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After big win against LSU, Saban says No. 1 Tide must focus on an improved MSU squad (via Crimson Magazine)

07 Nov 2016 Stan J. Griffin

By Stan J. Griffin: November 7, 2016

Fully aware that his No. 1 University of Alabama football team is coming off a very physical and emotional 10-0 road victory over LSU this past weekend, Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said Monday that his team must now come back down to earth and of course turn its focus toward another challenging opponent.
And that opponent just happens to be Dan Mullen's much-improved Mississippi State team, a squad that has been very solid in its past three games, and has won two in a row coming into Saturday's game at Bryant-Denny Stadium.  Of course this past weekend, Mullen's team stunned then-No. 4 Texas A&M 35-28 in Starkville.
Alabama (9-0 overall, 6-0 in Southeastern Conference play) battles MSU (4-5 overall, 2-3 in league play) in Tuscaloosa in an SEC West clash set to kickoff at 11 a.m. CT. The game will be televised by ESPN.
"We obviously have a lot of work to do in some areas of our team and I think the biggest thing is, we can't have any relief syndrome after a big emotional game, especially when you have a really good team coming up, and a new challenge that we all need to respond to," Saban said. "We're excited to be back home and playing this game at Bryant-Denny Stadium. I think it's always a challenge for us to respond in the right way."
He noted that the Bulldogs will be a much different style of team than the LSU squad that his team just defeated in Baton Rouge.
"They have played better and better each and every week, and they're probably playing their best football of the season right now, pretty obvious with their win over Texas A&M how good they are playing right now," Saban said. "Their quarterback (sophomore Nick Fitzgerald) has done a really good job for them all year long and he's kind of the center of what they do in terms of how much he runs the ball and his effectiveness as a runner as well as being a very effective passer. (Senior) Fred Ross is a very good receiver and an outside threat that can create explosive plays for them and they've been able to run effectively, and defensively they create a lot of issues and problems in terms of negative plays and how aggressive they are and they're very well-coached and good special teams. (Mullen) has done a great job there for a lot of years and we've always had some really difficult games and that's what will be our expectation in this game."


Alabama is coming off an outstanding defensive performance against LSU, where it allowed no points, only six first downs and a total of 125 yards to Ed Orgeron's host Tigers.
One of the main reasons for that performance was the stellar effort of redshirt senior linebacker Ryan Anderson.
Against the Tigers he registered six total tackles, including one sack (for a loss of four yards), one pass breakup and one quarterback hurry. His tackle for a loss increased his team-leading total to 12.5 on the season (-65 yards). The senior linebacker played a key role on the Crimson Tide defense that limited LSU to only 1.2 yards per carry on the ground and 3.8 yards per attempt overall.
For his good work in Death Valley, Anderson was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Week, and Saban said the Daphne native has been an integral part of the Crimson Tide stop unit all season.
"Ryan has always been a really good player for us and he's recognized by the SEC as the player of the week this week," he said. "First of all, he's a good leader, he's a smart player, really plays his position well whether we're playing regular or his role in nickel. He understands the pass coverage of what we have to do, which I think for an outside backer is really critical to have some guys that can do that. But, his leadership, his pass rush ability, his ability to play the run. A very, very, very good all-around football player that has done a fantastic job for us."
Anderson, with his 35 total tackles and 5.5 sacks thus far this season,  is no doubt one of those standouts that Saban refers to when he notes that his suffocating Tide defense includes a host of "hateful" individuals.
"You know, I think to be a good competitor, you've got to have to have a little stuff in your neck, if you know what that means, and that's what good defensive players are," Saban said. "Even though we have an expectation for our guys to represent themselves off the field in a first-class way, I think good defensive football players all have a competitive edge about them that requires a lot of mental toughness and a lot of physical toughness and they've got to have a lot of resiliency because sometimes you go in the game when difficult circumstances or a sudden change occurs, whatever it might be, and to respond the right way to those things takes the right kind of psychological disposition, and I just think we've got a lot of guys on our defensive team that are very, very competitive."
Saban noted that the Tide defense must be solid in its effort and technically sound going up against a MSU offense led by a true dual-weapon in Fitzgerald.
"This is a totally different way you have to play, and when you're playing a team where the quarterback can run the ball, it's almost like the old Wildcat (formation) where they had a running back at quarterback, except that guy could throw, well (Fitzgerald) can throw," he said. "These running quarterbacks that have a significant amount of quarterback runs create a whole different set of keys and responsibilities that take a tremendous amount of discipline as to who's closing on a dive, who has the quarterback and I think that is a real key to having a chance to be successful. And these guys know what they're doing with it. (Mullen) has done this for a long, long time, going back all the way back to (former quarterback Tim) Tebow at Florida (when Mullen was the offensive coordinator for the Gators) it's not like they're going to mess it up. So we have to make sure we do a good job of staying disciplined in terms of who has what and there's also a pass that goes with that most of the time, so some defender is going to have to be defending that part of it as well as the option parts of whether it's the zone read or whatever play they choose to run."
In addition to Anderson's SEC honor, Tide junior punter JK Scott was named the conference's Co-Special Teams Player of the Week.
Another standout night from Scott helped flip the field on the Tigers and keep LSU from ever getting significant field position on the Tide defense. Scott averaged 51.6 yards per kick on his five punts for 258 yards. He booted a long of 66 yards with four of his five punts going for 50-plus yards.
The Denver, Colo., native netted 44.4 yards on his five kicks with two punts pinning the LSU offense inside its own 15-yard line. Three of his punts were returned for 16 yards (5.3 yards per return) with two fielded inside the LSU 10-yard line, including his 54-yard kick in the third quarter that was fielded at the LSU 3-yard line and immediately stopped for no gain.
The UA coaching staff recognized five players as its players of the week for their good work in the win over LSU.
Bradley Bozeman, Cam Robinson and Bo Scarbrough were selected on offense, Scott and Keaton Anderson were named on special teams and the entire defensive unit.
The entire Tide defense was also selected as the Defensive Player of the Week nationally by the Walter Camp Foundation.

Special thanks: Alabama Athletics Communications

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