Nick Saban

Saban: ‘We just couldn’t get the mental energy, intensity we needed’

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All week long, when pundits discussed the chances of Texas A&M upsetting Alabama, they invariably pointed to the emotional toll the Tide’s win over LSU last weekend as something that could swing the game in the Aggies’ favor.

In the aftermath of A&M’s stunning upset of the No. 1 team in the country, and at least to some extent, the Tide’s head coach agreed.

The past four weekends, the Tide has faced three teams that were, at the time, ranked inside the Top 15 as well as its annual cross-division rival in Tennessee.  When asked specifically about the Tigers game taking too much out of the team, Saban uncharacteristically leaned on the emotional crutch graciously provided to him by the reporter.

“I think the players refocused and really tried and it seemed like early in the week we were pretty good, but later in the week, emotionally, I’m not really talking about physically, we just couldn’t seem to get the kind of mental energy and intensity that we needed to play against this kind of team,” the coach said in quotes distributed by the team. “We have had a pretty tough stretch here, and that’s no excuse but, Mississippi State, LSU, and this game – playing at Tennessee, which is a big game for us emotionally.”

To Saban’s credit, it wasn’t even remotely all about what his Tide didn’t have or what may have been lacking in their emotional reserves.  As everyone saw, and whether they’re new to the SEC or not, A&M is one hell of a football team as Saban readily acknowledged.

“[Y]ou have to really congratulate Texas A&M. They played a tremendous game and certainly outplayed us in the game today,” Saban said. “We knew that this was going to be a difficult game and that they had a really good team. They had lost to two top-10 teams by three and five points and they are a better team now that they were then, because the quarterback is playing better every week.

“We were going to need to play our best game today and we didn’t do it and that’s my responsibility.”

The good news for Saban and the Tide is that this is far from a lost season.  The SEC West title is still well within their reach, as is a spot in the BcS title game if certain dominoes fall their way.

Even better?  Of the 23 current starters — 12 listed on the offense — 16 of them are underclassmen and, barring early leaps for the NFL, would return in 2013.  On the two-deep depth chart, 36 of the 46 players are non-seniors.

So, yeah, the Tide will be loaded with talent again in 2013 — talent with the benefit of an additional year’s worth of experience, it should be noted.

Houston AD goes papal amidst reports of Lane Kiffin hiring

HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 19: University of Houston Frontiersman hold the UH flag and the American flag during the University of Houston school song before the Houston Cougars played the Southern Methodist University Mustangs on November 19, 2011 at Robertson Stadium in Houston, Texas. Houston defeated SMU 37-7.  (Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images)
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Even in the midst of a coaching search that will determine your football program’s fortunes for the foreseeable future, you gotta have a little fun.

Late Wednesday, it appeared that Houston was zeroing in on a replacement for Tom Herman, who left to become the head coach at Texas late last month.  Thursday morning, it was reported that Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin had been hired by UH.

In response to the reports of a final decision being made, Cougars athletic director Hunter Yurachek offered a little papal levity, replete with non-white smoke indicating no football pope has been hired.

The Houston Chronicle, citing a source with knowledge of the situation, subsequently reported that “the University of Houston has not made a decision on its next football coach.”

That said, it’s expected that Kiffin is Yurachek’s man, with an announcement coming as early as tonight. University officials will meet later on today to finalize the search and come to a consensus.

In addition to Kiffin, ex-LSU head coach Les Miles and interim Houston coach Todd Orlando and offensive coordinator Major Applewhite have been under consideration.  ESPN.com‘s Brett McMurphy writes that “[w]hoever the next coach is, Houston is trying to require an excessive buyout so he can’t leave after a couple of seasons without paying a substantial penalty.”

As a reference point in that aspect of the situation, Herman’s buyout was $2.5 million.  Herman spent two seasons with the Cougars before leaving for the Longhorns.

Jay Norvell reportedly set to be named head coach at Nevada

Jay Norvell, Jerrod Heard
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Yet another FBS opening is reportedly on the verge of being closed.

According to a report from FootballScoop.com, Jay Norvell “will be the next head coach at Nevada.” The Reno Gazette-Journal writes that “Norvell, the third and final candidate to interview for the Wolf Pack football head-coaching vacancy, was so impressive he didn’t even leave Reno before being offered the job, which he quickly accepted.” Norvell was offered the job late Wednesday night.

The other two interviewed were Eastern Washington head coach Beau Baldwin and Vanderbilt offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig. The former interviewed Monday, the latter Tuesday.

If/when hired, Norvell would replace Brian Polian, who “mutually parted ways” with the football program last month after four seasons. This would be Norvell’s first head-coaching job at any level.

Norvell just completed his first regular season as an assistant on Todd Graham‘s Arizona State coaching staff.  With the Sun Devils, Norvell served as wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator.

Norvell has spent most of his nearly three decades in coaching at Power Five programs, with stops that included Texas (2015), Oklahoma (2008-14), UCLA (2007), Nebraska (2004-06), Iowa State (1995-97), Wisconsin (1989-94) and Iowa (1986-87).  He also spent six seasons as an assistant in the NFL — 1998-2001 as the wide receivers coach of the Indianapolis Colts, 2002-03 as tight ends coach of the Oakland Raiders.

Jim Harbaugh is looking forward to seeing Chief Osceola and Renegade at the Orange Bowl

TALLAHASSEE, FL - SEPTEMBER 15:  Chief Osceola, mascot of the Florida State Seminoles plants a spear at midfield prior to a game against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Doak Campbell Stadium on September 15, 2012 in Tallahassee, Florida.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher got together for a joint press conference in Miami today as the two coaches prepare to face one another in the Orange Bowl on December 30. Harbaugh said he is looking forward to the matchup but seemed to be much more interested in getting a chance to witness one of the pregame traditions of Florida State; Chief Osceola riding on Renegade and planting a spear in the turf.

“I’ve never been to a game at Florida State,” Harbaugh said. “I’ve always wanted to go there and see what that atmosphere was like in person. This will be as close as I’ve ever been to that. I’m excited for that. I know I’m going to get some chills when that Appaloosa comes riding out there.”

Of course, this isn’t exactly a home game for the Seminoles, so sometimes pregame traditions are put on ice for the bowl season. Knowing this, Harbaugh made his case and made sure everyone listening knows just how cool he thinks it is.

“I want to see that. That’s one of the cool things,” Harbaugh said. “We have cool things and other teams have cool things, but that is right up there as one of the coolest things.”

Fortunately for Harbaugh, he will indeed get a chance to witness this pregame routine in person. Florida State Associate Athletics Director Jason Dennard said on Twitter Chief Osceola and Renegade will make the trip to Miami from Tallahassee.

Houston reportedly closing in on a head coach; Kiffin and Miles still being considered

TUSCALOOSA, AL - APRIL 18:  Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin of the Alabama Crimson Tide watches action prior to the University of Alabama A Day spring game at Bryant-Denny Stadium on April 18, 2015 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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The Houston Cougars are reportedly hoping to have a new head coach named as soon as this coming weekend. As expected, Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and former LSU head coach Les Miles are among the final candidates being considered for the job.

One candidate no longer to be in the mix, according to a report from Joseph Duarte of The Houston Chronicle, is Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley. That should be good news for Oklahoma, as it likely means Riley will be back in Norman for at least one more season to run the offense (and with Baker Mayfield coming back for 2017, the Sooners offense should continue to rack up some big numbers).

As noted by Duarte, five total candidates were vetted by Houston for the head coaching job. Kiffin, Miles and interim Houston coach Todd Orlando and offensive coordinator Major Applewhite along with Riley all were checked by the university as a decision is approaching.