Here is the transcript of Alabama's post- BCS Championship Game press conference. After beating Texas (13-1) 37-21, Coach Lou Saban, Marcell Dareus (who knocked Colt McCoy out of the game) and Mark Ingram of Alabama (14-0) sat down to take questions from the media.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations on an outstanding game.
COACH SABAN: I would like to make a statement. First of all, I'll tell you what I told the team, that I've never been prouder of a group of guys for their resiliency, their buy-in, their hard work, the blood, sweat and tears that they put worth to accomplish what they accomplished this season.
I think most of us don't realize how difficult it is, the togetherness that it takes, the discipline and execution that it takes, and certainly the hard work that these guys did. And we certainly appreciate it and are proud of them and want to congratulate every member of our team and coaching staff for the great coach that they did.
We also have a great team at the University of Alabama, our administration, Dr. Robert Witt, our athletic director Mal Moore, and everybody in our organization who worked so well together to put this team together that has stayed together and accomplished something that they can be proud of for the rest of their lives.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions.
Q. Since you arrived at Alabama, you've stressed finishing. How satisfying is it in the biggest stage that your guys persevered there in the fourth quarter and finished them off?
COACH SABAN: Well, I said at halftime, these games are difficult because I think we had a lot of anxiety in the beginning of the game. We made some mistakes. We settled down and played pretty well. And then at halftime when we made the big play right before the half when Marcell intercepted a pass and ran it for a touchdown. It was like we won the game at halftime.
You can't accept being average, you can't accept anything but the best, knowing that when you play a team in a National Championship game, that team knows how to win, they have great character themselves, and they have an ability to come back in the game.
And you have to credit Texas and their players for doing that, and I'm also very pleased and proud that our players were able to finish after they did that to make the plays that they needed to make in the game to sort of put it away.
Q. Nick, you guys made two game turning hits on the quarterback when you took out McCoy and then forced a fumble from Gilbert there. Talk about those plays and how that kind of seems to define your defense.
COACH SABAN: First of all, Colt McCoy is a great player, and as much as I enjoy winning, you always hate to see a great competitor who's had a great career not be able to participate in a game that he's probably worked his entire career to be a part of. You know, that's heartfelt for us and his family, that he was not able to participate in the game today. Marcell Dareus, I think, got the hit on him, and it certainly changed the game. We thought we had a pretty good game plan for if he played, what they did, and until later in the game, they didn't really do that. So it sort of threw us off a little bit, as well.
The hit Eryk Anders made to cause the fumble at the end of the game was really the difference in the game, changed the field position, gave us the ball in position to score and made it a two-score game for us, and it was 24-21, so that was a real critical play in the game with three minutes to go in the game.
Q. Greg's numbers weren't exactly great, but he somehow managed to win. He's been undefeated, I guess, back to high school. What is it that he has, so to speak?
COACH SABAN: Well, I think he's a good leader, and I think that the players respond to him. I think he's smart in how he distributes the ball, which is the number one thing a quarterback should do. You know, we would have thrown the ball more. It was really in our plan to throw the ball more, but the entire third quarter, we had a lead, and we never had field position, ever, outside the 20-yard line.
I thought Greg did a good job of managing the game today, got us in the right place. We had two guys that rushed for over 100 yards, and that and the turnovers were probably the difference in the game.
Q. If you could talk about the play of Mark Ingram, he had a very good first half. He gets a little dinged up and has to come out, but when you get the possession back at the end, the game is on the line, he's back in the game. Would you talk about that?
COACH SABAN: Well, Mark has great competitive character. He was cramping up a little bit in the game. You know, Mark had a little foot injury during this practice time that probably kept him from practicing as much as he needed to, and I think sometimes when players have the anxiety they have in games like this that it can affect how they perform in terms of getting cramps and things like that.
He's a great competitor, and he certainly wanted to go back in the game, and we certainly needed him to, because he's an outstanding runner, he's a good short yardage runner and has the most experience doing it for us, and it worked out for us to be able to score and get a ten-point lead.
Q. After the SEC Championship game Rolando McClain said that he wouldn't let the players give you a Gatorade bath. Talk about the Gatorade bath tonight and how that feels.
COACH SABAN: Well, I wish they'd do the water. You know, the Gatorade is awful sticky. I think it says a lot about our team and our leadership on our team that Rolando McClain would not allow the players to celebrate until we're finished, sort of climb the mountain, getting to the top and planting the flag and making that final accomplishment of winning the National Championship.
I'm a lot happier with the bath than I would have been if I didn't get one, I can tell you that. It's part of it, and I was happy to see the players be so happy and excited. I think they always enjoy dumping on the coach.
