Saban Recognizes First Game Challenge

Dana Holgorsen

Alabama Coach Nick Saban discussed the opportunity his Crimson Tide has as it prepares to open the season and also had complimentary comments about the opponent, West Virginia, in Saban's regular Monday press briefing. Here are his opening comments.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban called Alabama's season-opening game against West Virginia in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta Saturday "a great experience" for his Crimson Tide team.

"We've enjoyed these opportunities through the years of playing some great teams in a great competitive venue and atmosphere. I know our players are certainly looking forward to doing this again."

Alabama has had great success in neutral site opening games under Saban. In 2008 the Tide defeated Clemson, 34-10, and in 2009 Bama downed Virginia Tech, 34-28, both games in Atlanta. In 2012, Alabama defeated Michigan, 41-14, at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Last year Bama again opened in Atlanta against Virginia Tech and took a 34-10 decision. Saban is 7-0 in opening games as the Tide's head coach.

Saban said, "The question you always have when you start the season is who are we as a team. Every team has an opportunity to create an identity with the energy, enthusiasm, sense of focus that they have and the togetherness that they play with. Right now because of whatever you want to say about preseason rankings, ratings, whatever, nobody's really sold on anybody at this point. Everybody has a new opportunity.

"Everybody is looking to try create a winning rhythm in how they can execute on every unit that they have, whether it's offense, defense, special teams. You want to try to control the rhythm of the game by how you compete in the game and that's certainly something that we've always tried to do here at Alabama, and it's certainly a challenge for this time.

"But mind-set, preparation, determination to create an identity are probably the real keys for this team.

"West Virginia has, I think, a really good team coming back. Dana [Mountaineers Coach Dana Holgorsen] has done a really good job there, especially when it comes to how they've been able to play offense, uptempo, fast, sort of Texas A&M, Oklahoma State style. They try to control the rhythm of the game by the speed that they play at.

"They return seven or eight players on both sides of the ball and their specialists.

"When Clint Trickett played quarterback last year, I think that he did a really good job for them. He was able to throw for over 250 yards in several games. They were able to run the ball effectively on most teams that they played against. There's a lot of challenges with the motions and run-pass screens, attack the perimeter in a lot of different ways.

"Defensively, they have a new defensive coordinator. They're going back to the 3-3 stack, which they had success with in the past.

"They have eight starters back on defense. I thought watching them in the spring they were much improved on the defensive side of the ball. They did a good job with their punting game last year and have good team speed, which is a really good start in terms of having good special teams.

"We think this is going to be a very, very challenging game for us as a team. We certainly have a lot of respect for what these guys were able to do.

"They scored a lot of points last year in games that they weren't successful in winning but they certainly were successful in being able to move the ball and score points on people.

"We're going to have to play well on both sides of the ball. You've got to tackle well in space when you play these kinds of teams.

"You've really got to play the edges of the defense well. You've got to control the line of scrimmage in the run game, affect the quarterback. Turnovers are always a big factor in the game.

"For us offensively, we're going to have to be able to block the stack defense that they play and be able to control the line of scrimmage, run the ball, control the rhythm of the game with the way we play offense.

"Certainly turnovers are always a factor in these kinds of games."

Saban also said Bama is in good shape physically going into the game. He said, "From an injury standpoint, we really don't have any new injuries to report. Everybody is practicing, except [tight end] Curt Frietag is the only guy that would not practice today (Monday), because of an injured toe.

"Everyone else is able and ready to go."

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