COACH SABAN: Well, I think that there was a team out there today that cared; cared about how they played; cared about the pride they had in their performance; cared about each other, and they prevailed because of that. And I think that started way back when we started practice.
There’s a lot of guys on this team, including these two guys that are sitting next to me (Will Anderson and Bryce Young) that have given a lot to this program. And I think the way the team performed out there together as a group with something to prove.
I think we had a little bit of a taste in our mouth that if we had a dominant performance, it would show people that we probably did deserve to do a little better than we did in terms of the playoff picture.
But at the same time, I’m proud that we came to the Sugar Bowl, and proud that we won the Sugar Bowl. But I’m most proud that there was a team out there that cared; that represents the University of Alabama in a first‑class way in the way they competed and the way they played in the game.
So great competitive character for this team to come into this game and play the way they played, prepare the way they did, to have an outstanding performance. So very proud of the group.
Q. Bryce, Coach [Nick] Saban talks about playing in games like this to create value. What do you think a performance like this does for you as a player and your value?
BRYCE YOUNG: I think that’s not really up to me. For me, it was just about doing everything I can to help the team out. This was such a huge opportunity I feel like for us as a team, like Coach said, to try to prove something. For us to finish this season the right way means a lot.
So whatever comes after that, that’s out of my hands. But I’m just happy we were able to win and I was able to play with my guys.
Q. Bryce and Will, talk about the emotions you have right now walking off the field for what could be the last time for Alabama.
WILL ANDERSON: I’m an emotional person. So for me, it was really not about me, it’s more about my teammates, because they worked so hard these past two weeks. I mean, the practices that we had, all the film study that we had to go through, no school, none of that, and everybody just locked in. To see everybody smiling and laughing and having a good time.
Just the brotherhood that was in there, I mean, it was amazing. I think that’s why I’m so emotional right now, because all of those guys, they hold a special place in my heart.
They give me so much confidence. They believe in me so much. They help me so much. More than what people know. And just to be around them, it makes me so happy, so I’m very excited, I’m happy for those guys. Everybody stepped up, and I’m super proud of this team.
Q. Coach Saban, Brian Branch had a big game today; an interception, two sacks. Kind of speak about the growth you’ve seen from him this season.
COACH SABAN: Brian Branch has played well for us all season long. He made some big plays today. The interception was big. We got off to a great start in the second half with a big play and two scores in the first two minutes in the second half, which kind of broke the game open. His interception was a big part of that.
But he’s been a very consistent performer for us all year. He plays the star position, but he could play safety as well.
He couldn’t finish the game today. He cramped up and we tried to give him an IV. But great competitor. Really good teammate. A guy that always plays hard and gives his best at all times.
Q. Coach, the young linebackers, Deontae Lawson, Jihaad Campbell and Shawn Murphy, the future of that position, what do you like about it right now?
COACH SABAN: Well, I think one of the things that was very helpful to all those guys, Deontae played quite a bit this year because of injuries. But with 11 bowl practices, the two young players, and a lot of young players on our team, made a significant amount of improvement.
So I think those guys can be outstanding players in the future. But I do think their development was enhanced by having the opportunity to practice and get ready to play for this game.
Q. Coach, you got your offense combined for 26 yards in the first two drives, then Deuce Vaughn has that 88‑yard touchdown, and then you guys scored five in a row. What switch flipped for you guys that allowed you to have such offensive success?
COACH SABAN: They played a little different defense. I think when we got into a little rhythm about how they were playing us, we were able to take advantage of it.
I think Bryce [Young] did a really good job. We had package plays, and he got us in the right place, which helped us run the ball a little more effectively than we did in the beginning of the game.
Then we made a lot of explosive plays. We attacked them down the field and made some good throws. Guys made really good catches. So I think those explosive plays were huge in the game. The turnovers and explosive plays were huge in the game.
Q. Bryce and Will, whether it was fair or not, it was put into question this season, the Bama standard and if this team had it. I’m curious if this performance today, if that answered the call for you guys and how did that stack up. Also, I want to ask if you guys at this time have any decision on your future with the team.
BRYCE YOUNG: For us, the standard, that’s something that we live by. It’s not just something that we can do one time or it’s “We did this, we accomplished this, it’s over.” It continues for the future of the program, the future of everything. We have to live by that each and every day.
But for us, what we did take from that was making sure that we had pride in how we played and how we prepared. Us wanting to finish, us wanting to push ourselves and hold each other accountable. So that was really what was the biggest for me.
And all my time going into this game, that’s all I’ve been focused on. We have the 24‑hour rule. I’m just happy to celebrate this with my guys, and that’s all I’ve been thinking about.
Q. Will, what was it like looking up at the scoreboard and you’re down 10‑0. That doesn’t happen to y’all very much. And the emotional impact and the significance of that second half, stopping them at the goal line.
Bryce, most teams would just kneel down at that time. The significance of y’all taking the ball down the field and scoring a touchdown right there.
Also, you played before a lot more empty seats today than Alabama is used to. Did that motivate y’all in any way?
WILL ANDERSON: Being down 10‑0, I think all the leaders did a really good job on defense. Byron Young did a good job getting his guys going. I did a good job getting my guys going. Henry To’oTo’o did a good job getting his guys; Jordan Battle. But we all came together as a defense.
