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Alabama Coach Nick Saban turns the Tide in the stands too

After coach rips them on the radio, Alabama students don't leave early in victory over Tennessee.

October 26, 2013|By Mike Hiserman
  • An Alabama fan holds up a sign for Coach Nick Saban, who had challenged students to stay for the entire game, during the Crimson Tide's victory over Tennessee at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday.
An Alabama fan holds up a sign for Coach Nick Saban, who had challenged students… (Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images )

Nick Saban, people trainer. The coach tells Alabama fans to sit and stay, they sit and stay.

Saban made news in the days leading up to Saturday's game against Tennessee when he complained about the Crimson Tide's late-arriving and early-leaving student fans.

"Everybody else should have the same sort of commitment" as the people in his program, Saban said during his radio show Thursday. "You don't have to do the work all week, you don't have to practice, you don't have to come in at 7 in the morning and leave at 11 at night, you don't have to do any of that stuff.

"All you have to do is come to the game, drink beer, do whatever you want, party in the parking lot. … All I'm asking is that you just come and have fun and stay for the whole game."

On Friday, the university backed up its coach, suspending the block seating privileges of 20 student organizations. Those groups had reserved seating, mostly in the south end zone of Bryant-Denny Stadium, which has a capacity of 101,821.

The seats Saturday were still saved for students, but on a first-come basis. And they appeared mostly filled, staying that way to the end of a 45-10 victory over Tennessee by the top-ranked Tide.

Despite Alabama's great success, apathy by students isn't new. Last season, only 69.4% of about 17,000 student seats were typically filled, according to a report in the Crimson White, a university newspaper. Even a hyped matchup such as the November 2011 game between No. 1-ranked Alabama and No. 2 Louisiana State was witnessed by only 12,646 fans with student tickets.

The situation prompted the university's Student Government Assn. to launch a "Play for Four, Stay for Four" program heading into this season.

Yet, even after students were warned before a game against Arkansas eight days ago that they could lose their block-seating privileges, only a smattering remained in the south end zone late in that game.

See, we laid-back Southern Californians aren't the only ones.

He called it

Minnesota seems to have found a winning combination with defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys running things from the sideline and Coach Jerry Kill watching from above and giving inspirational — even prophetic — speeches.

Kill has epilepsy, and he has been on medical leave since having the fifth game-day seizure of his career, before the Gophers played Michigan on Oct 5.

After getting routed by the Wolverines, 42-13, Minnesota had a week off to regroup before playing at Northwestern.

Instead of staying home, Kill and his wife Rebecca drove to Evanston, Ill., for the game, and the coach ended up talking to the team at halftime and again after its 20-17 victory.

After the game, Kill told his players how proud he was and that they hadn't deserved "all the stuff you had to deal with with this situation."

He also said: "Just keep with it. You're getting better and better and if you keep doing that, you know, we're going back home and we'll beat Nebraska."

That was the prophetic part.

Minnesota held its second annual epilepsy awareness event Saturday at TCF Stadium, then went out and broke a 16-game losing streak against Nebraska dating to 1960, defeating the No. 24 Cornhuskers, 34-23, with Kill watching from the coaches' booth.

Johnny be good (again)

Marcus Mariota of Oregon and Jameis Winston of Florida State are generally considered to be the front-runners for the Heisman Trophy, but there's another quarterback having a pretty good season.

His name is Johnny Manziel and he plays for Texas A&M. Yes, the same guy who won it last year and then became a circus act on the rubber chicken circuit.

Antics aside, if what Manziel did last year was good enough, then what he's doing this season deserves a serious look. Through eight games this season, he has accounted for 3,091 yards in total offense, and 28 touchdowns. Last season at this stage, he had 3,009 yards and 29 touchdowns.

Manziel has run less — 497 yards and six touchdowns in 89 carries compared to 793 yards in 117 carries — but passed more efficiently. At this point last season, he had thrown 269 passes and completed 173 (64.3%) for 2,216 yards and 16 touchdowns with six interceptions. This season, he has completed 184 of 252 passes (73.0%) for 2,594 yards and 22 touchdowns with eight interceptions.

Playing with an injured throwing shoulder, Manziel passed for 305 yards and four touchdowns in a 56-24 rout of Vanderbilt on Saturday.

Fresh talent

If it seems like a lot of freshmen are having an impact this season, it's not your imagination.

The Associated Press studied teams from the six conferences that send automatic qualifiers to Bowl Championship Series bowl games plus Notre Dame. On those 72 teams, it found 359 freshmen and redshirt freshmen listed as first- or second-team on the depth chart. And that didn't include punters, kickers or long snappers.

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