Nick Saban on Alabama’s CFP loss – ‘We shot ourselves in the foot’


PASADENA, Calif. — Alabama coach Nick Saban took the blame for Monday night’s 27-20 loss to Michigan in the College Football Playoff Semifinal Game at the Rose Bowl Presented by Prudential.

Crediting the Wolverines for a well-played game, Saban said the result was due to the Crimson Tide’s lack of execution.

“We shot ourselves in the foot,” Saban said.

Asked about the final play — a quarterback run on fourth-and-goal in overtime that was stopped short — Saban said they were prepared for Michigan to pressure.

“But we thought we could gap them and block them and make it work, and it didn’t,” he said.

On offense, Alabama finished with only 288 yards, due in large part to allowing six sacks and 10 tackles for loss. Jalen Milroe, who finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting, was held to 116 yards passing and no touchdowns.

“It was a combination of several things,” Saban said of the offensive line’s woes, including missed opportunities redirecting protection because the clock was running down. “I thought we did a better job in the second half, but we didn’t give Jalen an opportunity to make some plays, nor our receivers to make some plays down the field, which was a big part of this game.”

Milroe said he appreciated the coaching staff for putting the ball in his hands on the final play.

“With anything, all it came down was fall back to your level of training, and we just failed on that play,” he said. “That’s all it was.”

Inside the locker room, players offered different reasons for the teams’ struggles in all three phases of the game.

Defensive back Malachi Moore said there were “mental lapses across the board.” Cornerback Kool-Aid McKinstry said, “We could’ve done a better job of finishing and staying together and executing the calls we were given.”

McKinstry said Michigan didn’t do anything they hadn’t seen or weren’t prepared for. Star edge-rusher Dallas Turner, who led the team with 9 sacks this season, couldn’t offer an explanation for why the team sacked Michigan quarterback JJ McCarthy just once and didn’t register a single QB hurry.

“It might be some plays where I’m dropping or I’m spying or something like that,” he said. “You know, I don’t always rush the quarterback. Why? I don’t know. I just do what I’m told.”

Offensive lineman Tyler Booker said Michigan “proved why they’re the No. 1 team in the nation.”

But he added that the line didn’t do a good job of handling Michigan’s stunts up front — bringing rushers from different directions — allowing them to affect Milroe and disrupt the passing game. Alabama’s 44 sacks allowed this season were the most in the last 35 years of the program.

Along with 13 pressures on 33 dropbacks, Alabama struggled to consistently get clean snaps to Milroe.

“The plays were there to be made,” Booker said.

Those self-inflicted wounds and so-called “drive-stoppers” were reminiscent to the beginning of the season, Booker said, when Alabama lost to Texas in Week 2 and struggled offensively the following week in a close win at USF.

“We fixed them during the course of the season, but as you go on, the better competition gets,” he said. “There’s less room for error when you’re playing a team like Michigan.”

Booker said the final play of the game, where Milroe was stopped, was “one-back power/quarterback power.”

“Our mindset was to finish out the game then and there, but we just didn’t execute,” he said “And that’s just the name of why we are where we are right now. We just didn’t execute. We didn’t finish.”

Booker said Saban’s message to the team in the locker room after the loss was positive.

“He’s just really proud of us, you know what I mean?” he said. “We’ve overcome a lot as a team, from starting where we were to finishing where we did. It’s just been great, you know what I mean? So of course we’re disappointed. We wanted to win the game. But at the end of the day, when we look back over the whole season, this is a great team.”

Saban said they were “obviously very disappointed about the outcome of the game.”

“I don’t think we played great in the first half, but I was really, really proud of the way our players played in the second half,” he added. “We just didn’t finish the last four minutes of the game like we would like to, and we’re all very disappointed, and the players are disappointed, as well. But one thing that I told them in the locker room after the game: this is one of the most amazing seasons in Alabama football history in terms of where this team came from, what they were able to accomplish and what they were able to do, winning the SEC Championship, and really, really proud of this group.

“I just wish that I could have done more as a coach to help them be successful and help them finish, and all we can do now is learn from the lessons that sometimes failings bring to us.”

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