Look, this is what we’ve got to do. This is how we got to stop them. Everybody just blow up, let’s go. We know what to do. We practiced two weeks. Then after that, everybody just started going ‑‑it was good.
DEUCE VAUGHN: I think that speaks to the confidence that Coach [Nick Saban] gave us. Trusting us as offense to move the ball. Obviously, there’s things that can go wrong down there. You don’t want to get the ball back. You obviously don’t want to turn the ball over because that’s points. But Coach trusted us in those moments.
We practice two‑minute all the time. He had confidence in us. Again, we play for each other.
As far as the stadium goes, all I heard was a bunch of Alabama fans cheering us on, rooting us on. It got really loud in there, especially third down with them having the ball.
Obviously this is off‑site for us; but for us to travel as well as we did, with all that support, the crowd and the support we get, that means a lot to us. We have the best supporters, the best fans in the country, and it showed again today.
COACH SABAN: You know I’ve loved you for years, right? It’s been a long time.
But they had three time‑outs. We had to make a first down. We made a first down and got up to the 20‑yard line. We get that kind of field position with a minute to go in the half, we’re going to go two‑minute.
But they were going to call three time‑outs and make us punt, so we had to run the ball. We had to go. We couldn’t kneel on the ball.
And we got lots of confidence and trust in our players. And that was a huge swing in the game, for us to stop them on fourth down and then go 98 yards in less than a minute and score a touchdown. But we do practice it.
Q. This win, really paired with how well you showed in the Iron Bowl, paired with your recruiting class that you have coming in for next year, what kind of springboard is the end of this season as you get ready for the off‑season and get ready for 2023?
COACH SABAN: Well, I think every team has to go through a process of development. We have a lot of new players on the team. The roster changes more than it normally does, based on the significance of the portal and transferring and a lot of things that are happening in college football right now.
So we want to just continue to try to develop our guys, get them to trust and believe in the process of what they need to do to be the best players that they can be. And when recruits come in, they’re going to come in at varying levels of development and maturity to be able to be ready to play or not play.
So all those things are a lot of unknowns that you just got to see how it all sort of fits together. But I think when everybody respects and trusts the principles and values of the organization and the standard, you have a much better chance to develop a team.
And leadership is always something that is a big part of that as well. And we have enjoyed really good leadership on this team, primarily because of the two guys sitting next to me. But we’ve had some other good leaders on this team as well.
Q. If there was one take‑away, one statement that you want people to resonate from this game ‑‑ you may have already said it, but what would that be today?
COACH SABAN: Circumstances don’t make you. They reveal the kind of character that you have. And I think this team revealed tremendous character, competitive character, in the way they prepared for this game and the way they played in this game.
So you could say the circumstances ‑‑ and we’ve had teams in this circumstance before. We didn’t get in the playoffs. We came and played in the Sugar Bowl and we didn’t play very well. And we didn’t practice very well, and we didn’t prepare very well.
But this team did. They went out there like a team, played together as a team, and they were rewarded for it because of what they put into it.
Q. Bryce, you’ve had at times this season trouble getting the vertical passing game going, and obviously it did today. I think you missed one early, or there may have been a miscommunication. But what kind of opportunities did you see? And what did your receivers do to make that happen?
BRYCE YOUNG: Receivers are doing a great job creating separation and getting open. And they’ve done a great job throughout.
Again, I have all the confidence in the world in my receivers. And they were running pass guys today. It was a great job of taking advantage of that with the play‑calling, and just us as a whole. I think just connecting, taking advantage of our assignments.
And for me, anytime it’s a deep ball, I just try to put some air on it, let them run under it. And again, the receivers did an amazing job with that today. And the O‑line did a great job of giving me time. Running backs, too, in protection.
Those are longer, developing routes, and it’s really ‑‑ you know, you see maybe just the throw and the catch from the quarterback and the receiver, but all 11 coming to play when it comes to stuff like that. So all the credit goes to those guys for making my job easy.
Q. Coach Saban, obviously, we don’t know if we are going to see these two in Crimson Tide again. But you’re in the coaching game and you try to teach guys things. But I can imagine these two have taught you a lot in the years that you’ve been with them. What would you want to say to them and thank them for if they were able to teach you anything with their time with you?
COACH SABAN: Well, I want them to make the best business decision for themselves and their future. And if you’re going to be a high first‑round draft pick, the business decision has always been it’s probably best to go out for the draft unless you have some other reason that you don’t feel you’re ready to do that. Or there’s some other goal that you have in mind that you want to accomplish.
And that’s the advice that I’ve given all of our players through the years. So I think these guys are probably more than deserving of that kind of attention when the draft rolls around.
But I think these guys send a message to everybody that you create value for yourself by playing football. You don’t create value for yourself by opting out and saying, “I’m going to get ready for the draft.” Because what are you getting ready for? Combine? Half the stuff you do at the combine isn’t relative to football.
But when you play against good competition and you play well, that creates value. And I think it speaks volumes of your character when you choose to be a part of your team and you can be counted on to be part of your team, regardless of the circumstances, and you finish the season with your team.
Thank you. I appreciate what the press has done all year long to give our players a lot of positive self‑gratification for their efforts and what they do. I know y’all think I don’t think a lot of you, but I really do appreciate what you do for the players. Thanks.