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Nick Saban, Alabama Players Speak Following Loss to Georgia

Following the game, members of the Alabama Crimson Tide including head coach Nick Saban and quarterback Bryce Young answered questions from media members.

For just the second time all season, the Alabama Crimson Tide didn't have an answer. 

As the confetti fell from Lucas Oil Stadium on Monday night, it was Alabama that played the role of runner-up walking off the field as losers, falling to SEC rival Georgia 33-18. 

It was a back-and-forth battle between the two teams that had met earlier in December, with Alabama winning convincingly in the SEC Championship Game. 

This time, it was the Bulldogs that got the better of the two sides, winning their first national championship in over 40 years. 

Following the game, Alabama head coach Nick Saban, quarterback Bryce Young and linebacker Will Anderson answered questions from media members. 

The following is a transcript of Alabama's press conference provided by the College Football Playoffs.

Alabama Reacts to Losing CFP Title Game

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Alabama head coach Nick Saban along with student-athletes Bryce Young and Will Anderson Jr.

COACH SABAN: I'm extremely proud of this group, our team, for what they were able to accomplish this year, the adversity that they overcame.

They're a really great bunch of winners. They won going away this year. They came from behind and won, and won close games to have the opportunity to play in this game.

And I just feel really poorly that we didn't finish the game better than we did in the fourth quarter, because we played a heck of a game against a heck of a team for the first three quarters of the game.

Congratulate Georgia for the job that they did, but nobody can take the SEC Championship away from this team, the Cotton Bowl championship. And I'm extremely proud of everything that this team had to overcome to get to this position to have an opportunity to win the national championship. We just didn't finish the way we needed to finish.

Q. You guys took the lead in the fourth quarter. Georgia comes back and drives down the field. What was it like getting that possession for you defensively when Georgia was on the drive to take the lead?

WILL ANDERSON JR.: I mean, it was just what happened.

COACH SABAN: They basically had two drives in the fourth quarter. They made a couple of explosive plays in one, which we don't want to give up explosive plays. They got a pass interference. They hit a long pass on us. It was a free play for them. We jumped offsides. And when they got the ball the second time with a one-point lead and a chance for us to still be in the game, they just ran the ball and we didn't stop them.

That's what it was like to be out there. And we still had an opportunity when it was 26-18, when we're going two-minute down the field to score a touchdown and go for two and tie the game and have a chance in overtime. And we threw a pick-6.

That's what happened. I assume you watched the game, but that's really what happened. And that's what it felt like. That's what it felt like for Will and that's what it feels like for Bryce, who feel really poorly that they couldn't do better to try to not let that happen.

Q. Bryce, how much of an effect did it have for you and the offense when Jameson went down, and without John as well?

BRYCE YOUNG: Losing someone like J-Mo is tough. But that's been a theme for us is overcoming adversity. A lot of guys stepped up in a big moment, and those guys that we were used to.

And I'm tremendously proud of how we played offensively, how people stepped up. I'm tremendously proud of how everyone around me played. And it's on me to perform better. People stepped up in big moments when they were supposed to. And we had chances, had opportunities. And at the end of the day I didn't get the ball into the end zone. And that's on me.

I love my guys. I'll forever love my guys. I wouldn't trade my guys for anything. And I'm -- it's a little tough that I let them down today. But I love those guys and they stepped up. Adversity has been our thing all year. I've just gotta do better with it.

Q. Coach, you had a pretty lengthy conversation with Coach after the win. What did you say to him and I know you guys had a relationship a long time, Kirby and you?

COACH SABAN: You know, Kirby asked about J-Mo. And I will answer for Bryce. J-Mo was a great player for us all year. He made a lot of explosive plays. And I think anytime you lose players like him and John Metchie it certainly has some impact on how you can perform offensively. And Bryce is a great quarterback. He had a great year.

But at the same time, when you play quarterback, players have to play well around you, and we had some guys step up tonight and get some opportunities and they did some good things.

But I love Kirby. I think Kirby has a lot of respect for us. He did a great job for us for a long time. If we had to lose a national championship, I'd rather lose one to one of the former assistants who certainly did a great job for us and has done a great job for his program and his team.

