TUSCALOOSA — Alabama won’t have its bye week for another five weeks, but that didn’t stop Tide head coach Nick Saban from giving his players a breather following a taxing game at Ole Miss.
This week, Saban gave Alabama players Sunday and Monday off before returning to the practice field Tuesday in preparation for Saturday’s game against Kent State at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
“There are certain weeks we are going to get two days off,” Saban said Thursday night on his weekly radio show. “I don’t like playing more than six games in a row where we have a regular week. ...They seemed to have better energy on Tuesday and Wednesday than they had a week ago, so they’ll bounce back.”
Last week’s 48-43 over Ole Miss saw many Crimson Tide players miss time on the field and need IVs on the sidelines. Due to the humid conditions, Saban said it was challenging to balance the needs of the game vs. allowing his players enough rest to be ready late.
The elements almost cost the Tide, as Ole Miss mounted a late comeback while Alabama had some its veteran players off the field.
“We had three starters out on defense,” Saban recalled. “We had a couple defensive linemen that were gassed, couldn’t rush anymore and needed IVs. So now we’re out there playing trying to win the game with not our best players.”
Saban said his player’s fatigue was also a product of so many days out in the sun during practice. While Saban said he typically loves the weather in Alabama, cooler temperatures can’t come soon enough.
“I’m ready for the fall,” Saban said. “I don’t know about everybody else around here ... but I’m ready for the fall, because every day we’ve been practicing it’s 93, 95, 97 degrees, the heat index is even higher.
“That cumulative effect is a problem for the players, too. If we can get some cooler weather to practice in, I think it will help their recovery.
Battling the elements
Heat is not the only element the Tide faced in its trip to Ole Miss. Saban credited true freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts with his ability to handle a rowdy crowd in what was his first start on the road and in the SEC.
Saban said that because of the noise, the Tide had to run a silent snap count, which resulted in some penalties on offense. Despite a couple miscues, the Tide was able to manage the situation pretty well and even got off with a break on wide receiver Calvin Ridley’s 6-yard touchdown run.
In order to cope with the noise, Alabama would snap the ball off a clap. However, with Ridley in motion, the Tide was forced to go on another cadence.
“When Calvin Ridley caught the snap from center, he was supposed to get the ball, but he wasn’t supposed to get the ball from the center,” Saban said. “Some of those timing issues were apparent, but Jalen was never affected by anything that happened in the game.”
In recent years, Alabama’s defense has even had to practice for noise for games inside Bryant-Denny Stadium. With the home fans trying to make things harder for the opposing offense, Saban said there were times last season where even his defenders couldn’t hear their play call.
The Tide will have a few obstacles to overcome this week, including an 11 a.m. start and 90-degree temperatures at kickoff. Saban said he isn’t the biggest fan of playing in early games, as players have to be up by 6:45 a.m. to get ready.
Still, the head coach isn’t ready to make any excuses come Saturday.
“It doesn’t matter what time you play. It doesn’t who you play or what the score is,” Saban said. “You want to play at that high standard the whole time because that’s just who you are and that’s what you do. ... Hot? That’s an advantage for us, because we are going to be in better shape than the other team. It’s going to affect them more than us.”
Looking back at Kent State
Playing his alma mater this week, Saban has been asked plenty of questions about his days at Kent State. Something the head coach is not typically asked about is his time in the classroom.
During his radio show, a fan asked Saban what his hardest class was in college. The head coach wasted no time in replying, “Chemistry.”
While Saban has had plenty of time to reminisce about his college days, he joked that his wife Terry has been making sure he doesn’t get too carried away.
“She said, ‘You better not have any of your old girlfriends come to this game,’” Saban said, drawing a laugh from the audience.
In his final word, Saban described an analogy that he gave to his players. In the story, Saban said that the gazelle wakes up every morning knowing that it needs to be faster than the lions. Conversely, the lion wakes up every morning knowing it has to be faster than the slowest gazelle.
“It doesn’t matter if you are the lion or the gazelle,” Saban tells his players. “You still have to get your ass up and run.”