Proud of his football team. Proud of how his football team struggled to get to this point despite some unlike Alabama moments this season. Proud of how his football team rallied around a sophomore quarterback who might as well have taken the Heisman Trophy pose on Saturday night.
Bryce Young was so good, so poised, and so dynamic in dissecting Alabama’s 41-24 SEC Championship game against No.1 Georgia.
Even for Saban, it’s easy to forget sometimes that Young is just a sophomore and only in his freshman year as a Crimson Tide starting quarterback after playing Mac Jones’ back-up role he a year ago.
“He’s very calm, has a great disposition about what he does, doesn’t get frustrated too easily, but doesn’t get excited very easily either,” Saban told ESPN. “It’s a rare combination, especially for a guy in his first year as a starter playing against a defense as good as Georgia’s.
“But it’s always like that, and it doesn’t matter who we play or what the situation is. The other thing is, he does a great job of preparing for the game, every game, and that’s the kind of thing that fades away for everyone. I think you saw him tonight. ”
Much like the rest of the college football world, as Young torched a Georgian tusk that was thought to be non-flammable. He had 421 yards and three touchdowns and also ran for a score. His 461 yards of total offense set an SEC championship game record.
Georgian coach Kirby Smart already believed in it. But there’s something to be said for watching a Heisman-style performance from the sideline and seeing someone do in your defense which no one else has come close to doing all season.
“Look, guys, I’ve seen a lot of good ones in this league. He’s special, ”Smart said of Young, who wasn’t sacked once on Saturday after being sacked seven times a week ago in a 24-22. victory in four overtime against Auburn.
And, sure, Smart watched that tape, and Georgia did different things to pressure Young. But very little seemed to work, as Young, his receivers and offensive line got the better of a Georgia seven-a-side front that had outscored everyone this season.
“We called a lot of the same calls we called in other games,” said Smart, whose defense allowed Alabama four touchdowns after allowing just seven in the previous 12 games.
“We didn’t come home or finished with the quarterback, and he was the elite to hand the ball over to the playmakers. He knew where to go with the ball. He keeps his eyes on the pitch with rush, where a lot of quarterbacks would ‘I wasn’t doing that. They would watch the rush and start trying to run away from the rush, and we could run over them. But tonight he did a great job. He was mobile and played a lot. “
But then that’s what Young has been doing all season long, whether it’s his 28-yard touchdown pass to Ja’Corey Brooks to force overtime against Auburn or even those times this season when Alabama was spitting. on offense and he did just enough.
“It’s never too big for him, and he’s just got this way of him that other guys line up even when we’ve had our struggles,” Saban said.
Young, who has thrown 43 touchdown passes and just four interceptions this season, was almost nonchalant on Saturday when asked how much he has done to lead Alabama to their sixth SEC championship in the past eight years. He didn’t want to talk about his teammates anymore.
“I think we’ve all stepped up our efforts and we’ve all answered the bell,” Young said. “We all understood what was at stake. We all understood that we had to step up. So I’m blessed to have the teammates that I do, that when our backs are a bit against the wall, we understand… we ‘have to get our spark and start moving.
“I’m glad we got started when we did. “
Young led a 24-point second quarter for the Crimson Tide with one big play after another, whether he hits deep balls with pin-point accuracy, scrambles and makes plays with his legs or even returns pitches. ‘option to Brian Robinson Jr. in the open field.
“He’s grown up a lot and has a knack for making these games, but what’s really impressive is that he’s not sloppy and takes care of the football,” said Saban.
Even when Young dropped the ball once on Saturday after taking off and running, he was able to get it back from a Georgian defender. Young also lost one of his best receivers, John Metchie III, in the first half to what Alabama officials fear was a ripped ACL. But it didn’t really matter. Jameson Williams finished with seven catches for 184 yards and two touchdowns.
Alabama cut Georgia high school with big plays, and Saban said a lot of the credit goes to an offensive line that took him to the chin a week ago and came back with something to prove. .
“It always comes down to the offensive line which did a very, very good job of allowing us to pass the ball onto the field and to our receivers to be able to work in the passing game, which we knew to be something really. important in this game, ”said Saban. “So it really started upstream. “
A longtime defensive coordinator told ESPN that the way Alabama put Young in a position to find the holes in Georgia’s defense was something no one else had been able to do to the Dawgs this season.
» Doug Brown [Alabama offensive line coach] and Bill O’Brien [offensive coordinator] showed their value tonight, the value of having experience in the NFL, ”said the defensive coordinator. “They knew where the blitz was coming from, re-identified the protection and blocked the pressure.
« [Young] was well taught. When Georgia lined up he knew where the clashes were and attacked Georgia like no one else had this year. “
And while the rest of the country may not have seen Georgia’s Alabama defeat coming, Young didn’t seem too surprised about it.
“As a player we always have faith and confidence in the coaching staff,” said Young. “So for us, I don’t think we’ve ever really blinked or hesitated. “
With Metchie injured, Alabama had to dive deeper into their depth chart, especially at the receiver level, and he’ll have to do it again in the college football playoffs with Metchie likely lost for the season.
But as Saban pointed out, that’s where the added value lies in having a player like Young who improves everyone around him.
“… A good quarterback can make receivers look great, and these guys have to go on good routes and do things the right way to open up,” Saban said. “But I think his faith, his confidence and his trust in these guys has helped their development tremendously. “
And the way Young has developed, the best could be yet to come this season for Alabama.
Not to mention the first Heisman Trophy for an Alabama quarterback.