injury, Oats stated, “Our trainers said he will be evaluated in the morning … it’s his hand, finger injury. So, we will have an update, hopefully sometime tomorrow afternoon.”

Oats was asked about Jones again later in his post-game interview and gave a little more information by saying, “From what I’ve heard on the top rope, it looks like he is going to be out for a little while.”

Turnovers are always a key stat to look at in basketball, and Alabama won that battle by forcing Kentucky to turn the ball over 19 times in the game. They were also able to move the ball around well, more than doubling the Wildcats’ assist total.

Bama has started off hot in conference play, and things don’t get easier just yet. Arkansas is coming to Tuscaloosa Saturday boasting a 10-2 record and a dominating rebound duo of Justin Smith and Connor Vanover. The Razorbacks are coming off a huge performance beating Georgia by 30 and will be a tough test for the Tide when they host them this coming Saturday.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

6 days ago

Alabama Crimson Tide roll against Ohio State, complete historic undefeated season

(Alabama Athletics/Twitter)

The University of Alabama has won the college football national championship for the 18th time in school history.

The Crimson Tide on Monday night added to their legacy of being the best college football program ever by winning the College Football Playoff.

Head coach Nick Saban also solidified himself as perhaps the greatest college football coach of all time, adding a seventh title for his personal record. Six of those came at Alabama, with the other one coming at LSU.

Dynasty is the word used to describe the Tide football program, and that has never been more evident than after their 52-24 demolition of the Ohio State Buckeyes. Bama has now won six championships in the last 11 years.

Saban keeps saying this team is special, though, and we can see why after the season has come to an end. The players on this team were all top recruits, but it wasn’t the same as the other championship seasons.

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Saban said after the game, “To go undefeated, win 11 SEC games, and win the National Championship… I can’t tell you how proud I am of that.” He continued to praise his team, saying, “I really can’t say enough, and I can’t really put it into words in terms of how proud I am of this group, this team. They are the ultimate team.”

Quarterback Mac Jones was considered not good enough by naysayers coming into the season, and receiver DeVonta Smith was likewise considered not big or strong enough for the SEC earlier in his career. On defense, the beginning of the season was rough, and analysts everywhere said that the Tide didn’t have a good enough unit to go all the way.

This year, Alabama was counted out for the first time in a while, but the Tide proved everybody wrong.

Jones was a Heisman finalist and finished his season with exactly 4,500 passing yards after putting up 464 in the title game. He also tossed five touchdowns in the championship game.

Three of those touchdown passes were to Heisman Trophy winner Smith. The receiver proved everybody wrong about his size by finishing the season with 23 receiving touchdowns as well as getting the offensive MVP in the title game.

Saban had some high praise for the receiver when joining ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt on Sports Center after the game, remarking, “He is the ultimate team guy. He sets a great example for his teammates he cares about his teammates, and he sets a great example for them every day. He is hard to beat, and I just love that guy.”

On the change in Bama’s offensive style the past few years, Saban added, “We have gradually changed throughout the years to be more spread oriented, but still sort of drop-back concepts with our passes and legitimate play-action passes. It is sort of that blend.” Saban continued, “We knew we would have to throw the ball to win, and we did it effectively.”

As for the defense being counted out this season for the Tide, that may have been the most upside-down prediction of the year. This defense has grown each and every week of this season. With names emerging such as Patrick Surtain, Elijah Moore and Christian Barmore, the boys in Crimson shut down the Buckeyes, who went into the game perceived to be an offensive juggernaut.

Barmore, who won the defensive MVP on the night, emerged a little late in the year. He basically had his coming out party in the championship game — and what a time to shine.

On the Tide defense, Barmore had this to say: “We are all brothers. We all fight together, practice hard together, and just do everything together. Nobody has as strong a relationship as we do as a whole team.”

The defense as a whole held Buckeye quarterback Justin Fields to just 194 yards in the air, and only one touchdown.

To begin closing out his post-game interview, Saban said, “To me, this team accomplished more than almost any team… this team won 11 SEC games. They won the SEC, and then went undefeated in the SEC. Then they beat two great teams in the playoffs with no real break in the schedule.”

It was truly a special year for the Crimson Tide players, coaches and fans. The Tide overcame so many obstacles this year to get to the point they are at now. With COVID concerns threatening the season even happening, as well as players and coaches missing games, it is amazing to see the Crimson Tide finishing dominantly on top.

As Saban would say, it’s time to get back to work. Roll Tide.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

7 days ago

National Championship preview: Ohio State vs. Alabama

(College Football Playoff/Facebook, YHN)

The College Football Playoff National Championship is finally here.

The Alabama Crimson Tide are considered to be the best team by most, but the Ohio State Buckeyes shocked the world in their 49-28 rout of Clemson in the playoff semifinals.

Bama handled their business, too, but most people saw a demolition of Notre Dame coming before the opening kickoff of that game considering the Crimson Tide is loaded Heisman Trophy finalists all over the field and a defense that has improved each and every week of the season.

First, let’s see how we got to this point, even during the crazy year that was 2020.

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How we got here

No one knew if there was even going to be a National Championship or even a season a few months ago due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, teams made their voices heard that they wanted to play. One of those young men that fought for a season was Ohio State star quarterback Justin Fields.

While Fields has been impressive this year, he showed out when it really mattered against Clemson. It is reasonable to think that he is fighting extra hard as one of the players that helped the Big 10 Conference even have a season.

Generally, there is a consensus out there that Ohio State only having played eight games doesn’t give them a right to even be playing in this game. Fans of the Buckeyes will argue that after the win over Clemson, they do deserve it.

Yet, the argument is not over the talent of the team at all.

Football seasons are long and challenging for a team. There have been more injuries, fatigue and plays called for the Tide. So, while Ohio State’s team is fresh, Bama is the opposite after a 10-game SEC schedule.

Also, play calling goes into the argument because Alabama has had to show everything that they have to stay perfect, while the Buckeyes could still have some tricks up their sleeve.

How Alabama wins

Cliché answers would be too easy here, no matter how easy it would to say “just get off the bus.”

Tide coach Nick Saban is the greatest college football coach of all time, and there is no debate. This year has seemed to mean a little more to him ever since he had to sit out a game due to COVID. Post-game he said he didn’t want to take being on the sidelines for granted anymore.

Saban also hasn’t won a title since 2017, which is a bit of a drought for him.

DeVonta Smith would also be a lazy answer to why the Tide will win. Smith just won the Heisman Trophy and was the most dominant college player in recent memory for any team. Up to this point, he has 1,641 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns on the season.

Quarterback Mac Jones is another member of the “big three” at Bama and has put up unbelievable numbers this season. Jones has thrown for over 4,000 yards this year. He has also thrown 36 touchdowns to only four interceptions on the year. That is an impressive ratio already, but consider that two of those were actually tipped passes.

For running back Najee Harris, it has been a quiet season. Not for his play at all, but for the media hype around him. Harris has been loud on the field with over 1,300 rushing yards this season and more touchdowns than Smith.

It is unfortunate that Harris has been overshadowed by the other two aforementioned star players. Yes, it’s understandable why. Yet, Harris can run, catch and truck any player in his path. In case you didn’t know he can also jump over defenders.

The real key to Alabama’s success is the way this team has worked together. Saban has a secret of success, and it is making sure everybody plays their role. Somehow, he convinces all these five-star athletes to not be the star of the team.

If everybody stays focused on the goal ahead and trusts the process, the Tide will get the win today. However, with the season ending and the draft coming up, it is easy to try to show out on the biggest stage. If everyone for Alabama stays grounded and plays as hard as they have all year, they should have no problem with Ohio State.

How Ohio State wins

Ohio State is sick of being told they shouldn’t be here. They are ready to challenge the best team in the country.

The Buckeyes definitely have the talent and resources to get the job done.

Everyone knows who star Fields is, especially considering he has been in the headlines seemingly every week since transferring from Georgia.

Fields has thrown for an unbelievable 1,906 yards this year, as well as 21 touchdowns. He has a chance to hit the 2,000-yard passing mark by the end of this game.

He very well could, but he may be too banged up. Everything needs to be perfect for Ohio State to pull off the upset. One thing that is far from perfect is your star quarterback struggling to walk around after a brutal hit to the abdomen in the playoff game versus Clemson.

Yes, Fields still showed out after the hit, but there was no doubt he was banged up.

Alabama has a strong history of winning, but they also have a recent history of struggling with mobile quarterbacks. Fields is about as mobile as it gets, and if he is somehow back to full strength this week, the Tide defense will have to be ready.

Speaking of defense, Ohio State has a really good one.

Even after losing players like Chase Young to the NFL last year, there are some great players on that side of the ball for OSU. The secondary in particular was impressive against Clemson. This is a secondary that was able to keep star Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence down.

Lawrence, who will most likely go number one in the upcoming NFL Draft, is one of the best mechanical quarterbacks to come through the college ranks in recent history. Yet, the Buckeye defense was able to make him look average in the semifinals.

Monday’s game could turn into a shootout quickly, which Ohio State likely wants to prevent due to the weapons Bama has on offense.

The main key for OSU will be to keep the Bama offense off track. The defense for the Buckeyes has to limit big plays as much as they can, and their offense has to drag out their drives. The goal here should be to keep the ball out of Alabama’s hands as much as possible.