Q. Can you talk about when you came to Alabama, there were obviously high hopes amongst the fan base that you could do what you've done tonight. Could you talk about what it means to accomplish this, to bring a return to glory to a school that has experienced this many times but not for nearly a couple decades?
COACH SABAN: Well, I think that there's a lot of people that are responsible for that. You know, I think that our administration made a commitment to rebuild Alabama to be something that everyone could be proud of. I think Mal Moore and our athletic director and people in our athletic department have done a fantastic job of having vision to build facilities and do the right things the right way to help people develop as players, students and as football players, and I think because of that and because of the very positive energy that our fan base has in terms of their support -- and when you get 92,000 people at a spring game, I mean, that's a lot of positive energy and a lot of positive support. So there's a lot of people who really contributed to us being able to build this program like we have. And I think they should get their share of the credit, as well.
I think it enhanced our recruiting, and because we have very good players is the reason that we can have success. We also have a very good coaching staff who has helped develop these players and recruit these players, and I think those people should get much more credit than -- they deserve much more credit than they get.
Q. What does it mean to you to bring the National Championship back to Alabama?
COACH SABAN: Well, I'm really most happy for everyone else. You know, I'm happy for our fans, I'm happy for our players, I'm happy for all the people who work so hard to try to restore this, and I'm very happy myself that we were able to make such a significant contribution to something that's a pretty significant accomplishment for our organization. But I'm really happiest for all the other people, to see them so happy about what was accomplished.
Q. I want to take you back to the end of the game. When Mack Brown was in here he told us when they got the ball back with a few minutes left at the end of the game there, he was certain they were to take it from the five yard line and take it down the field and win this game. What was going through your head at that point, because they did have a shot there?
COACH SABAN: Right. Well, I have a lot of confidence in our defensive players. They only had to take it down and kick a field goal to get the game into overtime. You know, I think their quarterback played better as the game went on, and I think that defensively we gave up a couple big plays that really contributed to that.
But I had a lot of confidence in our defense, that our defense would compete and do a good job. We think the blitz inside, they squeezed the protection and the guy came off the edge and hit the quarterback unblocked, really, so when you have play makers, they make plays, and you've got to have guys making plays to be able to win games, and that certainly was a big play in this game.
Q. Just wondering if you can expand on how your game plan changed, if at all, when Colt got knocked out of the game.
COACH SABAN: Well, it didn't change, but we had to make some adjustments because they did some things they hadn't done. They ran two speed sweeps to number 26 that were both big plays in the first half, and we really hadn't prepared for that, and we weren't in good position and contained on either one of those plays, so we made some adjustments at halftime. And then we stopped those plays in the second half. But when they got behind, they started getting back to more of their four wideout empty stuff, and that's what we had prepared for, but I think we got tired on defense in the third quarter. We didn't rush the passer, we didn't affect, we didn't cover as well because we didn't make any 1st downs in the third quarter. We didn't have very good field position, we didn't throw the ball. But it didn't really change that much, but they did make some big plays.
They've got a great team, a really competitive team, and you've got to give their team a lot of credit for the heart that they showed in coming back in the game and had a chance to win the game. They had the ball and down three points, they had a chance to come back and win the game.
Q. Can you talk about the play of two guys from Pensacola, Mike Johnson had a couple of key blocks that led to the first two touchdowns and then Trent Richardson, of course, having two touchdowns in this game and shouldering the load there for a little while?
COACH SABAN: Well, Mike Johnson has played extremely well for us all year. I think Mike Johnson probably had more to do with the development of our offensive line than anybody other than Joe Pendry who's the coach, because of his leadership and the great example that he sets, the work ethic that he has. He's been one of our most consistent performers all year, and I'm sure he did a phenomenal job for us tonight.
You know, Trent was a very highly recruited guy that came in with high expectations, and he certainly hasn't disappointed us at all. I'm very pleased and proud of the way he and Mark both kind of use each other, compete with each other. There's no selfishness at all in terms of who's in there playing and who's doing well at that particular time. I think the competition is good for both of them, and I think it's helped both of them really have outstanding years.
Q. I wanted to take you back when you were a young boy. Did you ever envision this type of success coaching football?
COACH SABAN: Well, first of all, when I was a young boy, I didn't even know I wanted to be a coach. I don't think you ever really envision this kind of success. I think that I was probably driven to try to be as good as I could be at whatever it was that I made a commitment to do. I was that way when I was a player, even though I wasn't a very good player. I worked hard to be the best I could be and had a lot of pride in performance.
