TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Somehow it's already the last week of the regular season which means that it's time for some of the greatest rivalries in sports. For Alabama fans, it starts and ends with the Iron Bowl this Saturday.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban spoke to the media on Monday to preview Alabama's annual matchup with Auburn.
There will be live updates throughout the press conference, and then it will be updated with the full transcript and video after.
- "After reviewing the Arkansas game, we did some really good things... but we made some really critical mistakes in the game."
- Saban congratulates Henry To'oTo'o and Bryce Young on winn
- "As you well know, the Iron Bowl is one of the best rivalries in the country."
- "It's always a difficult place to play on the road when you go down to Jordan Hare Stadium... You know, Auburn really has a good team."
- "I think TJ Finley is a very good capable quarterback."
- Saban spends well over a minute talking about how good Auburn is.
- "This is a big game for us to try and continue momentum into the rest of the season."- Saban on the Iron Bowl
- "We've kind of been our own worse enemy down there."- Saban on some of the recent losses at Auburn.
- Saban is asked what he remembers about the first time he coached in the Iron Bowl. He says he can barely remember what he did yesterday, but he's always had great respect for the game.
- When asked about a favorite Iron Bowl memory, Saban brings up how unique last year's game was when had to watch at home because he had COVID.
- Saban says the offensive line has gotten progressively better has the year has gone on. He doesn't think making any changes along the offensive line will improve the chances of being successful.
Nick Saban Full Transcript- Nov. 22, 2021
"After reviewing the Arkansas game, we did a lot of really good things in the game, made a lot of explosive plays. Really controlled the tempo of the game on offense. But _ there's always a little but I guess _ we made some critical mistakes in the game, whether it was on special teams, offense, defense, that never allowed us to really put the game away.
"Those are things that we obviously need to correct as I said after the game and things we will certainly address with our players. And I'm sure our players want to make sure they get it right, and they're going to work hard to do it.
"Great to have a couple of our guys ... Henry being the Walter Camp national player of the week and Bryce being the SEC offensive player of the week.
"It's always great to see our players get positive recognition for the types of games that they play, and both those guys were outstanding in the game.
"As you well know, the Iron Bowl is one of the best rivalries in the country. There's a lot of people in this state and all over the nation that have great interest in this game. A lot of people have a lot of passion for their schools, which is what makes this rivalry what it is. It's always a difficult place to play on the road when you go down to Jordan-Hare Stadium.
"So this is something that our players are going to have to really have a lot of resepct for and do a great job of preparing.
"Auburn really has a good team. They've had some close losses. They've had some tough injuries. But I think T.J. Finley is a very good, capable quarterback who can make plays. He's big. He's got a strong arm. He's accurate with the ball. He's been in the offense all year long. He's got some experience.
"The running back, Tank Bigsby, is as good as anybody in our league relative to his production, his performance. He can make you miss. He runs behind his pads.
"Bryan Harsin, I think, has done a really good job with this team. They present a lot of multiples on offense that are difficult to defend. They have a very good core of wide receivers. A lot of guys that have a lot of catches. They've got good tight ends.
Their defense has played extremely well all year long. They're physical. They're very aggressive in the way they play. They create a lot of negative plays for the offense. And these guys are always good on special teams. I know they lost a great kicker but their punter is really, really good. They've got good returners. They play well on teams. So all the way around, this is a really, really good team.
"It's all about the players when you play in this game. If you don't have success in this game, I don't care what else you accomplish in the season, there's always a 'but.' And what comes after but usually isn't good. You've heard me say that before. So this is a big game for us to be able to continue to try to build some momentum into the rest of the season."
What about Jordan Hare Stadium makes it difficult to play in?
"They've got great passion and enthusiasm. It's like any place you play on the road, if you don't play well, you don't execute ... We've kind of been our own worst enemy. When I think about the games that we've had down there, whether we turned the ball over or pick sixes on the 1-yard line, kick six. I mean, there's been a lot of things that we've contributed to that has made it difficult.
"So I think the big thing is being positive about how you're going to execute and stay focused and not be distracted by all the external factors or the noise surrounding the game. But when the game starts, be able to get in there and play one play at a time and do your job well. That's the challenge and that's what we've got to be able to do."