The big game will air on ESPN and elsewhere tonight at 7:00 p.m. CT. Alabama will look to get revenge on the team that defeated them in the semifinals back in the 2015 Sugar Bowl. Ohio State will be going for their second championship in the playoff Era.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

1 week ago

Alabama’s basketball team looks like legitimate tournament team in win over Auburn

(Alabama Men's Basketball, Auburn Men's Basketball/Facebook, YHN

The Iron Bowl on the Hardwood is complete after Alabama escaped Auburn Arena with a 94-90 victory in a thrilling game.

The Tide basketball team has been trending upwards under head coach Nate Oats, and Saturday was a big step towards getting where they want to be. Auburn has been up in recent years, but this season has started off slow for the Tigers.

That all changed when freshman point guard Sharife Cooper took the floor for the first time this season after finally being cleared eligible by the NCAA late Friday. Cooper was electrifying on the court, but, more than anything, opened up the floor for other players on his team.

Even with Cooper scoring 26 points and adding nine assists, Bama was able to pull out a win in Auburn Arena for the first time in six meetings.

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Tide freshman Joshua Primo looked like a seasoned veteran in Saturday’s win, scoring a team-high 22 points. He started off the game 4-6 from beyond the arc to give the guys in crimson an early lead.

Alongside freshman Primo were the three starting seniors Jordan Bruner, Jaden Shackelford and Herb Jones. Those three seniors accounted for over half of Alabama’s points, and, more importantly, controlled the game. They slowed the game down and were the key ingredient to a win in a close ending.

On the flip side, Auburn didn’t have a single senior on the court all game long, which can hurt a young team in a close game.

The most veteran player for Auburn was junior Jamal Johnson, a transfer from Memphis, who had 10 points and shot 50% from downtown.

John Petty and Herb Jones for the Tide are the names fans hear the most in leading the team to victory, but Petty was not able to get things going until late. Yet, his leadership was evident all game long and is arguably the reason for the Tide’s success Saturday.

Alabama is now 4-0 in the SEC and will travel to Rupp Arena to face off against another SEC power, Kentucky. Although the Wildcats have looked unrecognizable so far this season, they are still loaded with talent, and Alabama will have its hands full.

Auburn falls to 0-4 in the conference with this loss and will travel to Athens to face off against the Georgia Bulldogs on Wednesday to try to break their losing streak.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

1 week ago

Iron Bowl on the Hardwood preview: Things are different for Alabama and Auburn this year

Alabama and Auburn hate each other on the gridiron, and everybody knows it.

What outsiders might not know is that the hate extends year-round for the fans of the two schools, including basketball season. The Alabama Crimson Tide will travel to Auburn Arena to take on the Auburn Tigers, a recent top-tier power in SEC basketball.

Auburn’s rise

Auburn basketball has steadily grown from a below-average team with a decent season sprinkled in every 10 years, to a powerful program with a recent Final Four run and NBA production.

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A season after the Tigers’ magical 2018-2019 season under Bruce Pearl’s leadership, they went an incredible 25-6 during the regular season with a late-season peak similar to the year before. However, this time, a global pandemic shut down the tournament and ended the Tigers’ season early.

Alabama hires Nate Oats

Alabama fans, on the other hand, are worried about a National Championship game against Ohio State on Monday and do not have as much of an interest in this game as usual. Yet, there will still be plenty of Tide fans tuning in.

Head coach Nate Oats has only been at Alabama for two seasons, but the turnaround is underway and showing signs of things to come.

When Auburn started investing in basketball facilities, high-profile coaches and a new arena, Bama knew it couldn’t slip behind. So, not long after Auburn brought in Bruce Pearl, Alabama hired Avery Johnson.

Johnson was a good hire that just ended up not being a perfect fit, but the Tigers added some pressure by being the first team in the state to make it to the Final Four. This paved the way for Johnson to leave and Oats to come in.

The Alabama basketball team is now 3-0 in conference play under Oats this season, including wins over ranked Tennessee and a historically good Florida team.

The absence of the Jungle

On paper, Alabama should defeat Auburn with relative ease. However, Auburn is used to being the underdog and usually performs better when doubted. In a game that means so much to both fan bases, Auburn is missing one of its biggest weapons.

No, not Sharife Cooper, who the NCAA still hasn’t declared eligible or not, but the Jungle. That’s right, the student section for Auburn that makes Auburn Arena one of the toughest venues to play at in the entire country.

How powerful is the home-court advantage at Auburn Arena?

When playing in front of the Jungle the three previous seasons, Auburn’s record was 46-4. That is an incredible testament to the atmosphere inside at home.

With all of that being said, Alabama will not have to worry much about what Tide star John Petty calls “some of the best fans, probably, in the NCAA,” when discussing the Jungle.

With Bama hoops starting to look like a serious contender in the SEC, and Auburn struggling to get going without a true point guard, look for the Tide to take this game, especially with the Jungle not at full capacity.

The Iron Bowl on Hardwood will be this Saturday at 11:00 a.m. CT. Tune into ESPN 2 to watch the heated rivalry and see if Pearl’s Tigers get upset, or if Oats and company can cruise past their arch-rival.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

2 weeks ago

Alabama handles business in CFP semifinal to secure spot in National Championship for fifth time in seven years

(Alabama Football/Twitter)

Alabama was again dominant in their win over Notre Dame. The Crimson Tide cruised by the Fighting Irish 31-14 in the College Football Playoff semifinal game on Friday.

Nick Saban’s squad is now one win away from their sixth National Championship under the historically successful head coach.

In Saban’s opening remarks of his post-game press conference, he said, “I would like to congratulate Notre Dame’s team on an outstanding year, and you know, a tough game for us. I would also like to congratulate our team who played really well all year long and earned the right to be here.”

Saban continued, “It’s always an honor to say you won a playoff game and won a Rose Bowl. Our players earned that and a right to play in the National Championship Game.”

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Notre Dame without a doubt played well at times in the contest and even performed better overall than some people thought they would. However, the Crimson Tide proved to be too tall of an order for the Irish.

When asked if wide receiver DeVonta Smith solidified himself as the Heisman Trophy winner, Saban answered: “We love it when any of our players get recognized, and Smitty has done as much for our team as any player could do for any team… I don’t get the opportunity to see all players play and really know exactly what they have done for their team, but I would love to see another one of our players win the Heisman Trophy.”

Smith was once again the star of the game, with seven catches for 130 yards and three touchdowns. This is nothing new for the Tide this season. The Bama wideout has been burning opposing defenses all year long.

Mac Jones, as usual, was the key to getting the ball efficiently into Smith’s hands. Jones threw 30 passes, completing 25 of them. He had 297 yards through the air and also carried the ball for 12 yards — which was somehow the second most on the team.

Najee Harris was the leading rusher with 125 yards on the ground. Tonight was the sixth 100-plus yard game for the Tide running back so far this season. This included a long run to move Alabama down the field that featured a video game-like hurdle over a Notre Dame defender.

On how he instructs Harris on jumping over players, Saban remarked, “I actually try to teach him not to do it, but it doesn’t work… When he sees that head go down, man, he’ll go over them in a heartbeat, and it’s been very effective for him.”

Bama was never in trouble in the game, and had their hands less than full with the Fighting Irish. In the first quarter Alabama had already pulled ahead 14-0 and pretty much never looked back.

Saban discussed how his team handled the Irish’s offensive scheme, advising, “They did a lot of shifting and motion and shifting in and out of unbalanced formations… I think they had a good plan against us and did a good job.”

Alabama’s defense showed fans everything they wanted to see. Defensively, the Tide didn’t give Notre Dame room to breathe for most of the game; this included pressuring the quarterback often and an interception by linebacker Christian Harris that seemed to seal the result of the game.

“When you play in games like this you know that the other team practices too. So, they are going to something different, and try to take advantage of something you maybe didn’t do so well on at other points in the season. I think our players did a good job of adjusting to that,” said Saban when discussing how the Notre Dame offense prepared to attack the Bama defense.

Quarterback Ian Book played a decent game, throwing for 229 yards and running for 55 yards and a touchdown. However, when it really mattered the Alabama pass rush kept him at bay.

Part of the defensive success for Alabama has to be credited to Patrick Surtain II, who had an electric defensive performance. Surtain rightfully received defensive Player of the Game honors; Smith earned this honor on offense.

Saban thought this was much deserved, commenting, “Patrick has great size and great speed. He is very instinctive and is a very good athlete that can change direction… he is really smart and does a great job of preparing for a game. We ask our corners to do a lot of bump and run… it is really good to see him recognized tonight as a defensive player.”

Alabama will have to wait a few hours to see who they will face off against in the National Championship Game. Clemson and Ohio State are currently playing as of this writing.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

2 weeks ago

College Football Playoff preview: Alabama will face off against Notre Dame to see who goes to the title game

(College Football Playoff/Facebook, YHN)

The College Football Playoff will officially be underway at 3:00 p.m. CT.

Alabama is not new to the playoffs. They are tied with Clemson for the most playoff appearances, playoff wins and championships in the CFP era. So, needless to say, Bama has been here before and been quite successful along the way.

Notre Dame, on the other hand, has only been to the CFP once before, and that was a humiliating loss to Clemson back in 2018 in which they got beat 30-3.

