Three tidbits regarding No. 4 Alabama entering this week's game against Western Carolina:
1. Alabama has played WCU twice within the past decade, defeating the Catamounts by a combined 104-6.
2. Quarterback AJ McCarron has 20 touchdown passes through 10 games, matching the single-season mark Greg McElroy set two years ago in 13 games.
3. The Crimson Tide have allowed 46 points and 853 yards the past two weeks yet are No. 1 nationally in scoring defense (11.1 points per game) and No. 2 in total defense (247.8 yards per contest).
Alabama has a thrilling win over LSU and a heartbreaking loss to Texas A&M the past two weeks, but Crimson Tide football coach Nick Saban believes they're one in the same.
"No matter how you cut the mustard, whether we won both of the last two games or lost both of the last two games, I don't think we've executed as well," Saban said Monday. "Whether we're not focusing as well, playing as well, practicing as well or getting as emotionally ready as well, the focus has to be on not what has been lost but what can be gained from the lessons learned.
"We need to look forward in a positive way to what we want this football team to be remembered for, and there are a lot of things moving forward that we can accomplish."
In racing out to an 8-0 start, the Crimson Tide won every game by at least 19 points and built a combined 104-3 advantage in first quarters. The competition stiffened significantly the last two weekends, and Alabama's early dominance evaporated when LSU and Texas A&M jumped out to a combined 23-0 first-quarter lead.
Saban believes his team's inability to move on from the 21-17 comeback win in Baton Rouge was reminiscent of 10 years ago, when he coached at LSU. After his Tigers rallied past Kentucky 36-33 in an unlikely triumph dubbed the "Bluegrass Miracle," they hosted Alabama and lost 31-0.
"You all live in the results world out there, where we kind of live in the process world," Saban said. "It's hard to get people to respond -- it's kind of the Bluegrass Miracle phenomenon. You play bad but you win the game, and then the next week you get your [butt] kicked because nobody responded to playing bad because you won.
"We played a heck of a lot better in this last game when we got behind 20-0. Everybody all of a sudden got emotionally better, so why couldn't it have been better at the start?"
There was an emphasis placed on tackling last week after the Tide yielded 435 yards at LSU, Saban said, but the Aggies broke their share as well in racking up 418 yards.
Even Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron seems to have hit somewhat of a ceiling. McCarron struggled throughout the second half at LSU before delivering a late five-play, 72-yard touchdown drive, and his 309-yard game against Texas A&M was offset by two interceptions, his first of the season.
"My expectation is that he takes the bull by the horns and learns from the lessons that he's learned the last two games and try to work on improving," Saban said. "I don't think there is any reason to say he has reached a plateau. I think he needs to continue to break through and not be satisfied with where he is and to get the players around him to help him do that."
The Crimson Tide started addressing their recent issues Monday as they began preparations for this week's game against Western Carolina. Alabama will be heavily favored Saturday and again next week against Auburn, so it may not be until its likely SEC championship date with Georgia that Alabama learns whether this ironing out will pay dividends.
"Any break you can get in this division is always good," Tide tailback Eddie Lacy said Monday. "We're going to use practice this week to make corrections and prepare."
Said tackle Cyrus Kouandjio: "I still have a bad taste in my mouth from what happened this past weekend. I'm just ready to go out there and just do something."
Alabama's game with Auburn will be televised by CBS with a 3:30 p.m. EST kickoff. ... Junior cornerback John Fulton suffered a turf toe injury against the Aggies and is questionable this week.
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...