Nick Saban: 'Was it challenging? Yes. Did we handle it well? Absolutely'

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Tuesday January 10, 2017

Getting rid of your offensive coordinator a week ahead of the national championship game was a stunning move by Nick Saban, but the coach thought Steve Sarkisian handled himself well.

Sark joined Alabama after Week 2 as an analyst. It was the first time since 2014 that he called plays. Jalen Hurts’ final numbers weren’t good (13-fo-31, 131 yards, 1 TD), but they scored 31 points and didn’t turn the ball over.

“I think the players handled it very well,” Saban said. “I think we scored 31 points in the game, which I think was pretty good against a pretty good defense that actually shut out Ohio State last week. I think we had some drops. I think we had some tipped balls. I think there was things that we could have done better, but I thought the preparation was good. I thought the organization was good, and I thought we gave our players a chance in this game to have success.

Was it challenging? Yes. Did everyone involved handle it extremely well? Absolutely.”

The comment about preparation was something Saban clearly didn’t like with Lane Kiffin, handling the Alabama job and the FAU head coaching job.

Leading most of the night, the Alabama offense was fairly conservative, avoiding a mistake. Hurts didn’t force throws if they weren’t there. But when Alabama trailed, they let it rip. Hurts threw on the run across his body for a gain on 3rd down, followed by a 4th down conversion, and a trick play wide receiver pass for a big gain. They took the lead with two minutes left, but the offense didn’t see the field again.

The Alabama offense also wasn’t helped when Bo Scarborough left with an injury. Scarborough had 93 rushing yards on 16 carries, though most of it came on two touchdowns.

“Bo has really come on and played extremely well the last three or four games of the season. He's certainly been a bell cow for us, and he has certainly, because of his size and durability, he makes it difficult when the defense gets worn down a little bit.

“Not to have him was probably a little bit of a disadvantage for us, but I was pleased with the way the other backs that had an opportunity in the game, Josh Jacobs and Damien Harris played. We always miss a guy that's Bo Scarbrough, size, especially when you want to run the ball and take some time off the clock.”

There was a clear respect for Dabo Swinney. It took a long time for Saban to find Swinney among the celebration, but he made sure to find him.

“Dabo is a friend. He's an Alabama person,” Saban said. “He was at our university, and I think he's done a great job of managing, supporting the University of Alabama, Coach Stallings, some of the things that we've done together. So I have a lot of respect for him as a person. I have a lot of respect for him as a coach. He has a really good team, and I have a lot of respect for their team.

“As disappointed as we were, I always think the classy thing to do is always congratulate the other person for what they were able to accomplish, so I thought it was important to do that, especially for somebody that I consider a friend.”

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News,, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to