Speaking of being here before, Alabama and Notre Dame have faced off in a National Championship in relatively recent history. Last time these two met was during the wind-down of the BCS era. Nick Saban and the Tide were just getting started on their way to dynasty status.

The Irish were demolished by Alabama, 42-14.

While some college football experts expect this game to be closer than it was in that 2012 BCS Championship game, horses ought to be held.

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This may be the best Alabama team Saban has ever had. It may even be the best Alabama team ever — period — but let’s discuss that after a championship, because there is still work to be done.

However, Notre Dame should be just a small speed bump on Bama’s road to championship No. 18.

Quarterback Mac Jones is ready to propel himself, as well as his teammate DeVonta Smith, into a huge lead in the Heisman race.

Jones has already thrown for 3,739 yards this season, which is pretty unbelievable considering that was against only SEC teams. Smith has caught 98 passes for over 1,500 yards and should be able to break 100 total receptions in this game.

Smith understandably gets the most attention from fans and media, but there are plenty of other receivers that have stepped up after the unfortunate injury to Jaylen Waddle earlier in the season. John Metchie III and Slade Bolden have both stepped up big for the Tide when their numbers have been called.

The under-appreciated threat this year is the running attack that Alabama uses to keep chopping away at opposing defenses in order to open up the explosive passing attack that gets all of the attention these days.

Najee Harris has over 1,200 yards rushing this season and has been nearly impossible to bring down on first contact. Whether he hurdles you or runs through you, it isn’t going to be easy to bring him down. He will be a big part of this game and should be able to run all over the Irish’s defense.

The offensive line will look a little different this game with center Landon Dickerson out. Dickerson was without a doubt the leader of that line group and an MVP of the team this season. Losing him will be a massive disadvantage if they meet Clemson in the championship game, but against Notre Dame it may not be enough to make the Tide struggle.

Defensively, Alabama no longer has a worry like they did earlier this season. Now, Saban has got his defensive squad tuned up and looking like past Bama defenses. After the Ole Miss game, Saban made sure his boys would not struggle against high powered offenses any more this year.

Aside from the SEC Championship game, they haven’t struggled with anybody since Lane Kiffin’s squad. It would be shocking if Notre Dame was able to be the team to crack the Tide defense.

Overall, this game will be fun for Alabama fans to watch their team dominate a historically great program in a playoff game, but to outsiders this game probably will not be entertaining unless you love blowouts.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

4 weeks ago

Alabama Crimson Tide defeats Florida Gators 52-46 in thriller to take home SEC Championship

(Alabama Athletics/Contributed)

The Alabama Crimson Tide defeated the Florida Gators 52-46 in the SEC Championship game that, for the most part, Alabama had in hand. However, it ended with some drama.

In his post-game remarks, Tide head coach Nick Saban opened up his postgame press conference by saying, “Throughout the season to win 11 games is pretty phenomenal. It speaks to the togetherness on the team, with everybody buying in and trying to do the things they need to do to contribute to the team.”

Alabama came into Atlanta and dominated the game pretty much from start to finish, although there was a slight lull in the third quarter. But the Tide never seemed to be in any real trouble until the end of the game. Even then, the Tide defense sacked Gators quarterback Kyle Trask on his own side of the 50 for time to expire.

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Saban emphasized the importance of winning the SEC Championship game, outlining, “I think winning the SEC is really a significant thing to me, always has been, and I certainly appreciate the coaches and everybody who contributed to developing and helping this team have success this year. Our coaching staff did a phenomenal job and we have a great support staff as well.”

Mac Jones may have solidified his Heisman hopes with an amazing performance in the biggest game of his life so far. The star quarterback for the Tide threw for 418 yards and five touchdowns.

Being a championship quarterback is something Jones can now put on his résumé. Saban said after the win, “You win an SEC Championship and you come back 25 years later and show your kids I was on that team. You can also show them the ring you get for doing it.”

There may be more in Jones’ future, but the same could be said for the Tide star wideout who also had an incredible night: Heisman hopeful DeVonta Smith. The electric wide receiver for the Tide played just as well as he has all season. Florida’s defense just couldn’t find any way to guard him as he racked up 184 receiving yards and two touchdowns on 15 catches.

However, the key to this game was perhaps Alabama running back Najee Harris. His running ability is what opened up the passing game for Bama.

If not for Harris’ hard-nosed running attack, the Jones to Smith collaboration wouldn’t have worked out as well as it did. Harris also helped tremendously in the passing game with five receptions for 67 yards and three receiving touchdowns. He added 178 yards on the ground and two more rushing touchdowns, as well.

As football fans know, any team’s rushing game is predicated on a strong offensive line. The leader of that unit for Alabama, Landon Dickerson, went down late in the fourth quarter with an injury.

On Dickerson’s unfortunate injury, Saban said, “He has a knee injury. We don’t know the extent of it, but we will do an MRI tomorrow and find out. It’s pretty serious I think, but we don’t know how serious.”

This could be a huge loss for Bama as the playoffs approach if he can’t return to play.

Alabama’s defense looked good in the first half, but the unit was spotty at best in the second hald. That defense was still good enough to get the job done against one of the best passing attacks in the nation.

Whenever the Tide needed their defense to step up, they did just that. Kyle Trask still had a good game, throwing for 408 yards on 26 passes and adding three touchdowns through the air.

Saban expected a dog fight from the gators.

The legendary coach stated, “I expected that was exactly what would happen in this game. With the quarterback who does a fabulous job. They have a really good receiving core, but 84 and 1 are really good mismatch players … when you do get them guarded you get pass interference because they are just hard to play.”

Tight end Kyle Pitts for Florida at times looked like he was going to start exposing the Tide, but other than a few big plays, he was doubled up by the Bama secondary.

When discussing the Gators after the game, Saban added, “I can’t say enough good things about their team. They certainly had a lot of competitive character to keep fighting and giving themselves a chance to win. I mean they were an onside kick away from having a chance to win.”

The Tide offense was just too good for the Gators’ defense. Florida had no answers for the Tide air-raid attack that Alabama has made famous in the SEC.

The no-nonsense Alabama coach ended his post-game talk on a sweet note, stating, “I’d like to thank everybody.”

Talking to the journalists, he added, “You guys have done a really good job promoting our players this year and giving them a lot of self-gratification for their efforts and I know they appreciate it, and we appreciate it from a team standpoint. Thank you.”

Saban was proud of his team’s win in the SEC Championship, as he should be. Yet, it is easy to tell his eyes are now set on the College Football Playoff and the National Championship Game.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

4 weeks ago

Saban on SEC Championship Game: ‘We are going to get challenged in this game Saturday in a different way than we have been challenged in a long time’

(Bruce Nix/Alabama NewsCenter)

The Alabama Crimson Tide will face off against the Florida Gators in the SEC Championship Game Saturday night in Atlanta for the conference crown.

For undefeated Bama, they need this win to stay undefeated and keep their number one playoff ranking. For Florida, who is 8-2 after a shocking loss to LSU last week, this is a chance to be at the top of the SEC for the first time since 2008.

When Alabama head coach Nick Saban spoke to the press earlier this week, he said, “Florida is a very challenging team, one of the best offenses in the country in a lot of different ways. In terms of touchdowns, scoring points, pass offense, great quarterback, and really good mismatch players on the perimeter.”

Florida has been an offensive power this year like almost no other, except Alabama of course, and are led by star quarterback Kyle Trask.

On the upcoming matchup against Florida, Saban said, “We are going to get challenged in this (SEC Championship) game Saturday in a different way than we have been challenged in a long time … so this will be probably the ultimate challenge for this defensive group this week.”

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The Crimson Tide have been the best offense in the country by far, so the Gators’ defense will have their hands full as well.

Quarterback Mac Jones has been electric all year, throwing for 3,321 yards so far this season to put his name atop many Heisman watchlists around the country.

There are two other Heisman hopefuls in this game as well.

Trask for Florida has thrown for 40 touchdowns this year, which is a single season school record for passing touchdowns. The other is Bama wide receiver DeVonta Smith, who is perhaps the most deserving of the trophy based on what he has done for his team.

A lot of players could throw the ball to Smith, but not a lot of players could be on the receiving end as well as the Tide wideout has.

Smith has also broken a record this year. He has the most touchdown receptions of any SEC player ever. A conference record is a big deal in the best college football conference there is.

Alabama vs. Florida is a classic SEC Championship matchup. This will be the 10th time these two teams have met in the game that decides who is truly the best in the South. The 2008 matchup may have even been the reason for Alabama’s success under Saban.

“I think the 2008 game had somewhat of a significant impact on the program here in the fact that we lost to a very good Florida team. I think to play the next year against a very similar Florida team and win the game was probably a significant confidence builder that we could win games like that against good teams,” mentioned Saban, “I think it changed the culture in a positive way.”

Saban said that Florida is a really challenging game for his team, but they are looking forward to the opportunity to play in a championship game.

When asked about facing the Gators, Saban said, “It’s going to be a very challenging game for our defense. Defensively, they create a lot of issues and problems.”

While this is true, Saban knows his defense has been practicing against a similar offense all year long.

These teams are eerily similar in offensive production. The Gators and the Tide have both been averaging over 40 points a game this season. Both teams have also averaged over 500 total yards of offense this year.

These numbers leap off the page, and normally there would only be one team per conference with this type of offensive production. Especially considering the SEC hasn’t been known for their offenses until very recently.