If any team deserves -- they deserve it. They played great all year. We were the only team to beat them in the SEC Championship game. And we just couldn't finish the game tonight like we wanted to.

But I think Kirby has done a really really good job there. I congratulated him on the win. I'm really proud of him. And I'm proud of the way he's been able to coach his team and the consistency that they've played with all year.

Q. Bryce, you had mentioned that you feel like you let the team down. Can you elaborate maybe on why you feel that way?

BRYCE YOUNG: We had a lot of opportunities, moved the ball relatively well. We did some stuff well. We didn't execute. And at the end of the day that's on me. For us not finishing drives like we want to, it's just not executing.

We worked tremendously hard, and the guys around me they all worked super hard. And I don't feel like they deserve this. So it's something that I have to take from. And I'm just proud of my guys. I love my guys, every one of them, both sides of the ball. I wish I could have been better for them tonight.

Q. Not to harp on finishing drives but what happened in some of the red-zone plays in your eyes? And why do you feel you weren't able to get some of the plays in the end zone?

BRYCE YOUNG: Just didn't execute, one reason or another. Didn't execute. And ball touches my hands every play. And it's my job to put the ball into the end zone. I wasn't able to do that tonight.

So it was different things. But at the end of the day, as leaders, it's on me. We just weren't able to execute and finish like we wanted to.

Q. Bryce, based on how they pressured you last game, what changes did you see or what kind of things did they continue doing as far as pressuring you?

BRYCE YOUNG: They switched some things up. We knew that we might get some different looks. Some looks took me a little bit just to get down. The O line battled and fought all day, all season, and some of that stuff may look like, may look interior, may look like scheme, but there's a lot I have to do with that.

And I think that they switched up some stuff, had different tendencies. And I have to process that faster, just make the right play for the team better than I did tonight. So they changed some things, and I wasn't able to execute.

Q. The fumble that Georgia had, how much of a momentum change and (indiscernible) did that feel like for you guys at that point?

WILL ANDERSON JR.: It was a good shift of energy for us. That's something that we needed to get us going.

Overall, I feel like I'm so proud of these guys. I told them before the game and after the game because all season long we faced so much adversity. So many people doubted us. The type of players we have in the locker room, the type of coaches we have, and for everybody to keep fighting and never give up, everybody showed tremendous effort when we was out on the field.

Nobody hung their head low. It was the same with the Auburn game and this whole year, everybody has been so positive. It took us a while to get to playing to the Alabama standard.

I think once we reached that and people started playing in there, we really started playing football. And like I said I'm so proud of these guys. We didn't get the outcome we wanted. But overall I feel like we had a really good season and we're just looking forward to getting better this offseason and getting ready for next season.

BRYCE YOUNG: That was a big momentum shift. The defense fought and battled, played amazing for us the whole night. Those are just good momentum shifts, and offensively you just have to do a better job of capitalizing, carrying that momentum out.

So at the time it felt good, but obviously (indiscernible) but to echo off of what Will said, I'm proud of my guys, proud of my team and the things we did this year. Obviously not the result we wanted. But I wouldn't trade it for the world. I love everyone in the locker room. And I'm just happy to be part of the team.

COACH SABAN: These two guys sitting up here, they're not defined by one game they played great for us all year, they were great competitors, great leaders on this team and they contributed tremendously to the success of this team. And we would not be here without them.

And both of them take responsibility for the loss, but both of them contributed in a lot of ways, in a positive way, to giving us a chance to win and a chance to be here to have an opportunity to win.

So, I just want to thank them for that and let everybody know how proud I am of these two guys.

Q. Coach, you talked about the injury to Jameson. How did you think some of the young guys stepped up at receiver? And how much will it help them moving into next season with this experience?

COACH SABAN: I think it will help them a lot. I think these kinds of experiences are invaluable in terms of -- the thing that's tough about it is we played some guys tonight that didn't get to play much during the season. So they didn't have much experience going in.

And they had some opportunities and they made some plays. And I'm sure that will help their confidence. And they'll grow and learn from this. And it will be a positive experience for them and their development in the future.

