Alabama coach Nick Saban won his sixth national championship Monday night in Mercedes-Benz Stadium as the Tide beat Georgia, 26-23, in the College Football Playoff.
Alabama (13-1) began and ended its season in Atlanta, though it did not win the SEC West or participate in the SEC Championship Game. A victory against Clemson in the Sugar Bowl set up the first all-SEC national championship of the College Football Playoff era. The Tide also beat LSU and Mississippi State in tough regular-season games, and then beat out Big Ten champion Ohio State for the No. 4 seed.
On Monday, Saban improved to 12-0 against his former assistant coaches in the first-ever meeting between Saban and Georgia coach Kirby Smart.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban
• "Obviously, this is a fantastic win, a fantastic night for the University of Alabama. I couldn’t be prouder of a group of players, especially the resiliency they showed in the game.”
• Saban said the “don’t waste a failure” mantra after last year’s national championship loss to Clemson resonates today.
• Saban explained the decision to switch to Tua Tagovailoa at halftime. Here's the full quote: "We've had this in our mind that if we were struggling offensively, that we would give Tua an opportunity, even in the last game. No disrespect to Jalen (Hurts), but the real thought was, you know, they came into the game thinking we were going to run the ball and be able to run quarterback runs, which we made a couple of explosive plays on. But with the absence of a passing game and being able to make explosive plays and being able to convert on third down, I didn't feel we could run the ball well enough, and I thought Tua would give us a better chance and a spark, which he certainly did.
“I couldn’t be prouder of him taking advantage of the opportunity. We have total confidence in him. We played him a lot in a lot of games this year, and he did very well.”
• Saban says Tua’s interception came on a missed call. Everyone else was blocking for a run, and Tua thought it was a pass. Saban joked with Tua about it.
• What keeps Saban coming back every year? He says it's not just about championships. "You have an opportunity to help players be more successful in life. … The message to the team tonight after this game? I hope you take something from this game and the resiliency that you showed in this game and it helps you be more successful in life."
• Saban listed all the members of the 2017 class that made contributions in the win. Saban called it one of the best classes he’s ever put together, especially with offensive talent.
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• Saban says that so many members of the 2017 class participated in spring practice, and thinks that’s one reason that the group contributed so much.
• Saban said he’s surprised no one has asked about all the injuries this team overcame. “We’ve never had this many games missed by starters in a season, ever. And to be able to overcome that with the next guy up, whoever it was, to go out there and play the way they played together as a group and trusted and believed in each other, and I think that respect and trust is something that’s really important to have in a good team. That’s something this team had.”
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• Saban on why he had the guts to call an onside kick against Clemson two years ago and put in Tua today: He says he trusts players who do things the right way.
• Saban says hiring someone who knew his system has been key to easy transitions as he’s had coaching turnover on that side of the ball.
• ”I just never want one of our players to ever give any reason to use the word ‘but’ after they describe them. There’s one word — the two most compelling words in the draft in my years in the NFL, in a draft report on a player was always ‘and’ and ‘but,’” Saban said.
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“When you read a player, and he was a good person, he teammates, he was captain of his team. If they read the same player, and it said but — got a domestic violence charge against him, five marijuana charges — which guy do you want to put on your team? So why would anybody give anybody a reason to say but about what they do, and that’s what we try to get our players to do so that they create value for themselves and their future.”
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• ”I think all year long we had lots of confidence in Tua, and we played him so that, if this situation occurred, that he would be ready to play. I know that he was never in a situation where he was behind and had to come back in a game, but the game experience, the confidence, managing the team — he does a really good job in practice. Jalen was sick a couple days before the Clemson game, and the players really respond well to him. He’s a good leader. He’s very well-liked by his teammates, and he’s got a very positive, upbeat attitude that affects other people around him in a very positive way.”