The game will kick off at 7:00 p.m. CT on CBS. The Alabama Crimson Tide will be looking to go through the Gators to take the conference crown and get to the playoffs unscathed. However, don’t let the records fool you. If Alabama doesn’t come prepared, things could get hairy.

Overall, the Tide are the better team, and if they come in focused, they should be able to easily handle Florida.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

1 month ago

Alabama has the number one recruiting class (for now) for the fifth time in six years

Alabama has been at the top of the college football world for the past 12 years, and their success is clearly related directly to recruiting.

The Tide have had the top recruiting class in the nation for five of the last six years, according to CBS Sports recruiting rankings.

It should be noted that there are now two separate days to sign recruits in the 2020-2021 class, and the next one isn’t until February. However, the majority of top recruits have now signed their letter to go play for their respective universities during the early signing period.

Tide head coach Nick Saban is known as one of the best recruiters of all, but the recruiting trail has gotten a lot easier through the years with results to show recruits.

Saban can tell young players that they will have a chance to play for and win titles. In addition to rings, former Tide players are maybe the easiest way to sell recruits on Bama. The Bama factor(y) is a real thing. Saban and his staff are known for turning players into NFL caliber talent, and that is the ultimate goal for a young player.

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Bama can show a defensive back what Minkah Fitzpatrick and Mark Barron have done in the NFL. Or, Bama can show a running back prospect video of Derrick Henry being a star for the Tennessee Titans. Now, thanks to Tua Tagovailoa, Saban and his staff can point to a rising star NFL quarterback.

There are countless other position players in the league that are successful and from the University of Alabama, and that is how a program can keep getting top recruiting classes year after year.

According to Saban, it took a little bit of extra work to sign this premier class.

“This is the fourth year of the early signing period. It’s probably a little more challenging this year than most years because of the absence of being able to have contact,” said Saban during a video conference regarding his signing class. “A lot of people did a really good job. You know, we recruit as a team here at Alabama. We get a lot of support in the University community and we get a lot of support in every area of our program.”

This class is special in and of itself. Offensive line is hardly a need for Bama this year with 13 underclassmen at the position. Yet, for Saban, it is always a need to have the next great lineman there to step in if someone goes down. Not just that, but at Alabama, you know your time will come eventually. You just have to trust the “process.”

In the 2020 season so far, we saw how a dominant line at Bama can be the difference in a season. That shouldn’t change with the Tide bringing in JC Latham from Florida and Tommy Brockermeyer out of Texas, because they are the top line two recruits in the country.

Starting out his Wednesday press conference, Saban stated, “We identified the needs that we had in this class early on. I think we got some really good players at each one of those positions, and we are really pleased to have this group of players become a part of our program and a part of our team.”

That was evident on the line, but other positions were necessary.

Defense wins championships though, right? Alabama also landed the number one weakside defensive end Dallas Turner and the top cornerback prospect Ga’Quincy McKinstry from Pinson.

Saban and his staff have signed 24 total recruits so far in the early signing period and will most likely keep the top spot even after February’s signing day.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

1 month ago

The Crimson Tide go undefeated in historic all-SEC regular season schedule

(Alabama Football/Twitter)

Alabama is no stranger to going undefeated in the SEC. However, in a unique season with COVID-19 precautions, players and coaches sitting out, and a 10-game, all-conference schedule — this one was different.

Saturday’s 52-3 demolition of Arkansas made this the fifth regular season in which the Crimson Tide have gone undefeated since head coach Nick Saban came to Tuscaloosa back in 2007. While this is an amazing feat in and of itself, none are as special to Saban as going undefeated in this “historic” season.

After the game, he discussed how much this meant to his team and the motivation that a season like this can carry.

Saban on his team’s motivation for this game said, “One of the motivating factors was to win ten SEC games in a season, in a regular season, which had never been done before. It’s kind of historic for them, and that was one of the motivating factors for us.”

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Saban later added, “Obviously we wanted to play to a standard. I think we started a little slow in the game, but as the game went on we played better and better on defense, controlled the tempo of the game on offense, and kept the ball away from them so they couldn’t go fast…all in all I was really pleased.”

For Alabama, it was a slow start to the day with the score tied at three with under three minutes left in the first quarter. Then, DeVonta Smith returned an Arkansas punt back 84 yards for a score to put Alabama up 10-3 after the extra point. From there, the Tide never looked back.

After the second half most starters for Alabama were taken out of the game in order to be fresh for next week’s SEC Championship Game against Florida. This paved the way for multiple younger guys to step up for Bama, specifically on offense, and show their worth.

Second string running back Brian Robinson Jr. had a breakout game of sorts. Robinson had more yards, more touchdowns and a better average than starter Najee Harris. To be fair, Harris got a little banged up, and the coaching staff for Bama decided to let Robinson take over in the blowout win.

However, this was a good look into the future of the Tide rushing attack, as running back Jase McClellan also had a big day, breaking an 80-yard touchdown run with almost no time left in the game.

John Metchie III led the aggressive Tide receiving core with five catches for 72 yards. Smith only had three receptions for 22 yards. Just like with Harris, Smith was sat out early to be saved for next week’s contest.

Mac Jones only played for three quarters against the Hogs, but still managed to pile on 208 yards through the air. He didn’t miss his receivers often, completing 24 of his 29 passing attempts.

“I do think that the team has made a lot of improvement throughout the year on defense. We made a lot of errors earlier in the season, but the players have gotten a lot more confident in what is expected of them,” Saban pointed out when discussing the defense’s progression throughout this season.

The Tide defense looked better than they have all year. They held the Razorbacks to just 188 yards of total offense. The Hogs couldn’t even break 100 yards rushing against the stingy Tide front seven.

Next week the Alabama defense, and the rest of the team, will face their greatest test of the season thus far as they take on the Gators in the SEC Championship Game.

When discussing how his defense played against Arkansas, Saban couldn’t help but look forward and start discussing next week, “I think we are certainly going to be challenged in a different way with the type of quarterback and passing game Florida has. I think we have to show that we can stand up and play against a team like that.”

One interesting stat from this week is that there were zero passing touchdowns for Alabama against Arkansas. The Tide have thrived in the passing game, but this week it was all done on the ground.

While the Tide should be congratulated on their undefeated regular season, their greatest tests are still in front of them. Saban has not had an undefeated team through an entire season since 2009. This does look like his best chance to replicate that feat by winning against Florida, as well as in the College Football Playoff.

“It’s going to take a great team effort in every part of our team to be able to win the SEC Championship. The offense will have to play well, we are going to have to do a really good job on special teams, and obviously play even better on defense,” Saban noted.

The road to accomplish these goals travels straight through Atlanta, where the Tide will face off against the Florida Gators next Saturday at 7:00 p.m. CT. This game will pit the two Heisman front runners against each other in what could be the best game of the season thus far.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

1 month ago

Alabama’s revenge is complete as they embarrass defending champion LSU 55-17

Death Valley, allegedly “where opposing teams’ dreams die,” might need a new nickname after Saturday night.

The Alabama Crimson Tide’s dreams are very much still alive, and even thriving, after their trip to Baton Rouge. LSU is clearly struggling this year. Yet, after the Tigers’ win last year and post-game locker room talk by head coach Ed Orgeron, Bama wasn’t going to let them out of there without a beat down.

The stars aligned for this blowout to take place. Nick Saban was back on the sideline after missing his first ever football game as the Tide’s coach, the rivalry has grown stronger than ever and one team is great this year while the other is below average.

Saban opened up his post-game interview saying, “Obviously this team has done a great job all year and won the [SEC] West today, which I’m very proud of them and their efforts all year to be able to do that.”

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Afterwards, Saban discussed how some of the assistant coaches that were out due to COVID-19 affected the team and the game plan: “We were down four coaches today… everybody in the organization stepped up and did a really good job. So, we really didn’t skip a beat today.”

If anything, Alabama might have even hit more notes than usual in an absolutely dominant performance. The stars shined brightly on the night for the Crimson Tide, including the “big three” of Mac Jones, Najee Harris and DeVonta Smith.

The star running back for the Tide, Harris, had another 100-plus yard night. He carried the ball 21 times for 145 yards and three touchdowns.

Jones notched another amazing night to go towards his Heisman portfolio. The Alabama quarterback was 20-28 passing the ball for a total of 385 yards and four touchdowns. Those numbers are starting to become so regular that people are getting numb to them.

Both of these young men profited off of arguably the best offensive line in the nation.

The big nasties up front for Bama were a terror in the trenches for the Bayou Bengals all night long. Multiple times, Harris didn’t even get touched by a defender until he was ten yards down the field thanks to the gaping holes left by the line.

Saban said he thought his team played a little better in the second half than the first, but the numbers in the first half are hard to argue with. For points alone, the Tide outscored LSU 21-0 in just the first quarter.

Of course, Saban was likely referring to the defense in the first half. While the Alabama offense scored 45 points in the first half, the defense gave up 14 of LSU’s 17 points all in the second quarter. Either way, Alabama had the win locked up the entire game and put together a complete four-quarter performance.

When most coaches win by 38 points over a rival there isn’t much to complain about, but Saban is building a culture at Alabama and a standard that needs to be upheld no matter the score.

“I don’t get to see every player play in the country. I love Smitty, I think he is an outstanding player for our team, and he has probably done as much this year for our team as any player we’ve ever had,” Saban replied when asked if he thought Smith was the best player in the country.

