Tag Archives: Nick Saban

Alabama overpowers Mizzou in 42-13 win

Story by Christian Clark, KBIA Sports 

Photos by Joe Trezza, KBIA Sports

ATLANTA — There was tension in the Georgia Dome with a little less than five minutes to play in the third quarter of the Southeastern Conference Championship between Missouri and Alabama.

Despite losing defensive end Shane Ray to an ejection in the second quarter, and despite its defense allowing three first-half touchdowns, Missouri managed to whittle Alabama’s lead down to eight points with 4:37 to play in the third period when kicker Andrew Baggett’s 33-yard field goal made it 21-13.

Scores of Alabama fans returned to their seats, their “Roll Tide” chants ceasing for the first time all game. The pocket of gold among the sea of crimson seemed to come alive, finally having something to cheer for. Missouri had fought back from a 21-3 deficit to make it a one-possession game, and maybe it could take down mighty Alabama.

As it turned out the tension was fleeting. Alabama responded with a pair of touchdown drives that combined to cover 154 yards on 18 plays and rolled to a 42-13 victory over No. 14 Missouri (10-3, 7-2).

“They answered,” head coach Gary Pinkel said. “They did what you’ve got to do. That to me was two statement drives from their standpoint.” Read more of this post

Advertisements

Mizzou, A&M holding their own as SEC newcomers

By Brett Martell
The Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. — It looks like bigger does mean better in the competitive Southeastern Conference—not just in terms of television ratings, but on the field as well.

When Texas A&M and Missouri began SEC play a season ago, few doubted the addition of the two schools would bring more television viewers to the league’s games from Texas and Midwest. Still, there were questions about whether adding a pair of Big 12 teams would dilute the quality on the field in the mighty SEC, winner of seven straight football national titles.

Apparently not.

Just last weekend, the Aggies and their Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, Johnny Manziel, pulled out a thriller at Mississippi, while unbeaten Missouri did what No. 6 LSU could not: upended Georgia in Athens. Halfway through the 2013 season, the Aggies and the newest Tigers to join the SEC have one loss between them: A&M’s one-score loss to No. 1 and two-time defending national champion Alabama.

“It made our league better,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said when asked about the results of expansion on the field.

Some of those who represent the SEC’s traditional powers have been a bit surprised by the quick ascension of the newcomers in the league standings.

“I’m shocked, but then again, I’m not,” Tennessee running back Rajion Neal said. “Those have been some pretty good teams. I can remember times where Texas A&M were making their strides and I can remember Missouri was in the top 10.”

Others saw it coming.

“It doesn’t shock me at all,” said Florida coach Will Muschamp, who was familiar with both former Big 12 programs from his time as a defensive coordinator at Texas.

South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier said he always thought Missouri and Texas A&M had “outstanding traditions at their places.”

Spurrier said he had no doubt Missouri now has its “sights on playing for the (conference) championship in Atlanta,” and that the Aggies’ Manziel is “the toast of the league.”

Added LSU coach Les Miles: “Both Texas A&M and Missouri are much improved from when I was in the Big 12 at Oklahoma State.”

The promise of greater TV ratings seems to be playing out as predicted. A few weeks ago, CBS announced its broadcast of No. 1 Alabama at then-No. 6 Texas A&M earned the highest ratings for a CBS regular season college football game in 23 years. On Wednesday, the network announced that its Saturday SEC broadcasts are averaging 7.3 million viewers, the most at this point of a season since CBS began featuring SEC games in 2001.

Next year, the conference launches the SEC Network, which is expected to be picked up by cable providers in every team’s market – meaning millions more viewers which the network might not have had if not for expansion into the states of Texas and Missouri.

Expansion did not come without some logistical concerns. Saban said he’s still concerned about how scheduling will work out. Vanderbilt Athletic Director David Williams said the new travel itineraries will take some getting used to for the teams and fans.

“There’s always things that you sort of have to get over the hump and you know adding two more teams, there were a lot of logistic problems,” Williams said. “But all of the other stuff is great. Two outstanding universities. They’ve brought a lot of excitement, a lot of fans to the SEC, good teams. So yeah, I think the expansion has worked real well.”

