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Jumbo Package: Saban, Will Anderson cite player anxiety as a reason for mistakes vs Vols

Your latest Crimson Tide news and notes.

NCAA Football: Alabama at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Tuesday, everyone. Nick Saban spoke to reporters per usual on Monday and had plenty to say about the film. While he was pleased with the effort in the game, he lamented a couple hundred yards that the Tide gifted Tennessee in the game via penalties and mistakes. He also said that as bad as the fans feel about the loss, the coaches and players feel worse, and spoke about the team being tight in the beginning with players showing some anxiety about the consequences of their miscues.

“Most definitely. I think we probably just had a lot of anxiety,” Anderson said. “We didn’t have the same intensity that we had a couple of weeks ago. We definitely needed that to carry over to this game but the intensity just wasn’t where it needed to be.”

Why was the intensity missing?

“Probably, just like I said, just having a little bit of anxiety for the game — a big road game,” Anderson said.

This is the second consecutive game where “anxiety” was mentioned, after Saban said that Jalen Milroe had some anxiety headed into the Texas A&M game. It’s not terribly surprising that there would be some nervousness in the environment they were in on Saturday, but I wonder if other factors come into play here. Is it possible that players with NIL contracts or hoping to get better NIL contracts feel more external pressure to perform? Completely speculative on my part, but I don’t remember Saban speaking about this in previous years.

It could also simply be that this particular team has struggled with the weight of expectations. That has probably been an issue for some previous Saban teams that turned it on after a loss. We’ll see how this team handles its business going forward. In any case, it was also clear that accountability is still very much a part of The Process.

“I think we’ve gotta make players more accountable in practice for doing things correctly, paying attention to detail and doing the little things right,” Saban said. “We can’t go hang ‘em up for doing this. They’re our players.

“We need to get them to understand what they need to do not to allow these things to happen and understand the consequences of what happens when you do it, and I think if you continue to do it consistently, maybe we need to play somebody else.”

Saban also mentioned that Alabama has asked the SEC about the non-calls on Tennessee for hitting Bryce in the head.

The 2022 NCAA rule book defined targeting as “no player shall target and make forcible contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless player or contact an opponent with the crown (top) of their helmet.” A “point of emphasis” for this fall had been defining the “crown” as the top of the helmet.

Saban said he didn’t receive an explanation on the field Saturday for why the hit wasn’t ruled targeting. Thomas finished the game with two tackles and a sack.

Knowing the quality of the SEC officials as we do, they probably leaned too much into the point of emphasis about the crown of the helmet. It’s simply too much to ask for them to understand the concept of protecting the head entirely, which is the whole point. Three times Bryce was hit in the head or neck area while in the pocket, and nary a one drew a flag. Reckon that’s why it happened three times rather than just once? Nick was also asked about the pass interference calls. He was diplomatic as usual but got his point across by asking for “consistency” in the way it is applied.

Check out the entire press conference below.

Pat Forde correctly notes that this team turned out to be overhyped, possibly leading to some of the aforementioned anxiety, but the goals are still all attainable.

Bottom line, this has not been a dominant Bama team and certainly has not played up to preseason expectations as the prohibitive No. 1 team. Alabama is penalty-ridden (last in the SEC), unable to force turnovers (just five in seven games) and lacking a transcendent receiving threat. But none of that will matter if the Tide win out.

Lane Kiffin caught a sense of deja vu when Tennessee lined up for the winning field goal.

Most personally, he watched as UT had a potential game-winning field goal blocked against Alabama in 2009 in what was the closest the Vols came to winning against Alabama before Saturday.

“I sent a tweet as they were lining up for that field goal,” Kiffin said Monday. “The guy did jump through the blocking, so it was kind of eerie. I didn’t catch the beginning because we were finishing up here with recruiting. But it was an exciting game. That’s football. That game goes either way.”

That Will’s well struck ball sailed to the right while Tennessee managed the winning points on a ball that had no business going through the uprights was just icing on the turd cake.

Last, while the Broncos lost on Monday Night Football to the Los Angeles Chargers, Patrick Surtain II continued his stellar play. With Keenan Allen out, Mike Williams served as the top receiver for the Chargers and Pat had him on lockdown. At the end of the night, Williams had a meager two catches for 17 yards, neither of them against Surtain.

Two of the top five on that list, #BuiltByBama.

That’s about it for now. Have a great day.

Roll Tide.