May 28, 2024

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama coach Nick Saban said after defeating Arkansas, 24-21, on Saturday that it’s great to get a win in the SEC “relative to how we progressed” from a rocky start to the season, including a Week 2 loss at home to Texas.

But to say that Saban was pleased with the outcome of the game would miss the mark. Alabama started out slow, spotting Arkansas a 6-0 lead in the first quarter. Then, after scoring 24 unanswered points and taking control of the game, the Crimson Tide let their foot off the gas, giving up back-to-back touchdowns to make it a one score game late.

“Hopefully we can learn how to beat the other team,” Saban said. “Not just win the game, beat the other team.”

Saban cited poor execution on both sides of the ball. Penalties, especially on offense, he said “put us behind the eight-ball.”

A frustrated Saban singled out a face mask penalty that contributed to an Arkansas touchdown. The penalty, Saban said, was an instance of a player “putting himself ahead of what’s best for the team and putting yourself in harm’s way of having a chance to win.”

Offensive lineman Tyler Booker said it wasn’t a dominant performance. Quarterback Jalen Milroe, who completed less than 50% of his passes, was sacked five times.

“The amount of talent that we have, we should be dominating games rather than just winning games,” Booker said. “And there’s a difference.”

Consistency, Booker said, is the key.

“I feel like once we start clicking and executing for 60 minutes, that’s when we’ll begin dominating teams,” he said.

Alabama, which has won five straight games since the loss to Texas, will host Tennessee and LSU next — the two teams it lost to on the road last season.

When asked whether the team could learn from a close win, Saban was noncommittal. “I hope so,” he said.

Saban’s disposition did brighten toward the end of his postgame news conference when he was asked about kicker Will Reichard setting the SEC all-time scoring mark with 481 points, passing Auburn’s Daniel Carlson, who had 480 points from 2014 to 2017.

Despite producing a whopping 106 NFL draft picks during Saban’s tenure, including 44 first-round picks, the coach said of Reichard, “He has probably been as good a player at his position — even though he’s a specialist — as anyone that we’ve ever had here.”

“Will has saved us a lot of times,” Booker said. “He’s won us a lot of games just like today. We don’t win without that field goal that he had. So we’re very proud of Will. He’s always consistent, always on time. He’s really a key leader on his team. We’re very lucky to have him.”

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