On what stood about his first Iron Bowl
“So you’re asking me to remember what happened 15 years ago? I’m having a hard time remembering what happened yesterday (laughs). No, I’ve always had a tremendous amount of respect for this game, even before I ever coached here. The first game we played here, you actually feel it. You always respect it, but when you play in it, you actually feel it. You know what it means to a lot of people. And it’s one of the great rivalries in the country, and it’s a great, competitive opportunity for all the players on both sides to have a game like this to be able to play in, compete in, have as a memory, legacy-wise. So everybody’s gotta understand that and be focused on what they need to do to play well.”
On if he has a favorite Iron Bowl game or memory
“I guess my memory from last year’s game when I was sitting at home watching it on TV probably would be the most different memory of any. But look, there’s been some crazy things happen. The end of the game the last time we played down there, we had a chance to get the ball back, they had the quarterback in the game. I already mentioned the Kick Six. I mean, one year we had like five chances to score inside the red zone in the fourth quarter and never scored a point, and they came back and tied the game and we got beat. Then we’ve had some really, really good games that we’ve played, as well. You seem to remember the ones that didn’t go so well the most because they hurt the most. But what we’re focused on is not what’s happened in the past but what we need to do to play well in this game this week.”
On if there’s a benefit to being battle-tested
“You always have to respect the competitive character of the players, whether they have to make stops at the end of the game or we have to move the ball at the end of the game, whether it’s take the air out of it or score. So these experiences are always beneficial, I think, and certainly, we’ve had our share of them this year. But I think the focus is to keep players playing one play at a time and not look at the scoreboard, and maybe that helps you execute down the stretch a little better.”
On what he's seen from Jameson Williams, John Metchie and some of the younger receivers
"I think those two guys have had really outstanding years. They both played very well. They both have really good production. I think Slade has played really well for us. Ja’Corey Brooks has made a lot of improvement as a freshman. Played a little bit more in the last game. Javon Baker, Traeshon Holden, those guys when they’ve gotten an opportunity, they’ve done a pretty good job as well. We want to continue to develop and have more players that can play with the kind of consistency that we need. I’m not disappointed in the group at all as to how they’ve progressed. But we’ve had two guys, the two guys that you mentioned, who’ve had fantastic years and great production."
Has his perspective on the Iron Bowl and college football in general changed after last year?
"I don’t know that my perspective on the game is any different. The circumstances surrounding the game relative to what we all went through a year ago, as a society as well as in sports, made it a little different then, but we’re pretty much back to normal. It’s great to have fans, it’s great to have the kind of energy and enthusiasm as we’ve had at our home games. I’m sure that wherever we’ve played and wherever we play in the future, they’re going to have the same kind of passion and energy. It’s more getting back to normal than it is having a different perspective. I think last year, it was the different perspective."
Did Josh Jobe's turf toe bother him against Arkansas?
"I don’t know. Josh practiced well all week. Just had a couple tough plays in the game. I think sometimes when players get a little frustrated that sometimes you’re protecting them by not putting them in there when they’re not feeling confident in themselves. We’ll talk today and see what we can do to help him to sort of play the way he’s capable of playing because that’s the No. 1 goal we all have here."
On if he expects anymore changes along the offensive line
"No, I think that the guys that we have playing right now have the most experience. They’ve gotten progressively better as the year has gone on. Chris Owens has done a good job when he played right tackle. He did a good job when he had to play center really on short notice in the LSU game. Getting Darrian back last week was probably a good thing. Gave Damieon George an opportunity to play some right tackle, and he’s done a pretty good job of that. But I can’t seeing making other changes on the offensive line helping us improve our chances of being successful. Hopefully we can keep these guys healthy and keep them playing well."
How important is it for Bryce to be playing his best football at this time of year?
"I think for all players, playing well down the stretch, games at the end of the year are probably more meaningful in some regards. More meaningful to the team to play your best at this time of the season. It’s more meaningful to individual players I think. Bryce has played well for us all year long. I know he had a great game statistically and played really well in the last game. He’s played very well in most of the games this year. He’ll be the first guy to say there’s things he could have done better on the few plays he might have had an opportunity to do something different. But that’s the right kind of mindset to have to be able to continue to improve and make progress, which he’s always done a good job of."