I would say that that's probably the biggest reason that any success that we've had, we've been able to accomplish, is because we put a lot into it. We work hard. We have a lot of good people around us that also contribute, and I never really ever thought -- if you saw where I came from in West Virginia you wouldn't think I'd be here, either. (Laughter.)
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions from our student athletes.
Q. Marcell, this is for you. I just wondered if you could talk about the big plays you had, the one where you did knock out McCoy when you hit him, if you knew he was hurt, and then obviously the interception return, as well.
MARCELL DAREUS: When it came to the first play of McCoy, I really didn't try to hit him that hard. I didn't want to hurt him. It was a part of the game. You don't think, you just react, and I just reacted to what I saw. It is a part of the game. I didn't really try to hurt him.
But they tried to shuffle pass and Brandon Deaderick caught the running back while he was fumbling it, and my first reaction was grab the ball, and then after that I blanked out, and all I was thinking about is Mark Ingram and Javier and just doing moves I didn't think I could do. I was like, I can't believe I pulled off that screen. I saw that lineman coming for my legs, and my first reaction was to spin. I looked to my left and I saw Eryk Anders, I knew it was a touchdown. I could not wait to get to the end zone.
Q. Could you just talk about the emotions of accomplishing what you said out to accomplish? You win the National Championship, it's a perfect season, your names are engrained in at least the minds of National Championship fans forever. What does it mean, this accomplishment?
MARK INGRAM: It's real special for our entire team and our entire organization. Since we lost to Utah last year, Coach said what do you want to be remembered as? Well, we had our mindset ongoing undefeated and winning the National Championship and winning the SEC Championship. Just the fact that we went out there and we worked every day and we had a common goal that we wanted to accomplish, it's real sweet that we're here and we took advantage of the opportunity. We're obviously proud and excited and can't wait to get to get back to Tuscaloosa and celebrate with the rest of Alabama and the rest of our team.
MARCELL DAREUS: Just what he said, Coach always talked about working hard. It's always good to bring it back. We worked all year for it, and we put in the time, we put in the sweat, and we all hurt. As you can see, I have a knee brace and an elbow brace on the left side of my body. It was pretty hard, but we pushed through it.
Coach always told us work hard. If you're hurt, sit down. If you feel like you can play, go out there and play and give it your all. Don't go out there and half step because you think you're hurt. Give it your all, and we just went out there and played our best, not taking anything from Texas.
Q. Mark, could you expand on what Coach Saban was talking about, the two running back system, how you played off each other and always had that fresh pair of legs out there?
MARK INGRAM: It's nothing but an advantage for our team to have two running backs, three, four running backs when they get in the game, as well, and you don't lose any production. Both of us can go out there and make plays, and we run together at night. We just both said we were going to go up for 100 yards. We said we needed to have a big game, we needed to have the team on our back tonight.
We just thrive off of each other, and even in practice. In the games when somebody is having big runs we thrive off each other in practice. When somebody is working hard and running sprints, we push each other
and it helps us tremendously to elevate our games to different levels. It's going to be nothing but headaches for defense next year, next year or two.
Q. Coach Saban talks a lot about process and about buying into his system he has over the past couple of years. Tell me, was there one particular moment for the players, the athletes, the team, a turning point when you knew it was going to work, when you really started to believe?
MARCELL DAREUS: I would say last year when me and Mark was freshmen, and we saw a lot of the seniors and upperclassmen bought into the system. They had the same team we had the year before and bought into the system and turned our whole program around. We will always be rubbed as the team that turned the University of Alabama program around. As they bought into the system, we were like we were going to make it our thing to buy into the system, and it took a little bit of -- now we won the National Championship. We got our first Heisman Trophy winner, and me, I can't believe I got Defensive MVP. We just came so for and worked so hard, and that's why we bought into the system, and we knew it was going to work.
MARK INGRAM: I remember our recruiting class, we were Number 1, and I was kind of Coach Saban's first entire recruiting class, and we said we were going to win a National Championship our second year. It's kind of crazy that we actually did it.
But I remember after just seeing the seniors, like he said, buy into the program there, they had a 7 and 6 year before and we went 12 and 0, we really was kind of the turning point was when we lost to Florida and we lost to Utah. We weren't committed all the way, we were taking teams for granted and we didn't have the will not to be denied. We kind of took all his philosophies into perception, and this is where we are now. We had an undefeated season, and we're going to continue to try to have success.
Q. For both of you, do you think that you've supplanted Florida as the power in the SEC?
MARK INGRAM: Florida is a great team, and we're very grateful, and we worked hard all year, and that was our main goal was to beat Florida for the SEC Championship. They're a great team, and I think -- I don't know. I don't know if we surpassed them, but we beat them, and we won the National Championship, so right now we're on top. (Laughter.)
