Saban still sees plenty of room for improvement after big win
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Nick Saban isn't exactly lavishing praise on Alabama's performance in a memorable win against Texas A&M.
The top-ranked Crimson Tide showed ''competitive character,'' beat a good division rival and played ''halfway decent'' in the middle of the game between early and late lapses. Those are the positive reviews.
Two days after the 49-42 victory against the No. 10 Aggies, Saban and Alabama players kept the game in perspective.
It is still September, after all.
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''Where do we go from here?'' Saban said on Monday. ''I think focus needs to be on improving as a team. There's no question I don't feel like we are where we need to be as a team. There's definitely many, many things that we need to improve on. I think the most important part of that is going to be players having the discipline to trust and believe in doing the things the way we want them done.
''Without that improvement, we're not going to get where we want to go. We're not going to become the team that we could be.''
Alabama (2-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) cleared that first gigantic hurdle toward a shot at a third consecutive national title. Colorado State and former Tide offensive coordinator Jim McElwain pay a visit Saturday followed by No. 21 Mississippi.
The only other ranked opponent before a potential SEC title game berth is No. 6 LSU on Nov. 9.
There were plenty of teaching moments for Saban in the Texas A&M game. A defense that's been the nation's stingiest two years running allowed 628 yards to Johnny Manziel and company, the most given up in Alabama history.
Safety Vinnie Sunseri does keep those stats in perspective since there's only one Manziel.
''We're not going to face an offense that has a quarterback that's able to move like he's able to, hopefully, down the road,'' said Sunseri, who returned his second interception for a touchdown in as many games.
The Tide's Cyrus Jones also picked off a Manziel pass in the end zone. Those proved pivotal plays in the game but didn't quite off-set the litany of big plays given up to Manziel and receiver Mike Evans, including a 95-yard bomb when Jones was beaten and had no help in the secondary.
That was just one of an array of examples.
''Too many big plays, too many missed assignments, too much lack of technique, guys doing what they're coached to do on a consistent basis,'' Saban said. ''When you don't do that and you play against good players, you usually get exposed.
''From the first seven minutes of the game, we get behind 14-0 and don't play very well. The last eight minutes of the game, we give up 21 points. So that's 35 points right there. In the middle, we settled down and played halfway decent.''
Of course, there were plenty of bright spots in winning the rematch of Alabama's only loss last season.
Quarterback AJ McCarron, T.J. Yeldon and the offensive line bounced back in a big way after managing only 206 yards in the opener against Virginia Tech. McCarron was named SEC player of the week after throwing for a career-high 334 yards and four touchdowns. Yeldon ran for 149 yards and had a touchdown.
Tight end Brian Vogler also emphasized the room for improvement on both sides of the ball.
''Nobody has a perfect game. We've got holes as an offense, the defense has holes,'' Vogler said. ''Realistically, you just want to win every game by a dominating margin. Winning by a touchdown just isn't really a dominating margin, at least in many cases, down here.''