TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama coach Nick Saban said he was “almost embarrassed” by his performance, and the Crimson Tide players were equally critical of themselves even after a four-touchdown victory.
Clearly, No. 1 ‘Bama is its own harshest critic, which wasn’t necessarily the case after last season’s loss to the next opponent, No. 19 Mississippi (1-1). The Tide (2-0) handled heavy underdog Western Kentucky 38-10 Saturday but found plenty to grumble about.
That included a fumble that set up the Hilltoppers’ last-minute touchdown when the game was long ago decided.
“That’s bad ball, and that’s bad football,” Saban said. “That’s not the kind of football we want to play here, and that’s not the kind of football team we want to have. I don’t know that I’ve ever been this disappointed after winning a game, maybe ever.”
After an opening 52-6 thrashing of USC, Saban found a way to keep his team humble even in another lopsided win. He pointed out the plentiful flaws in the performance.
The Tide committed 12 penalties, for one thing. A couple of dropped passes could have been touchdowns. Western Kentucky receiver Taywan Taylor had a 59-yard catch on a flea flicker to set up a first-half field goal.
“There’s a lot of lessons to be learned from this so hopefully we’ll learn them before it’s too late,” linebacker Ryan Anderson said. He said ‘Bama teams during his career who just tried to win, instead of aiming to dominate, “didn’t accomplish anything.”
But he figures words alone won’t fix any problems.
“Talking never solved anything,” Anderson said. “Talking won’t win us a game. We’ve got to go out there and do it. We’ve got to get better. We’ve got to work harder.”
The 28-point win wasn’t a total loss.
Freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts passed for 287 yards and two touchdowns. Receivers Calvin Ridley and ArDarius Stewart had huge games, and the defense allowed 23 rushing yards on 22 attempts.
Still, Saban didn’t think his players heeded his weeklong message about guarding against arrogance and respecting the opponent.
“When you’re arrogant, it makes you complacent and it creates a blatant disregard for doing things right,” Saban said. “If we don’t start doing things right, we’re not going to have the kind of success that we’re capable of. So, we’ll certainly focus on that. It’s all my responsibility. We need to get the job done better. I’m almost embarrassed that I didn’t do a better job for my team.”
If it indeed was a wakeup call, it came at just the right time. Ole Miss is the only team to beat Alabama in each of the past two regular seasons and the Tide drew some heat for its mistake-filled performance last season.
The Tide rebounded to win the national title. This time, the ones issuing the harsh critiques are the Tide players and Saban themselves.
“You can’t pay attention to the media and the news and this and that because they’ll make you seem like you’re the greatest team in the world,” defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick said. “You’ve got to really focus on what’s going on within the team and what you’re doing and you’ve got to play your best every day and bring it every time.”
AP college football website: collegefootball.ap.org