It's just a blessing, it truly is, and we worked hard for it. We shed blood, sweat and tears for this, and we're really excited right now?
Q. What went through your mind when you saw Marcell, A, scoring the touchdown, and when you saw the first play when he knocked Colt out of the game?
MARK INGRAM: Man, when he knocked Colt out of the game -- I saw the hit, and I was like, ooh, I know that kind of hurt. But then somebody told me he was running off holding his shoulder. It was just real unfortunate for him because I got to know him as a person in New York and just know all the hard work he's put in to get to that point. It's really unfortunate that he didn't get to play in this game because I remember he was talking about it, about him having to watch the game from the sideline when he was a red-shirt freshman. It was really unfortunate that he didn't get to play.
I just saw him keep moving the ball, keep trying to throw the ball, keep trying to run the ball. I was like they're going to do something, they're going to intercept the ball or do something. I saw everybody yelling and I saw Marcell taking off with the ball. He spun off somebody and then spun off another guy, threw the ball, got a five-yard penalty, but it was all -- I understand for him because D tackles don't get in the end zone too much, so I was real proud of him. He made a big play, tremendous play that probably was the deciding factor in the game.
Q. This question is for either one of you. When Colt went out of the game and you're facing the opponent, are you seeing, are you smelling fear, or did you see more determination in them?
MARCELL DAREUS: I really didn't know that Colt was hurt. He wasn't playing anymore until I got to the sideline a couple plays after. It wasn't about seeing the fear, I saw determination. They were like, man, we're not going down without a fight. Just because our leader is down, we're still going to play hard, we're still going to give them a fight.
I mean, I saw more determination in them. They weren't going to give up. I knew they weren't going to give up. The quarterback just had to work his way -- when he got in, he warmed up, and he started doing better. He did hurt us and stuff like that, but we fought through that. I knew he wasn't going to stop, so we couldn't stop ourselves.
Q. I didn't want to ask Coach about this because he doesn't like getting a lot of attention on himself. He is the first coach to win BCS title at two separate schools. Can you talk about what that says about him as a leader in every facet of the program?
MARK INGRAM: He's just a coach that is driven, and he has a vision, and he tries to do his best to instill his characteristics in us. As you can see, like he was excited, but he was more excited for everybody else than he was more of himself. Just the things he can do to influence younger players is how he gets these National Championship teams. He influences college athletes and high school athletes to buy into his system, and not only develop characteristics that's going to help them in football but in life, as well.
I think that shows in the way he won the National Championship at LSU and turned our program around and helped us win the National Championship. He's just a great coach and he's real driven and he just tried to instill the characteristics that drive him in us, and we feed off of each other.
Q. Mark, when you won the Heisman it was such an emotional moment for you. I'm just curious how you compared that moment with how you're feeling right now.
MARK INGRAM: The Heisman was kind of shocking and something I never really expected coming into this year. And when I won the trophy, like, it was a great honor to win the trophy, but it was more than just a trophy to me. It was overcoming adversity. All throughout my life me and my family sticking together overcoming obstacles and people that tried to hold us back. A lot of emotion came from that.
This National Championship was more of everybody. I was so happy to leave my heart out there for the team, and blood, sweat and tears, we were out there running 110 sprints in 110 degree heat. We were like, why are we doing this? Some days after practice you're like why am I doing this or you get hurt and you're like why am I doing this. Tonight was what it was all for, and just to know all the hard work paid off, it was more of just togetherness and a family and a feeling of all our brothers just being able to accomplish this together was real sweet for all of us. That's what the difference is.
Q. Marcell, coming from the Birmingham area, do you have anything you want to tell your friends and family back home watching the game, and the second part of that is, when you came out of Huffman High School are these the things that you envisioned?
MARCELL DAREUS: Of course not. You know, I came out of Birmingham, I was a mediocre recruit. I felt like I was always better, but I mean, it is what it is. I didn't think I was going to work hard and get to where I am today, where I am now, and accomplish the things that I have accomplished.
I mean, my coaches always told me hard work ain't going to hurt nobody, and I always worked hard for everything. I knew it wouldn't come easy and I knew what it was going to take to get it. And so me playing with Andres Nielsen (phon) and knowing where he came from and knowing how hard he worked when I was in high school. I was a sophomore when he was a senior, and I was determined I want to be like that when I become a senior. I want to get all the accolades that he got and then some. I mean, I wasn't the caliber player he was, but I was willing to work my butt off to become that and then some.
And so as for everybody back home watching the game, roll, tide, roll, and I'll be back in the house before this weekend.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, guys. Congratulations.