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What Nick Saban Said After Alabama Faced Auburn in the Iron Bowl

Crimson Tide had already clinched the SEC West before visiting Jordan-Hare Stadium.

For the 36th time since 1980, at least one team is ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 entering the annual Iron Bowl. 

Alabama was No. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings. Coming off its upset loss to South Carolina, Auburn come into the annual rivalry game unranked. 

Alabama was also No. 3 in the current AP Top 25, and was ranked entering the Iron Bowl for the 47th time in history. The Crimson Tide was 33-13 (.717) against the Tigers when ranked in the AP poll. 

Auburn has been ranked a total of 32 times in Iron Bowl history and has compiled a 22-10 (.688) record when ranked in the AP Top 25. 

The highest-ranked team owned a 47-12 (.797) record in the series since 1955. 

Neither team was ranked in 1982, 1998 and 2003. 

As for the coaches, Saturday was the first Iron Bowl for first-year Auburn coach Bryan Harsin. 

Saban on the field on CBS: 

I can't put it into words. The way the guys kept fighting... I'm so proud of them, it's unbelievable.

Saban said his message at halftime to the players was to have fun. 

The reporter asked: "When did you have fun?"

"When the guy caught the ball [to win the game]." 

Press conference 

“I think they name some of these games in this series, the Iron Bowl, because there have been some great games, some great comebacks. I can’t tell you how proud I am of the way our players kept competing in the game. Over and over and over, we came up with plays when we needed to come up with plays. We struggled offensively in the first half. A lot of pressure on the quarterback, played man-to-man. Made some good adjustments at halftime, did a much better job in the second half of moving the ball. It always didn’t pan out for us, but man, you cannot ever imagine players competing in a game any better than what they competed in this game. 

"I’m talking about the defense getting stops when they needed to. The offense going on a whatever-that-was 97-yard drive to tie the game. The players playing and making plays that haven’t played that much this year, that were young players. But after halftime, it just seemed like everybody was all in and we were fighting like I’ve never seen us fight all year long. It’s a great feeling. The players were as happy as I’ve ever seen them after the game.

“I have to give Auburn a lot of credit. Their players really played well in the game. They played hard. Their defense really played an outstanding game. But our receivers and Bryce [Young] made some plays when we needed to down the stretch, and that was the difference in the game. 

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"But wow, what a game.”

On getting the win at Jordan-Hare Stadium, where Alabama had endured some rough losses: 

"I just had a feeling that the way we were playing on defense that we were gonna have some opportunities and be able to come back in the game. Now, I thought that was not a good feeling when we botched the first field-goal snap and didn’t come out with any points on that drive, but then we made 10 straight. But it feels really good. I mean, more than anything else, sometimes should you equate what you accomplish in this profession on how many games you win or how many winners you help to develop so that they have a chance to be not only winners on the field but winners in life. The way these guys sort of overcome adversity in this game and showed great resiliency in the way they performed, and I said that after that to them in the locker room after the game: This is something you should always remember when you put your best foot forward and you fight and you really believe in something and you do it together as a group what you can accomplish. That may happen to you sometime in your life, too. But I can tell you that it feels good. It feels really good to come back and get a win.”

On offensive adjustments made at halftime: 

“They were really playing well. They were being very aggressive. We couldn’t run the ball very well, couldn’t block them up front, was getting beat in pass protection. We started trying to get the ball out a little quicker, using RPOs. That loosened them up a little bit and helped our running game a little bit in the second half. But the big thing was that we tried to get the ball out of our hand quicker, and Bryce did a pretty good job of that. I’ll tell you what, the guys made some clutch plays. There were some big-time catches out there on fourth down. Throwing the touchdown to No. 7, it was a great catch, a good throw by Bryce. Metchie with the good move on the in-and-out on the two-point to win the game. Kool-Aid made a big play to stop their two-point. So there’s a lot of things that we had to fix, but the one thing that I think that you can say, whether it was technical or not technical, was the fact that the players really played hard and really wanted to win the game and made an outstanding effort to do it.”

On if this is a win he will cherish the rest of his career:

“I think so. Most of the time I remember the ones we lose. But I think I’ll remember this one because of the way the players competed in the game and it was a great comeback. There were many times when those guys could have just thrown in the towel and say, ‘They’ve got the ball in great field position. If they score one more time, this game’s probably over,’ and we’d always get a sack or get a stop. So it’s the feeling of being on a team. The feeling of the togetherness of everybody making a commitment to support each other, be positive, trust and believe in each other enough to go out there and make the kind of plays that they made, especially to end of the game that makes it a special win. You don’t experience that a lot, so when you do, and we certainly did tonight, you always remember it.”

On the changes along the offensive line in the second half and what went into the decisions:

“We were struggling in pass protection at right tackle, so we thought Chris [Owens] would do a little better job, a little more experienced. He did do a good job. Chris couldn’t play center and right tackle at the same time. I thought Seth [McLaughlin] did a really good job. Darrian [Dalcourt] is just fighting this ankle injury, and I think it was hampering him a little bit in the first half and bothering him a little bit. I told him, ‘Look, I know you wanna play, but you’ve gotta be honest. If you can’t do your job well, nobody questions how tough you are.’ We finally replaced him, and I think that Seth did a good job.”

What other adjustments did you make on offense at halftime?

“Amazingly enough, I just think that we executed what we did a little bit better. I told the offense at halftime, I said, ‘These guys are dictating the game to us. We need to dictate the game to them by being aggressive. If we have to throw RPOs, we have to throw RPOs. If we get a good box to run it, we’ll hand it off and run it.’ So I think that we didn’t do a lot different. We just did what we did better. You’ve gotta give the players a lot of credit for their ability to overcome the adversity and be able to execute the way they did in the second half.”

What was your message to the team before the final drive of regulation:

“It's pretty simple. I mean, you work all year long to put yourself in this position, and now you have an opportunity. This is the drive. You’re not gonna get a lot more opportunities than this, so we’ve gotta go out here and execute. This is gonna be our chance. You’ve gotta make the most of it. It’s what you work for all year. How many 2-minutes have we had all year long? And how many opportunities have we needed to go 2-minute and go the length of the field? So the guys did a really good job. Excellent, actually. “

On Bryce Young’s play down the stretch: 

“It wasn’t Bryce’s fault that he was struggling in the first half. We weren’t giving him much of a chance. But I think he’s got a lot of mental toughness. He’s got a lot of grit about him. He’s kind of quiet in his demeanor and the way he goes about things, but he always kept telling the offense, ‘We’re gonna get this right. We’re gonna be alright.’ And I think the players really believe in him. When we started making a couple plays and moving the ball I think we got a little confidence and I think that helped not only him but the players around him play better, which enabled him to make a lot of plays that we needed him to make. He was pretty outstanding in the second half.”