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Saban says No. 1 Tide continues to make progress as it hits crucial SEC stretch (via Crimson Magazine)

03 Oct 2016 Stan J. Griffin

By Stan J. Griffin: October 3, 2016

After evaluating the film of Saturday's 34-6 homecoming win by the No. 1 Alabama football team over Kentucky, Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said Monday that he saw his team execute much better in the second half after a somewhat sloppy first half where it stopped itself on numerous occasions with items such as dropped balls, missed assignments and general gaffes in terms of execution.
Saban said the overall good news for his 5-0 team, however, is that he is continuing to see steady improvement from it.
"We need to play better over and over and over again, especially when you play better teams," he said. "I think we had some outstanding performances in (Saturday's) game and I think our team is making progress, but I think we need to continue to do that, continue to work as every week in the SEC, you've got a real challenge and a real test."
Continuing to polish its overall game, while also continuing to trim its number of mistakes, will no doubt be crucial as Alabama enters into what will likely be a defining stretch of league games that includes showdowns with No. 9 Tennessee, No. 8 Texas A&M and LSU.
That grueling road begins this week with a road game against the No. 16/18 Arkansas Razorbacks (6 p.m., ESPN), and Saban said he feels Bret Bielema's squad is a "really, really good team."
The Razorbacks are 4-1 overall and 0-1 in Southeastern Conference play, with their only loss to No. 8 Texas A&M.

"The quarterback (junior Austin Allen) is playing great for them, they're very well-coached, they've got some really good skill players, wide receivers and a couple of good running backs," he said. "They've got eight starters back on defense and they're playing really well on defense. The punter (senior Toby Baker) has done a great job for them all year long so this is a really strong opponent who's only lost one game this year and certainly has shown an ability to finish games and win close games in the end."
He said the Arkansas offense led by Allen, the younger brother of former Razorback signal caller Brandon Allen, is a formidable test for opposing defenses in multiple ways.
"I think that this team probably has demonstrated this year that they have one of the best balanced teams that we're going to play, I think they've run the ball for almost 200 yards a game and throwing it for over 200 yards a game and I don't think they're one-dimensional at all," said Saban. "I think they're a very physical team and they're going to run the ball. They're going to run it downhill, and they've got good backs and a good offensive line to do that. But I think their quarterback is playing extremely well. They've got great play-action passes that go with their running game, and they've made a lot of explosive plays this year with their skill players. So, I think the combination of those two things is really what challenges the defense and not only upfront but also in the secondary."
Allen currently leads the league in passer rating (167.7) and has 120-straight pass attempts without an interception. He also has 12 touchdown passes to go with only two interceptions.
"He's a very good athlete, but I've been very, very impressed with his decision-making and his judgment and he's got a really good arm, and he's made a lot of throws to the field, throws downfield, executes their offense extremely well, does a good job of faking on their play-action passes," said Saban. "So, he's got the highest completion percentage, I think, of any quarterback in the league and probably one of the highest efficiency ratings, I would guess as well. He's a very effective and efficient player."
Saban reported that redshirt junior receiver ArDarius Stewart, who has been hindered by a knee injury  would resume practicing on Monday, and would hopefully hold up sufficiently enough to be able to make a contribution against the Razorbacks.
Tide freshman tailback Joshua Jacobs was selected as the SEC Freshman of the Week, the league office announced on Monday morning. The honor is the first of Jacobs’ young career.
Making his first career start for the Crimson Tide, Jacobs recorded 100 yards on the ground against Kentucky to eclipse the century mark for the first time during his collegiate career. He rushed only 16 times to average 6.2 yards per carry and recorded one touchdown for the night. Jacobs also caught a career-best three passes for 44 yards to help him finish with 144 yards of total offense
The Alabama coaching staff recognized nine players following the win over the Wildcats as its players of the week.
They include Jacobs, Calvin Ridley and Cam Robinson on offense, Reuben Foster, Shaun Dion Hamilton and Tim Williams on defense and Keaton Anderson,  Adam Griffith and Bo Scarbrough on special teams.

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