Saban moving forward with positive spin

Saban moving forward with positive spin

September 25th, 2015 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Alabama receiver Richard Mullaney scored two touchdowns last Saturday night against Ole Miss and wants to move on from the 43-37 defeat.

Photo by Brynn Anderson

Alabama football coach Nick Saban has never been much for comparing current and former players, or current and former teams.

When it comes to comparing games, however, Saban is making an exception.

The Crimson Tide are coming off a second consecutive loss to Ole Miss, which is a first in program history, but Saban said last Saturday's 43-37 setback inside Bryant-Denny Stadium was easier to stomach than last October's 23-17 loss in Oxford.

"I thought the game we lost last year we lost completely different from the way we lost this game," Saban said this week in a news conference. "We had energy (this time). We had almost fanatic energy, but we didn't channel it in the right direction. We kept coming back in the game, but we also shot ourselves in the foot so many times that it made it difficult to overcome.

"Last year, we got ahead in the game and got relief syndrome or something to where they got the momentum, and we could never get it back."

Alabama led Ole Miss 14-3 in the third quarter of last season's game before the Rebels took over. Last Saturday night, the Rebels grabbed a 17-3 lead in the second quarter and led 43-24 in the fourth quarter.

The 19-point deficit was the largest Alabama has faced in Saban's nine seasons, but the Crimson Tide regrouped and had two chances in the final three minutes to produce a game-winning drive.

"We played hard and tried to come back," Crimson Tide senior tailback Kenyan Drake told reporters this week. "We were down by a substantial amount a couple of times, but we came back and fought hard. It showed the resiliency of our team, and I'm looking forward to moving forward from this."

Alabama is 2-1 instead of 3-0 for the first time since 2003, when a loss to Oklahoma was sandwiched between wins over South Florida and Kentucky. The Crimson Tide will host the Louisiana-Monroe this Saturday hoping that it's the first step toward mirroring last season, when Alabama ran the table throughout the rest of the regular season and steamrolled Missouri in the SEC title game.

Protecting the football has been an obvious topic of conversation this week after Ole Miss had a 5-0 advantage in turnover ratio last Saturday night. Drake was responsible for one of the five miscues on a kickoff return, but he has reason to be more upbeat this time around, since last year's game against the Rebels left him with a season-ending broken leg.

Tide senior receiver Richard Mullaney, who scored two touchdowns against the Rebels after transferring during the offseason from Oregon State, isn't putting a positive spin on what transpired.

"We've just got to move forward from what happened," Mullaney said. "A loss is a loss."

Saban arguably has been as complimentary of his team this week as he has in quite some time. That includes the Crimson Tide secondary, which yielded 341 passing yards to Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly.

Against Kelly last weekend and Bo Wallace last year, Alabama has allowed six aerial touchdowns to the Rebels.

"I'm not down on our players in the secondary," Saban said. "We had a few missed tackles, and we could have covered a few things better, but they did not really have sustained drives in the game. They got the ball in great field position and scored, and they made big plays and scored. They drove a couple of times and kicked field goals.

"We just came up short this time."

Henry returns

Alabama junior tailback Derrick Henry has been hindered this week by tonsillitis, according to Saban. Henry was limited during Tuesday's practice and sat out Wednesday's workout but was expected back in Thursday's closed workout.

Henry leads the Tide with 370 yards on 54 carries (6.9 per carry) and a league-leading seven touchdowns.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.


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