Nick Saban: Alabama should be ready at whatever kickoff time
What does a top-ranked team do after an exhausting, physical road contest? Be careful if you ask Alabama head coach Nick Saban this question, emphasizing the fact that Alabama plays Mississippi State at 11 a.m. CT this week, as The Tuscaloosa News’ Aaron Suttles did to open Saban’s Wednesday press conference.
“I don’t know that an 11 o’clock kick means much of anything … unless it means something to you,” Saban told him with a slight pause to make things super awkward. “It’s the same old thing. Game starts at 11 o’clock. Everybody knows it starts at 11 o’clock. That means we have pregame meal four hours before the game, and you’ve got to get ready to play before 11 o’clock.”
It seemed like a fair question, especially when looking back at the 2012 and 2014 seasons. Following a highly emotional win at LSU in 2012, Alabama lost a close game to Texas A&M at Bryant-Denny, 29-24. Then in 2014, Alabama won in overtime at LSU, 20-13. The following week, the team beat Mississippi State but by the uncomfortably close margin of 25-20. Despite this evidence showing it might have been a worthwhile question, Saban would have none of it.
“I don’t know what last week’s game has to do with playing at 11 o’clock this week. I don’t know what 11 o’clock — if you’re a good player, you’re ready to play when you’ve got to play. When the whistle blows, you’re ready to play. Sometimes we practice in the morning, sometimes we practice at night, sometimes we practice in the afternoon, but I don’t expect that to determine how a guy plays.”
Later, he added, “I can’t answer that question ’cause I really don’t know.”
Despite the previous evidence that Alabama has had past difficulty in the weeks surrounding the LSU game, maybe the game time lacks substantial evidence. Alabama lost to LSU in 2011, Auburn in 2013 and Ole Miss in 2015 during games beginning in the afternoon or night and not the morning.
Earlier this season, Alabama posted a shutout win against Kent State during a game beginning in the morning. Obviously, the competition level is different, but the point is: Alabama can play just fine earlier in the day.
Later, Saban was asked about the depth at running back. He admitted losing B.J. Emmons to injury for the foreseeable future hurts as Emmons had become a crucial special teams member and key for depth at running back. However, if there was a message at this press conference that seemed combative at the start but made sense by the end, it was this: Saban isn’t going to allow excuses if Alabama doesn’t play to its abilities.
For Saban, there are no excuses for making mistakes because the game began in the morning or because the game followed a grueling, physical matchup or that the team lost last season because of five turnovers. All season long, Saban has preached execution and he demands it.