Q. You just stopped and kind of made sure that the two players heard what you said. But heading into the offseason, how confident are you that Bryce Young and Will Anderson will be able to bounce back from this just from what you've seen from them as players?

COACH SABAN: They're great competitors. Great competitors always respond well to adversity. There's nobody that feels worse about losing this game than these two guys.

So I know we look at things from our perspective, but internally, on a team, these players put a lot of hard work in. They made a lot of sacrifices to contribute to the team so the team has a chance to have success, to have an opportunity to be here.

There's nobody that feels worse about that than them. And there's nobody that's going to want to do more to try to get better so that they have an opportunity to have success in the future.

And I think that's what great character people do. And I think this team demonstrated great character all year long in their ability to overcome a lot of tough things. And these two young men are great competitors and they'll overcome it very well, I'm sure.

Q. Georgia had the ball with 90 seconds there in the first half and you decided not to use their timeouts. There was 22 seconds what were the factors you considered when you made that decision not to use your timeouts there?

COACH SABAN: Sometimes when you use your timeouts, when they have -- I used one timeout. But then they made a first down. So what good would it have done to use your timeouts if they made a first down. They were trying to run and get out of it.

I've been in situations like that before where you call timeout and they make a first down and they go two-minute and you're hanging on. So that was my thinking on that.

I really don't think it had much of an impact on the outcome of the game, actually. So we were going to try to make them punt. But when it's first down, second down, if they make a big play, they get field position, they go two-minute, you just gave them an opportunity to score. So sometimes you've got to play defense a little bit, too.

Q. I'm wondering if you know yet the severity of Jameson's injury or what exactly it is. And as a follow-up, how much that altered your game plan for the majority of the game?

COACH SABAN: He has a knee injury. We won't know the extent of the knee injury until we get an MRI. He actually wanted to play in the second half and the medical staff wouldn't let him, which I think was smart because he has a future as a football player.

Look, this guy contributed tremendously to our team all year. He has great speed. He's a vertical threat. I think our offensive coaches did a great job of utilizing his talent this year. He's been very productive. Anytime you lose players like this it has an impact on your team.

Yeah, it gives other players opportunities. And I'm not disappointed in how they responded to that, but there's no question that you win with great players. You win with great people. And he's been a great person and a great player on our team all year long. So when you take him out of the lineup, it has to have some impact.

Q. Just the senior class that you had this year, particularly Phil Mathis and Brian Robinson, I know this isn't the way they wanted to go out, but just how proud are you of those guys and what they've been able to do at the University of Alabama?

COACH SABAN: Those guys have accomplished a tremendous amount of good things in their career at the University of Alabama, not only in how many games they've won and how productive they've been on the field, but these are fine young men who have really developed nicely from a character and attitude standpoint, and will have a tremendous opportunity to be successful in the future, regardless what they choose to do.

We didn't have a lot of seniors on this team this year but those guys you mentioned, they were great ones.

Q. Specific to Agiye Hall, there was a point he wasn't playing this season. What happened over the last couple of months that gave you confidence to put him back out on the field?

COACH SABAN: He's improved in practice in terms of gaining some confidence in what to do, how to do it. And all players have to make an investment in their development.

We have a responsibility and obligation to play the best players, but we also have a responsibility and obligation not to put players on the field who are not going to be productive because they don't know what to do, or not confident in how to do it and why it's important to do it that way. That's all part of a young player's development.

In the last, I don't know, all these bowl practices, starting with the SEC Championship game, Agiye has started to develop confidence and he has a lot of ability. And he started to develop confidence in knowing what to do, knowing how to do it, knowing why it's important to do it that way.

And I think the players on the offensive side of the ball started to develop confidence in him as well. So he had some opportunities tonight. He made some good plays.

I'd like to thank the College Football Playoff committee for having this event. This is a wonderful thing for college football. It's a great thing for fans.

I'd also like to thank the media for the wonderful job that you do sort of covering college football. And I think you give a lot of positive self-gratification to a lot of young men who do a lot of hard work in representing their institutions and families. And I appreciate the job that you do and recognizing what they do. Thank you.