If travel has become more onerous for fans, it hasn’t really shown up in terms of attendance. If anything, Manziel’s star power has provided an attendance boost in every stadium the Aggies have visited.

In 2011, the last season before expansion, SEC stadiums were at 95.8 percent capacity. In 2012, that figure rose to 97.4. So far this season, it’s at 98.7.

Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze has been dealt a pair of home losses by A&M, falling victim to remarkable performances by Manziel in both. He hasn’t faced Missouri yet, but will host Gary Pinkel’s Tigers on Nov. 23.

“Competition-wise, they both have added something to our conference,” Freeze said. “It gives us another market and expands the financial benefits that we all reap.

“The only negative I have is that you just don’t get to see the other half of the league enough,” Freeze added. “I haven’t seen any negative other than that and that’s just a personal negative. Probably everyone doesn’t share that opinion.”

Associated Press Writers David Brandt in Oxford, Miss.; Jeffrey Collins in Columbia, S.C.; Mark Long in Gainesville, Fla.; Steve Megargee in Knoxville, Tenn.; and Teresa Walker in Nashville contributed to this report.

Mizzou faces formidable foe in No. 1 Alabama

Mizzou has pulled upsets over ranked teams

By the Associated Press

The starting quarterback is out, the offensive line is in tatters and the opponent apparently is without flaw.

No wonder Missouri is a three-touchdown underdog to top-ranked Alabama heading into Saturday’s game.

Coming off a deflating upset loss at home to Vanderbilt, Missouri (3-3, 0-3 Southeastern Conference) is still seeking that elusive first SEC victory.

Alabama (5-0, 2-0) has won eight in a row by 19 or more points, and it’s been five years since its last loss to an unranked opponent. Next up is an unranked opponent flopping big-time in its debut season in the SEC. Plus, the Crimson Tide is fresh after taking last weekend off.

That leaves Nick Saban to conjure adversity, and he portrays the school’s first visit to Missouri since 1978, and just the fourth overall meeting between the schools, as a major challenge. Perhaps that’s out of deference for his former Kent State teammate, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel.

Earlier this week, Saban pointed out the frequent upsets this season while chiding reporters who perhaps have prejudged this an easy win.

“The teams that most of you in this room make head and shoulders above other teams obviously showed you how badly you can be mistaken,” Saban said. “I know I can be mistaken and get criticized, but you all are badly mistaken when you make teams so much better than everybody else.”

Missouri has a bit of history to lean on. Oklahoma was No. 1 in the BCS, and No. 3 in the poll, before getting knocked off 36-27 in Columbia, Mo., in 2010.

Plus, it’s got an offense that Saban dislikes. The Alabama coach spoke out against the no-huddle earlier this season, saying leaving defenses on the field for extended periods with no chance of substitution creates fatigue and potential injury issues.

On the other hand, Alabama just beat another hurry-up school, Ole Miss, and handily, too. So that’ll help making the adjustments.

“Very much,” Tide cornerback Dee Milliner said. “Ole Miss is a team that has a fast-paced offense, I think they match up great with Missouri.”

At midseason, Missouri’s streak of seven consecutive bowl trips is in jeopardy. The hope is that redshirt freshman backup quarterback Corbin Berkstresser, who was just 9 for 30 for 189 yards and one touchdown last week after stepping in for injured James Franklin, will play with more confidence and fewer jitters this time around.

“That really wasn’t me, I felt uneasy about myself,” Berkstresser said. “I’m not that guy that becomes nervous or anything, and I definitely felt uncomfortable. But definitely this week, I will be composed and ready to play.”

Berkstresser will be taking snaps from another replacement, with Brad McNulty in for injured center Mitch Morse. Left tackle Elvis Fisher has been less than his best physically. Somehow, this offense must produce against a team allowing only a touchdown per game.

“They’re pretty darn good,” offensive tackle Elvis Fisher said. “We’ve got to be able to come out there ready to play our ‘A’ game.”

Wide receiver T.J. Moe said the most notable aspect of the Alabama defense is its pursuit.

“It’s not that every guy’s dominating everybody on the field, it’s just that if you make one guy miss, there’s three guys waiting for you,” Me said. “So, you’ve got to get straight up field and get your yards.”

Eliminate the mistakes, too.