Without a doubt Smith stood out above everyone else for Alabama on Saturday. The Tide receiver caught eight passes for 231 yards and three touchdowns. “Smitty” averaged nearly 30 yards per reception. He now has over 1,000 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns on the season.

“I don’t think there is any player in the country that has done for their team than what Smitty has done for our team,” Saban added.

According to Saban, his team has gotten very resilient this year because of all of the abnormal events that come along with a season during the coronavirus pandemic. This includes Saban being quarantined last week, and then some assistants being out this week. Even on Saturday at the hotel, his team had a weird experience.

“The electricity went off in our hotel today… a half hour before our pre-game meal, and we had to eat our pre-game meal in the dark,” Saban shared. “It’s like, you know, stuff happens. Everybody just kind of keeps on keeping on.”

Resiliency is necessary in a season like no other. However, the Crimson Tide are not planning to let anything phase them.

That includes the Arkansas Razorbacks, who Alabama will matchup with next. The Tide will travel to Fayetteville in an attempt to go undefeated through the regular season. The game will be on December 12 for the SEC “make-up week” at a time that has not been announced yet.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

2 months ago

Saban praises coaching staff, players in Iron Bowl rout; Says he could still ‘yell at things’ at home

(Cat Wofford/Auburn Athletics, Alabama Athletics/Contributed, YHN)

The 85th Iron Bowl was a blowout win for Alabama as they defeated Auburn 42-13 in Tuscaloosa Saturday night.

Mac Jones and DeVonta Smith linked up multiple times — as has become the norm for this season. Jones actually tied the Iron Bowl record for touchdown passes with five tosses to the endzone.

Auburn could not get their offense going in this game, with Bo Nix finishing with just a 61% completion percentage. He threw for 227 yards versus Jones’ 302 yards. Nix also threw two interceptions.

The Auburn rushing attack was not as lethal as usual with Tank Bigsby playing but looking a little tender. However, the Tide defense rose up and were ready to shut down any back Auburn sent on the field.

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After the game Alabama head coach Nick Saban opened up his in-home press conference saying, “I think the energy was good, you know the offense made a lot of explosive plays out there. The defense played really well, and it’s just a great team win.”

Saban was diagnosed with COVID-19 earlier in the week and unfortunately had to sit the 2020 Iron Bowl out and watch from home.

“I can’t really explain it, I mean this is an unusual circumstance for me to be in, to be watching from a far to see our team play from a far, and win the game,” Saban said about the game. “They were very happy that they could go out there and do a great job in this game playing at home. Last home game for a lot of the seniors… I’m really happy for our seniors and the great contribution that they have made in their career here and it’s great for them to win their last game in Bryant-Denny Stadium.”

Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian took over the reins of the team for this game and did a really good job, per Saban.

Saban remarked, “I think our coaching staff did a marvelous job today. They played the situations, we had a good plan, they stayed with the plan, and executed the plan.”

“Sark did a good job of managing things,” he added. “And I sat here and felt a little helpless. But I could see things and yell at things and listen to Miss Terry cheer downstairs. It’s a little different, but it still feels good to win.”

Bama’s quarterback Jones had another amazing night, throwing for 302 yards with a 69% completion percentage and five touchdowns for the game.

However, Jones missed having Saban on the sideline to keep his confidence up and for game planning the next play.

“Not having Coach Saban is difficult, and I think obviously he did a great job preparing all of us…it was clear that we were prepared for this type of situation,” mentioned Jones.

DeVonta Smith was once again Jones’ main target, and the most productive receiver for the Crimson Tide. Smith had seven catches for 171 yards. He also caught two touchdown passes.

Asked about how he felt after the game, Smith said, “Going out there competing and at the end of the day just doing whatever I can to help the team win.”

Saban understands what this rivalry means to the state of Alabama and was happy to bring a win home for the Crimson Tide faithful.

“I’m happy for our fans who support us, I know this is a big game for a lot of the fans that support us, and it’s just a great win for us,” said Saban after the game.

Saban also had this to say about the best college football rivalry in the country: “The Iron Bowl is such a great competitive venue that means so much to so many people, and it was really hard. I did what I could do to help prepare the team throughout the week, I was involved with everything I could do until about 90 minutes before the game, and then we had to just sit and watch from a far.”

All in all, Alabama had an easy time handling Auburn at home. The Tide would like to ride this momentum into their upcoming game against LSU.

In fact, Bama already began game planning for LSU earlier in the season before the game was postponed according to Saban. “We actually had three days of work with [LSU]. Not that players are going to immediately recall all that stuff, but because we have had some experience with that, I think that will be beneficial to how we put the plan together.”

He should be back and ready to coach the Tide to another rivalry win, but just in case he isn’t due to COVID protocols, Sarkisian should have no problem managing the game for Alabama.

Jones had this to say about Sark and his ability to step in to Saban’s shoes: “Sark did a really good job. I mean it’s not easy to go in there calling plays and managing a rivalry game, and I think he did a great job too. We were really fired up before the game and I thought our energy was good, so I think everything seemed really normal.”

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

2 months ago

Everything Saban said about his preparation for the Iron Bowl with COVID; Bama players discuss the big game

(Alabama Football/Twitter)

The 85th Iron Bowl is about to kick off, but Nick Saban will not be in attendance. Alabama’s head coach tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the week and has had to prepare for the game in an atypical way.

Saban discussed some of this on the Alabama “Hey Coach” radio show saying, “It was really disappointing, especially this week, with our players to have to tell them that I couldn’t be there for such a big game for so many fans, and I know all of our players.”

Saban added, “It’s a great rivalry game to be a part of, and it’s a little sad to not be able to be a part of that.”

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Saban said he did everything during the week exactly the same as he does on a normal week. While he wasn’t there in-person, he did have constant practice viewing and communication. “I Zoom (teleconference) the team afterwards when we call everybody up… Nothing really changes, tomorrow morning at 7:30 in the morning we watch today’s practice. I watch it with the defense and then I watch it with the offense. It’s just business as usual.”

Saban knows that the biggest difference will not be in weekly practices or in meetings, but on game day. “The biggest difference is going be that you can’t be involved in the game. You can’t have any electronic telecommunications or anything with the sidelines or at halftime.”

The current NCAA rule is that if a coach is not physically at the game, then he is not allowed to have any communications with the team from kickoff until the final whistle. Even at halftime, the coach away from the game is not allowed to call in and talk to players or even coaches.

“To me if you’re not there, you should at least be able to communicate in some kind of way. Maybe with the press-box or at halftime with your team,” Saban opined.

This rule has been criticized heavily this season due to the pandemic, and it has left people scratching their heads as to why a sick coach is not allowed to at least talk to his assistants at halftime for adjustments and other important coaching decisions.

With Saban out, offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian will take over head coaching duties in the Iron Bowl. Sarkisian has head coaching experience from his time at USC and Washington, so he will not be in uncharted waters.

“Sark has been a head coach for many years successfully…when he was the head coach, he did call the plays. So, it is nothing new for him,” Saban advised.

While it is nothing new for Sarkisian, no one quite gets on a locker room or makes adjustments like Saban. He is one of the best at changing his game plan to shut down what was working for opposing teams’ offenses in the first half. Sarkisian will have to fill those shoes and make sure the team is ready for the second half of play in a highly consequential game.

“You choose your energy.” Saban told his players. “Nobody at this time of the year really feels great. Nobody is really 100%, and nobody really feels like practicing because most guys aren’t 100%.

Being less than 100% is normal for an SEC team this late in a grueling season. However, that starts to cause players and even coaches to become less and less disciplined.

Discipline is very important to Saban and his team. He said the key to discipline this late in the year is “players understanding their ability to choose their energy and develop the right habits.”

“I think they are playing their best football of the year right now. They have really started to come together offensively, Bo Nix is a really talented and good player,” Saban said on his weekly show about Auburn. “They have started to create some balance in running and passing and making explosive plays to score a lot more points.”

Earlier in the week Saban asked the Alabama Crimson Tide fan base to keep a competitive character just like he has asked of his players. Saban emphasized, “We need your support, the players need your support in this game… certainly your spirit can help us.”

Multiple Tide stars spoke to the media earlier this week about the Iron Bowl.

Quarterback Mac Jones was the first to speak. He got a lot of questions about the Iron Bowl last year because it was his first true test as a starter. Jones started off saying, “Last year’s game was obviously a really good game. We wish it was the other way around and we would have won, but it is a learning experience.”

Jones played really well in his first ever Iron Bowl aside from two pick-sixes, but he says that solid statistics don’t define a game for Bama, “The only statistic that matters to us around here is wins and losses. You can look back at it and have a great game, but if you lose that is a bad game.”

Jones added, “You can throw for one yard or 500 yards it doesn’t matter because the goal is to score literally one point more than the other team.”

When running back Najee Harris spoke to the media this week, he noted, “I’m 1-2 (in Iron Bowls) so, you know we are all looking forward to playing in this year’s Iron Bowl and seeing how it goes.”

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

2 months ago

DeVonta Smith breaks SEC career touchdown reception record, Alabama dominant in win over Kentucky

(Alabama Football/Twitter)

After three weeks of preparation, the Alabama Crimson Tide crushed Kentucky 63-3 on Saturday night. The Tide may have started off a little sluggish after three weeks off but ended up playing one of their most complete games of the season.

