After watching his team commit 12 penalties and make numerous mental errors in a 38-10 win over Western Kentucky on Saturday, Alabama head coach Nick Saban went off on the sidelines, yelling at his offense and his offensive coordinator, Lane Kiffin.
Was Saban simply sending a message about this week’s much tougher opponent – No. 19 Ole Miss (1-1) – or was he actually as mad as he looked?
“Honestly, people are saying it was a message about Ole Miss; I think it was just his feeling in that moment,” Alabama color analyst Phil Savage said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “That was then, Ole Miss is now – and that’s the way Nick Saban operates. Everything is in the moment. He’s talking about playing one play at a time, do the very best you can – whatever role you have in the game – and he was not happy with the way everybody played on Saturday.”
Kiffin received the brunt of Saban’s fury, this after calling a fly sweep to Robert Foster when a simple between-the-tackles run – or a knee – would have sufficed. Foster fumbled and Western Kentucky wound up scoring its only touchdown of the day.
Why did Kiffin call such an exotic play in garbage time?
“I don’t know the real answer to that,” Savage said. “Blake Barnett was the quarterback who was in the game, and I think they’re trying to give Blake some consistent reps in their offense, which includes the fly sweep. They’ve run it a bunch already these first two games, and they were trying to go to Robert Foster, who’s coming back off of an injury from a year ago and is trying to get back into the swing of things. But I’m not really sure. It certainly is a lot easier to take a knee or hand it off to Bo Scarbrough or one of those talented freshmen like B.J. Emmons.”
It’s hard to argue with that, but that might not tell the whole story of Saban’s anger, especially toward Kiffin.
“Lane Kiffin has been part of Alabama’s staff the last few years,” Savage said. “I’m sure that he was still being paid some money by USC. So Alabama was not paying him an exorbitant amount of money these last two years. However on Friday, after the USC contract ran out, Alabama approved a $1.4 million contract. And look, when you think things are going up in the eyes of Nick Saban, that’s when you really put on your chest protector – because that’s when he’s going to come after you. That’s really, I think, what’s part of it as well. It went public that Lane had gotten a big raise and also Steve Sarkisian, one of his good friends, joined the staff last week. So Nick Saban is not ever going to let anybody get too high or too low. He does the same thing. On the flip side, when things are not going well for Alabama and he feels like they need some encouragement, he can be every bit as encouraging on the other side. That’s just a part of his personality that people rarely see.”
Savage, the executive director of the Senior Bowl, also weighed in on Carson Wentz, who went 22-of-37 for 278 yards and two touchdowns in his NFL debut Sunday. The Eagles beat the Browns, 29-10.
Savage wasn’t surprised by Wentz’s performance.
“I was really impressed with Carson (at the Senior Bowl),” he said. “This was a big-school prospect wrapped in a small-school uniform. Carson Wentz had size, he had intellect, maturity. I think the piece of it that impressed me the most was that on a roster full of players from Ohio State and Stanford and top-shelf programs across this country, Carson Wentz was the guy that really became the leader of the North team. So there were a lot of indications saying that he had all the traits that you would look for in a potential franchise quarterback. The Philadelphia Eagles made the choice to move up and get him. I think this all was fast-tracked after the Sam Bradford trade, obviously. But wow, I don’t think that they could have asked for a better debut than what Carson gave them (Sunday).”