“Nobody’s ever played a perfect game,” Moe added, “but we certainly have to play a lot better than we’ve played so far this year.”

For Alabama, A.J. McCarron is the first quarterback in school history to throw 12 touchdown passes in the first five games, and he leads one of three offenses in the nation that doesn’t have a single interception.

Even after losing eight players to the NFL draft, there’s been zero letup anywhere. Alabama is the stingiest team in the nation in terms of points allowed, total yards allowed and yards per play.

 

 

Former teammates Pinkel and Saban meet for first time

By the Associated Press

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Nick Saban will have a reunion of sorts from Kent State’s 1972 Mid-American Conference championship team, since he couldn’t make the first one.

The Alabama coach was a safety on that team 40 years ago, while Missouri’s Gary Pinkel was the star tight end. They’ll be opposing coaches for the first time Saturday in Columbia, Mo., instead of teammates and co-workers.

They share an alma mater, a mentor (Don James) and pretty impressive coaching track records. And James will be pulling only for a pristine game that shows the strong coaching he expects. Rooting for one ex-pupil would be too much like rooting against the other.

“It’s like having two sons out there,” James said.

Pinkel flew to Ohio for the real reunion before Kent State’s Thursday night opener in August. Saban couldn’t make it since that’s when he hosts his weekly radio show and Alabama happened to have a big game against Michigan two days later in Texas.

Now, they’re Southeastern Conference rivals since Missouri joined the league — much to the chagrin of James.

“I like them both and cheer for them both,” said James, who might have to record this one to see Washington play. “I wish that Gary hadn’t gone into the Southeastern Conference.

“He can recruit and he can coach, so he’ll be all right.”

Pinkel is getting a rough indoctrination to the league that Saban and the Tide (5-0, 2-0 SEC) have been presiding over with two national titles in the past three seasons and a shot at No. 3. The Tigers (3-3, 0-3) are still seeking their first SEC win.

The two coaches speak fondly of one another personally and professionally, but Pinkel said they didn’t hang out during their college days.

Saban was a year ahead of Pinkel. They’re the coaching hotshots from a team that also included Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Lambert. They both worked as graduate assistants under James, who went on to win a share of a national title with Washington in 1991.

“When we both became GAs, it was pretty evident to me that he could be a really, really good coach,” Saban recalls. “So it’s no surprise to me that he has been an outstanding coach for a number of years. We were both fortunate to have been exposed to Don James as players and as young coaches. Gary spent more time with him than I did. It certainly helped our systematic approach to how we do every part of our program, whether it’s personnel, academics, developing players, whatever that may be. It doesn’t surprise me at all that he’s turned out to be a fantastic coach.”

Pinkel said he remembers the two discussing going into coaching at the Kent State library.

“Obviously we’re friends,” Pinkel said. “We just kind of grew apart, because he went to a different part of the country. I think Don James had a big influence on both of us. He came to a program that was down and out and built a championship team.”

That championship came more than two years after four Kent State students were killed and nine others wounded by Ohio National Guardsmen during an anti-war protest.

“Talk about a university that needed something tremendously positive to happen,” Pinkel said. “Back then, we called them hippies — nice folks, a little bit different from me. But you know what? They came to games, and were into it, excited … It united us.”

Saban quickly climbed the coaching ranks and recommended Pinkel as his replacement when he left after one season at Toledo to become the Cleveland Browns’ defensive coordinator in 1991.

Pinkel, who held that job until leaving for Missouri 10 years later, had been Washington’s offensive coordinator under James.

“Nick, every time I needed a coach, he wasn’t available,” James said. “I would have hired him in a heartbeat. He got head jobs earlier and went in the NFL. I was impressed with him because I’d see him at the convention once or twice a year and I was impressed with how far he had come in defensive knowledge.”

James spent a day with Saban and his team in California before the national title game in Pasadena after the 2009 season.

He also scored some tickets for his granddaughter to the title game against LSU two years later. Saban had to turn down his invitation to the Kent State reunion but he was still a topic of discussion.

“I think the whole team just kind of had the same feeling that I did: This was one of the guys that I played with and I know, and look what he’s done with his life,” James said. “And he’s making, what, $6 million or so. He’s done well.”