Stars were shining all over the field for Alabama on both sides of the ball, but none brighter than receiver DeVonta Smith for the Tide. A star for Bama the past three seasons and the current one, Smith broke a prestigious conference record for an SEC receiver.

Smith broke the SEC career receiving touchdown record on Saturday night against Kentucky. Alabama had actually been struggling up to this point being up only 7-3 against the Wildcats in the second half. Smith’s 10-yard touchdown reception put the Tide up 14-3 which started the Tide’s path to domination.

However, it also put him at 32 career touchdown receptions. The previous SEC record was 31 receptions, which was shared between Florida’s Chris Doering and another Alabama alumnus, Amari Cooper.

After the game, Smith said about breaking the record, “It is certainly a blessing just to have my name among the greats that came through the SEC and this school.”

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Alabama head coach Nick Saban had some fond words to say about Smith after the game, as well. He started off by congratulating Smith in his opening remarks, adding, “I don’t think there is anybody that holds up the core values of the program and reinforces those core values to other players on the team any better than (Smith) does. First of all, he sets a great example and has a great work ethic.”

The rest of the team played great as well, but Saban acknowledged that it took a while to get them going.

“So, I think we got off to a little bit of a slow start,” the Tide’s head man observed. “The energy, intensity, and the attention to detail early on in the game is not what we wanted it to be. I think we played better and better as the game went on. I was really pleased with the way our players responded.”

Alabama caught a break in the first half when Kentucky settled for a field goal that would make the game 7-6, but the snap sailed over the holder for a 38-yard loss and resulted in a turnover for Kentucky. Alabama then capitalized on the turnover. After that, the Crimson Tide never looked back, scoring 56 unanswered points on the Cats.

Adjustments for Bama came more so on the defense, which was struggling in the first quarter.

When Saban was asked about the adjustments after the first few productive drives that Kentucky put together in the first quarter, he replied, “A lot of the things where they had runs on us, you know 10 to 12-yard runs were that we miss-fit the gaps and made some mental errors on shifts and motions.”

Kentucky was running a lot of misdirection and motions that were clearly only in the game plan as eye candy to distract Alabama defenders away from wherever the ball was actually going. In the first quarter, Mark Stoops’ Wildcats were succeeding in pulling defenders away from where the ball was going early, but the Tide defense adjusted really fast and was not fooled for the rest of the night.

“I think as the game went on the players got more used to the rhythm of the game,” noted Saban. “The shifts, the motions, making the adjustments, we were making the adjustments on the sidelines. When we fixed those things, we started to play much better and did a better job on third downs. We started to play better in the second quarter.”

Alabama star tight end Miller Forristall was out of the game because of an ankle sprain and a little shoulder issue, according to Saban. He said the tight end could have played today, but they didn’t want to risk it unless they needed him.

Alabama probably would rather keep him healthy and save him for the Iron Bowl and SEC Championship.

In his post-game interview, Saban was asked why he thought DeVonta Smith returned for his senior season when he could have left for the NFL.

“He came back another year because he wanted to have a great productive year and get a little bit bigger and stronger and improve his draft status,” Saban responded. “I certainly think he is demonstrating that in a really, really positive way this year.”

Alabama will host rival Auburn in the Iron Bowl next weekend as a heavy favorite. The game that all of Alabama, and much of the nation, will be watching will air on CBS at 2:30 p.m. CT.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

2 months ago

How scary is an Alabama team that has had three weeks to prepare?

The University of Alabama football team opened its 2020 fall camp on August 17 with a two-hour practice in helmets and shorts at the Thomas-Drew Practice Fields. (UA Athletics/Contributed)

The University of Alabama football team has not played a single game in November yet. Their last game was on Halloween night when they shutout Mississippi State 41-0.

A bye week, and too many positive COVID-19 cases for LSU last week, are the two things that led to this point. That is a lot of time off for the undefeated Crimson Tide.

Now, Alabama head coach Nick Saban has had three weeks to prepare his team for a struggling Kentucky team (3-4). If that doesn’t terrify the Kentucky Wildcats, it should. We all know what Saban and Alabama are capable of with a long break.

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National championships and playoff game wins speak for themselves. Especially going up 35-0 against Notre Dame in the third quarter in the 2012 National Championship game.

However, there has not been a regular season scenario like this for Alabama since Saban has been the leader of the program. The Wildcats are already in Tuscaloosa and are preparing to play Alabama this afternoon.

Kentucky coach Mark Stoops was asked about the matchup earlier in the week by the press, and had this to say about the Tide: “What more can you say about Alabama and Coach Saban? Year in and year out they’re one of the top teams in college football, if not the top, and they certainly look that way this year.”

Stoops also said, “They do a great job, they’ll be a great challenge. Our team is just trying to improve.”

That quote doesn’t sound like the most confident thing a coach could say on a game week. While Kentucky has been improving under Stoops for the last few years, they were expecting a big breakout year this year, even if no one else was. With a crazy season like this, they have done fairly average.

For the Cats, all of their wins have come at home this year except an impressive 34-7 win at Tennessee back in mid-October. Most recently, Kentucky squeaked by Vanderbilt, winning by a field goal.

Alabama, on the other hand, has looked like the best team in the nation. The Tide is 6-0 so far and looks to improve to 7-0 before the Iron Bowl next week. As much as Saban’s teams are known for never over-looking an opponent, there is no doubt that with three weeks to prepare Bama likely did a little bit of preparation for Auburn, as well.

Even with the Iron Bowl coming up quick, most of the planning and practices were geared towards Kentucky, and if you are a Wildcat fan that should scare you a little bit.

Kentucky will come out on a little bit of a slump after almost falling to Vanderbilt last week. While Alabama will come out excited to play with a lot of fresh legs after two “bye” weeks.

This showdown will take place at 3:00 p.m CT. It could get ugly early, but expect Stoops to have a few tricks up his sleeve for the start of the game.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

2 months ago

Tua Tagovailoa remains undefeated as an NFL starting quarterback as he leads the Dolphins over the Chargers

(WVTM/YouTube, YHN)

Everyone was used to seeing quarterback Tua Tagovailoa make incredible plays on Saturdays a year ago for the Alabama Crimson Tide. However, he has moved on to the big leagues and has now started the last three games for the Miami Dolphins.

Tagovailoa is undefeated as a starting NFL quarterback through three games, thanks to a 29-21 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday night.

Of course, after the Sunday win, he started off talking about the rest of the team, because that’s just who he is.

He told reporters, “I think today was a great team win. We ran the ball really well, big shout out to our o-line. …We had a lot of opportunities from the defense as well, and I think the special teams did a really great job, so just a great team effort.”

However, Tua played very well himself, and his leadership and ability was the real story of this game.

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The quarterback looked just like his old self before his hip injury in college. The rookie completed 15-25 passing for a 60% completion percentage against the Chargers. He threw two touchdowns and zero interceptions on the night to cap off a great performance.

While he has the ability to make plays on his legs, he averaged -.02 yards a carry against the Chargers on Sunday. The most important thing for him to become a successful NFL quarterback is not his legs, but how well he can throw the ball.

He is showing that he can throw the ball at the highest level.

Against the Arizona Cardinals last week, he threw 20-28 passes for 248 yards and two touchdowns, by far his best performance to this date.

When Dolphins head coach Brian Flores was asked about Tua’s performance in Sunday’s game against the Chargers, he said, “I haven’t watched the tape, but it seemed like he made some pretty good decisions. It looked like there were some throws there that he got into some tight windows.”

The main thing Tua has shown through his first three starts with the Dolphins is his leadership ability. He has earned the respect of his team as just a 22-year-old rookie. The locker room is behind him, which some thought might be difficult considering how well quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick played in the opening games of the season.

His leadership is seen by Dolphins teammate wide receiver Jakeem Grant, Sr., who had this to say about Tua when asked if he was like a point guard on the football field: “He is a quarterback, and he is the leader of the team while we are out there. Guess what? He gave me a couple of assists and gave a couple of assists to Devonta.”

Tua is just such a likable and humble player, and that seems to have helped him earn the respect of his teammates.

A lot of the respect and cohesion with his teammates actually comes from practice, according to Tua.

“I’d say I’m comfortable, but a lot of that starts from practice,” he advised. “Just being able to talk with our center Ted on Thursdays going over our protections.”

He continued, “Being able to talk to our o-line about what I am thinking and then hearing from them what they are thinking. Then hear find out what our receivers are thinking. … It starts from practice and then translates to the game.”

The Miami Dolphins are 6-3 so far this season with a five-game win streak started by Fitzpatrick but continued by Tagovailoa. This season has been one of the best starts for the Dolphins since the early 2000s, and a big part of that is because of Tua.

The Chargers were also playing with a rookie quarterback, Justin Herbert, out of Oregon. Herbert has had an amazing start to his career as well by putting up good numbers for a rookie quarterback. It was Tagovailoa who came out on top this week, though.

The rookie quarterback had plenty of skeptics in the preseason thanks to a hip injury near the end of his college career. Yet, it is easy to see that the injury is all behind him now.

Saban even said before the draft that he hoped the Dolphins wouldn’t “pass on Tua, like we did on Drew Brees.” This refers to when he was coach of the Miami Dolphins and did not sign Brees because of an injury. Brees has gone on to have a stellar career and will likely end up in the NFL Hall of Fame.

When Flores was asked if he left this game feeling like he made the right decision in drafting Tua, he stated, “We have a lot of confidence in all our draft picks that they are going to develop and improve. He is no different.”

Flores then added, “That’s what we are trying to do, develop and improve and take it week to week…We aren’t going to talk about any player and say hey you have arrived, and you have done it. Nobody has all the answers, I certainly don’t. It starts with me, and hopefully, we really improve at every position including the quarterback.”

The Dolphins are happy they didn’t pass on Tua, and the Crimson Tide faithful are glad to watch Tua succeed on Sundays.

For any Bama fans wanting to watch him play as a pro, the former Tide star plays the Denver Broncos next this coming Sunday at 3:05 p.m. CT.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

3 months ago

Alabama routs Mississippi State 41-0 in an easy contest for the Tide

(@AlabamaFTBL/Twitter, Alabama Football/Facebook, YHN)

Bama continued to get it done through the air in a 41-0 shutout against Mississippi State.

Mike Leach’s team is known to have a relatively weak defense by SEC standards, but the air-raid offense was supposed to make up for that. As it turns out, Alabama is too much for Mississippi State to handle on both sides of the ball.

After the game, Saban discussed how he evaluated the Bulldogs defense, saying, “They played good zone, so it was hard for us to make big plays, but I think we did a good job, and this was a good game for us.”

Maybe explosive plays were not necessary for the Tide.

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“I think that Mac made some good throws and made some good plays… you can’t force the deep throws,” Saban said of his quarterback.

Mac Jones was 24 for 31 on passing against the bulldogs for 291 yards. Also throwing four touchdowns to Devonta Smith.

Smith has been incredible this year, but has had to compete with other stars such as Jaylen Waddle and John Metchie. However, tonight it was all Smith. He had 203 receiving yards on the night with four total touchdowns.

While there was little other production from other Bama receivers, the Tide still executed the passing game better than Leach’s offense.

The Crimson Tide have been getting better and better all year long. However, the offense and defense have not been as dominant all season as they were against the Bulldogs.

“Defense did a good job of getting them off the field, did a much better job on third down, and did a good job of implementing what was a pretty new scheme for us to play against this team and their offense,” Saban said, discussing his team’s success.

The defense for Alabama had a great night in shutting down Mississippi State’s passing attack by having two interceptions and just overall stalling the Bulldog offense.

The defense stepped up again for the Tide. After the game, Saban said, “Turnovers were a big thing in the game, and you know we were able to make some big plays and explosive plays on offense.”

Saban later said, “I don’t think they expected us to play the way we played so that probably was a positive for us. We did a lot of research in the off-season on who played them well and who played that offense well even at Washington State. We watched all the games this year and who struggled, why they struggled, and who played really well against them.”

Bama’s defense was ready to stop the pass and only stop the pass this week against Leach’s air-raid offense. With Saban even saying, “The way we played the game today, we were begging them to run the ball.”

Even with Saban’s defense begging, State only ran the ball for 37 yards on the night.
Mississippi State couldn’t get any points on the board all night, prompting Saban to point out, “Getting a shut-out in this day and age is a real positive thing for this defense.”

Shut outs are rare these days, especially with the fast-paced, and high-powered offenses of modern football.

When asked about what he worked on with the defense to get them ready for this contest, he said, “We have to break on the ball, vice the ball, and tackle well in space. I think for the most part we did a really good job of that.”

On Jaylen Waddle being out, and being an inspiration for the team, Saban said, “I think it’s always a boost for the team when Jaylen is around. He is such a positive guy and he is very supportive of his teammates, and really a great team guy. So, it’s always good to have him around, and I’m sure it was uplifting to have him around and see that he is okay and uplifting them.”

Who will fill the void left from Waddle’s absence? Well, Saban thinks other people have to step up and trust the process.

“Other people have to step up and I think we are going to have to get some consistent performance out of a lot of players. We got to play some guys at the end of the game today. Which I thought was good, but they’ve got to step up and learn how to play too. Learn how to play fast, know what to do, know how to do it, and know why it’s important to play that way.”

Saban is the king of the ‘Next man up” mentality. His teams are historically loaded with people that can come fill the shoes of injured or unavailable players.

The Crimson Tide will get a week off to prepare and rejuvenate.

According to Saban, it couldn’t come at a better time. “I think the bye week is coming at a really good time for us. We have got a lot of guys that need to get healed up, and a lot of other guys that we need to make an improvement so that when they’re called on they are going to go out there and play and be effective as players.”

Alabama will get a bye week before facing rival LSU on November 14.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

3 months ago

Saban on preparing for Mississippi State, Mike Leach: ‘This is really going to be kind of a different preparation for us’

UA Athletics/Youtube

Every team in the SEC has blemishes on their record this season except Alabama. The Crimson Tide are the only undefeated team left in the conference and are looking to extend their record to 6-0 on Halloween night.

Mike Leach is in his first season as head coach of Mississippi State, and expectations were through the roof after knocking off LSU Week One. Leach brought his famous air-raid offense to the one conference that is known for heavy run offense and tough defenses.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban said in his Monday press conference about preparing for the Bulldogs, “Everyone knows about the kind of offense they run. A very pass-oriented offense, a lot of spread formations. They do a really good job in executing it.”

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The Bulldogs have not won a game since the first game of the season, as teams are starting to figure out how to defend the pass-heavy attack. Saban will be preparing to roll the Tide through Mississippi State.

“This is really going to be kind of a different preparation for us on both sides of the ball relative to what we normally see,” Saban said while discussing preparation for Leach’s team.

Alabama has historically been known as a team geared up to stop the run game. However, the conference has slowly been converting to more offensively balanced teams through the years. As we are seeing each week, this has made SEC teams more prepared to handle a heavy passing attack.

Mississippi State’s offense isn’t the only thing Alabama will prepare for this week. The Bulldog defense has been playing well this year, and Saban said the scheme on defense is also different for the conference.

Saban said about the Bulldog defense, “Defensively, they have really played well this year, they are one of the top defensive teams in the league. They play hard, very physical, and have got a little different kind of scheme.”

How will the Tide be able to game plan for an offense that they are not used to seeing week in and week out? Figuring out what defensive schemes to run will be key for Alabama’s preparation. Zone coverage has been better for stopping Leach’s offense, according to Saban.

“When you’re that spread out on the field and they’ve got five guys going out for a pass all the time. … When you play man to man somebody gets beat and you’ve got an issue, and when you play zone you have a better chance to play inside out and break on the ball,” he advised.

One key to stopping Mississippi State’s offense will be getting in the backfield and disrupting the quarterback.

When Saban was asked about how he felt his pass rush played against Tennessee last week he said, “When people seven-man protect, which is what they did a lot in the last game, you’re not going to get a lot of pass rush with four guys rushing. So, I think sometimes it’s relative to who you are playing against.”

Things could definitely be improved in this aspect of the defensive side.

Saban acknowledged this, saying, “I definitely think this an area that we need to improve and certainly an area we are going to work hard on because it’s going to be important in this game.”

The pass rush will be one of the keys to Alabama defeating the Bulldogs this Saturday. When a team passes as much as Mississippi State, getting the quarterback off his game consistently will make the job of the secondary much easier.

The Bulldogs will travel to Tuscaloosa on Saturday to take on the Crimson Tide at 6:00 p.m. CT.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

3 months ago

Alabama hits on all cylinders against Tennessee

(Alabama Football/Twitter)

The No. 2 Crimson Tide came into Saturday’s matchup with Tennessee riding a 13-game win streak over the Volunteers. Alabama was able to easily extend that streak to 14 with a 48-17 victory.

Every aspect of the game was clicking for the Tide as the offense continued to excel. The defense also stepped up for the second week in a row. Bama’s defense held Tennessee to 302 total yards of offense, while the Tide offense managed 587 yards.

Head coach Nick Saban discussed the importance of this annual contest, saying, “It’s a great rivalry game and I know it means a lot to a lot of people in the state of Alabama.”

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“I’m certainly proud of our players for the effort that they put in and the game that we played to win tonight… It’s always great to win,” said Saban in his postgame remarks.

While the game will certainly go down as a win, the victory was clouded by star wide receiver and returner Jaylen Waddle suffering what was likely a season-ending injury.

This season, Waddle has already accounted for 25 receptions for 557 receiving yards and four touchdowns.

The offense did not skip a beat against Tennessee with Waddle out, with sophomore wide receiver Slade Bolden serving as the “next man up.”

Bolden filled Waddle’s role at receiver as well as punt returner, looking good against Tennessee while accounting for 94 yards on six receptions.

Mac Jones likely missed throwing to Waddle, but still had a great game. He threw for 387 yards against the Volunteer’s secondary. Jones also had an 80% completion rate this week. According to Vegas odds, he is now the second favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. The running game went well for Alabama as well, thanks to another strong performance from Najee Harris.

The star running back for the Tide had another outstanding performance in rushing for 96 yards and three touchdowns. The offensive line was opening up holes in the Tennessee defense all game long.

Tennessee couldn’t get many points on the board thanks to Bama’s stingy defense.

Defensively the Tide are getting better each and every week. Ole Miss was the team that first exposed Alabama’s defense. However, since then they have been progressing and really held their own this week.

Malachi Moore had an exceptional game against the Volunteers, including a scoop and score that really started to put a cap on the game and deflate Jeremy Pruitt’s team. That touchdown put Bama up big at the beginning of the second half.

While discussing the defense, Saban was asked about Alabama’s secondary and how they are growing. He responded by saying, “At times I think we did okay, but I think we gave up at least three plays, maybe four.”

He then added, “In the second half though we really shouldn’t have given up the plays because we were playing split safety coverages…you can’t give up explosive plays.”

Saban will always be critical of his teams — that’s what makes him such a great coach, as he never gets complacent. Still, he had something to be proud of and that was the defense as a whole for Alabama.

He had this to say about his defense, “This is probably the best we’ve played… I was kind of proud of the way the guys played. They played with a little more confidence, and we were pretty aggressive overall.”

Alabama will host Mississippi State in Tuscaloosa next weekend in what should be a good game to test the waters on what works best for a Tide offense without Waddle.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

3 months ago

Bama vs. Tennessee – 3 keys for the Tide to get it done

(Kent Gidley/UA Athletics)

Alabama has been taking care of business thus far in the 2020 season and look to continue that trend this afternoon as they travel to Knoxville.

The Crimson Tide will face the Volunteers today at 2:30 pm CT in a rivalry that has been dominated by Alabama in recent history. Bama has won the last 13 meetings and can make it a 14-game win streak today if they can win on the fourth Saturday in October.

Here are the three keys to making that happen.

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Getting the defense off the field on third down

Defense has been a focal point for Alabama since the start of the season. There were times that the Tide defense was a concern especially in the Ole Miss game. However, it seems the defense has improved as evidenced by the performance against a good Georgia team last week.

Third downs are going to be key for the Tide defense. Tennessee should be a relatively easy opponent to stop considering they only have a 26 percent conversion rate on third downs this season.

If Alabama can get their defense off the field on third down and get the ball back to Mac Jones and the offense, things could get ugly early for the Vols.

Continue the strong passing attack

Jones has been progressing very well through the first four games of the season. His success is thanks in part to his arm and decision making. Yet, we can’t forget about the unbreakable offensive line or the best receiving core in the nation.

Jaylen Waddle, Devonta Smith, and John Metchie III are the dynamic trio that make the passing attack so lethal. Think back to Saban’s earlier teams with great receivers. For instance, Julio Jones from 2008-2010 was one of the greatest Tide receivers ever but was the only real star at the position. Now the Tide have three stars at wide out, and they make opposing defensive backfields pay.

For Tennessee, it is tough to know what to defend against. Najee Harris is running all over opponents this year, but as earlier stated the passing game is the best it has ever been at Alabama. What do both of these phases of offense use as fuel to jump start their game? A strong offensive line.

Offensive line play

This one goes without saying, but I’m going to anyway because the line doesn’t get enough credit. Of course, the experts see it, and the fans know it is there. Too many stars on the field is the reason that the line is overshadowed.

The entire Tide offense is reliant on how well the big guys up front play, and the numbers Alabama is putting up are the best testament to the their ability. Total offensive yards for the season are above 2,200 with only four games played.

If Alabama’s offensive line keeps being dominant, and the defense continues to grow throughout the season, the Crimson Tide will likely find themselves in a playoff game later this year.

If these three keys are followed this afternoon, they will extend their win streak over Tennessee to 14.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

3 months ago

Saban discusses how he recruits great players to Tuscaloosa and builds their value

Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide are currently undefeated through the first four games of the season. How does he build a championship-caliber team year in and year out? Recruiting.

Thursday evening, Saban appeared on his weekly radio show “Hey Coach” with Eli Gold to discuss all things Alabama and answer questions called in from fans. Of course, questions about the upcoming game versus Tennessee were asked frequently. However, there was some interesting recruiting talk between Saban and Gold.

Saban discussed everything from his recruiting pitch, to how he does not promise playing time like other schools but rather an opportunity to play and be developed by the best.

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When Saban was asked about how he goes about his recruiting, he replied, “One of the biggest things we fight in recruiting is people historically tell guys (Alabama) has got all of these players there, and you’re not gonna be able to play, but if you come to our place you’ll be able to play earlier.”

He pointed out that this form of counter recruiting against Alabama actually ends up helping the Tide get the kind of players they want.

Saban explained, “That does us good in that we kind of get a lot of guys that are dogs I’m gonna call them… that means they’ve kind of got a competitive spirit, that he wants to be the best, wants to play against the best, and wants to compete against the best.”

The legendary coach made some comparisons to some greats that were “dogs” in his opinion, adding, “Kind of the Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Michael Jordan type guy. Which these types of guys make your team really really good.”

Some that Saban pointed out as having that competitive spirit were receivers John Metchie, Jaylen Waddle and Devonta Smith. He also mentioned tight end Miller Forristall as having that competitive edge that he looks for in recruiting.

He discussed what opportunities for development look like in his program, saying, “Almost every player wants to play when he is a freshman, but the thing is that how you develop, and what kind of player you become three years from now is the most important thing in creating value for yourself as a football player.”

Regarding a path to the NFL, Saban mentioned, “If you really want to play in the NFL someday it’s probably not gonna happen just in your freshman year, it’s gonna happen in terms of what you develop into three years from now.”

This recruiting approach has clearly worked out very well in Tuscaloosa since Saban got to town. The amount of four and five stars they recruit every year puts them near or at the top of recruiting lists every single year.

Alabama doesn’t have to offer gimmicks or promises to play. All they have to do is show where their players came from and where they are now. The Crimson Tide’s alumni success speaks for itself.

Saban ended the recruiting conversation by saying, “This is the approach that we have always tried to use in recruiting, not really promising them playing time, but an opportunity to play and to develop as a player. Which I think is what creates value for their future.”

WATCH:

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

3 months ago

Nix’s three turnovers cause Auburn’s loss; Malzahn promises the team will improve

(Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics)

Auburn started off strongly against South Carolina, but the offense and defense both sputtered out in the second half.

The Tigers lost 30-22 to the Gamecocks after going up 9-0 early in the game. Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn started his post-game press conference by saying, “It was a disappointing loss, but I am proud of our guys fighting until the end.”

Classic Malzahn statement.

The offense started out nicely in the first quarter by finally throwing intermediate passes and balancing the offense just as promised from a Chad Morris offense. Malzahn touched on the offensive balance saying, “If you look at the stat sheet, we wanted to be balanced and for the most part we were. I think we were 209 yards rushing and 272 [passing].”

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Accomplishing these things starts up front with the offensive line. Auburn’s line has been struggling this year and has been called out on it multiple times. However, when asked about the line play this week, Malzahn said, “I think while we were mixing in the run and the pass I thought our guys did a solid job. We had five guys, and we kept five guys out there… I think now you’ll see them grow and improve.”

Offensive balance and production was excellent for the Tigers early, and caused them to get out to an early lead. However, they were unable to pull out the win due to costly turnovers on offense.

“I think, like I said, the big thing was the three turnovers leading to 21 points,” Malzahn said in reference to what went wrong on offense. He then discussed how the three interceptions thrown by Bo Nix affected the game, saying, “I think for the most part they were short fields, one of them was from the eight-yard line, so that made it tough on [the defense].”

Nix’s trio of interceptions were the story of Auburn’s loss. Three of South Carolina’s four touchdowns came after an interception thrown by Nix.

When asked about the two turnovers in the first half that changed the game’s momentum, Malzahn said, “I don’t think we punted in the first half, so the turnovers were tough, but still we were still in pretty good shape coming out of halftime.”

Malzahn pointed out, “We got the ball coming out, we had the lead, and we went down and put three points on the board which I thought was big.”

Everything was going great for the Tiger defense before the interceptions began. They had only allowed the Gamecocks to get one first down all game long until the first interception.

On the defensive performance early, Malzahn had this to say about Kevin Steele’s squad, “We got off to a very good start defensively, and some three and outs, and got the ball back to our offense.”

The Auburn defense held South Carolina’s offense to 297 total yards compared to the Tigers’ 481 yards. Linebacker Owen Pappoe even had an interception in the game. Pappoe spoke to the media after the game about the performance on his side of the ball. He said, “I really think we were hurting ourselves with a lot of penalties that we had man, so we’ve got to get that corrected in practice you know, so we can get off the field on third down.”

Third down defense would have been a highlight for the Auburn defense if not for penalties, as Pappoe stated. The Tiger offense also started out strongly on converting third downs but couldn’t keep that trend up through the end of the game.

Receiver Eli Stove spoke to the media after the loss as well, adding some praise to his quarterback even after Nix had a sub-par night. Stove gave a glimpse into the competitive spirit of Nix. While discussing Auburn’s final drive Stove said, “He is a competitor. Like that hurdle he tried to do, that just showed me he wants to win.”

Stove added, “Most quarterbacks won’t do that, they will just run out of bounds or something, but he wanted that first down.”

Stove caught a touchdown from Nix for the second week in a row, and Stove said he didn’t even know that he was that close to the end zone because he was so focused on getting to the middle of the field.

Overall, the Tigers had a rough game, and this was a major setback for the season. However, they have a chance for some redemption against Ole Miss next week. A win in Oxford could gain Auburn some much needed confidence going forward. However, a loss could start to cause disruption in the locker room and might be enough to set Malzahn’s seat fully ablaze.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.