No. 2 Alabama looks to reestablish itself against UL Monroe

Austin Hannon | @austin_hannon1, Sports Editor

It’s been almost a week since quarterback Bryce Young led his team down the field for a game winning field goal against the Longhorns, but many fans may still be catching their breath and bringing their heart rate back down. 

After scraping by in Austin, Texas, last weekend, the Crimson Tide finds itself out of the top spot in the AP Poll. 

Now No. 2, the Crimson Tide (2-0) returns home to take on the UL Monroe Warhawks in front of a friendly audience in Tuscaloosa. 

Head coach Nick Saban believes that his team is better now because of the adversity they faced against the Longhorns. 

“You’ve got to embrace hard,” Saban said. “Tough times make hard people. Easy times make soft people. We didn’t execute like we wanted to, but you can’t fault the [mental toughness].” 

“There’s a lot to learn from this last game,” Saban said. “No. 1 — it’s not just about playing hard. It’s about playing smart.” 

Saban will need his team to play much smarter moving forward. Alabama picked up 15 penalties against Texas, just one shy of the all-time Crimson Tide record for flags in a single contest. 

Last week, Alabama was favored by three touchdowns over the Longhorns, and it fell short of that number. This week, the Crimson Tide is predicted to win by over seven touchdowns. But after watching three Sun Belt schools take down Power Five opponents just last week, Saban is aware of the trend. 

“I respect what it takes to win,” Saban said. “What does what you’re favored in a game mean? It means the people favoring you either don’t know what they’re talking about, or the players playing got affected by that. Neither one of them are good.” 

Safety DeMarcco Hellams isn’t concerned with the line or where Alabama sits in the rankings. 

“You can’t be complacent,” Hellams said. “We’re preparing this week to make sure we’re not one of those teams.” 

“We don’t need any motivation here,” Hellams said. “It doesn’t matter where you’re ranked until the end of the season.” 

The opponent at hand is a familiar one to the Crimson Tide. The Warhawks (1-1) have come to Tuscaloosa twice during Saban’s tenure — once in 2007, and the other in 2015. In the 2007 contest, UL Monroe walked out of Bryant-Denny Stadium with a 21-14 victory as the last unranked, nonconference team to beat Alabama. 

And of course, Saban remembers that game from his inaugural year with the Crimson Tide vividly. 

“I don’t forget things,” Saban said. “I remember when these guys beat us.” 

Early on in the season, Saban has mentioned several times that he thinks his 2022-23 Alabama team has a lot of potential. But, he wants to see them play up to a higher standard week in and week out. That begins with respecting and dominating the team at hand every week. 

“I believe in this team,” Saban said. “I trust in this team. I think we’re making progress in that direction. But I also respect the competition and respect what it takes to win vs. the competition that we have. And it starts in this game in terms of us establishing the standard.” 

UL-Monroe began the season where the Crimson Tide just played. The Warhawks suffered a 52-10 defeat in Austin before returning home to beat Nicholls 35-7 last weekend. 

Alabama has a few holes in its team in the early going, and it begins on the offensive line. The Crimson Tide has struggled mightily to get a big push up front, and it has led to a very inconsistent running game. 

“I have total confidence in the ability of every guy that plays up there,” Saban said. “I just think that we need to get a little bit more consistent and a little more physical in how we play.” 

Another area of weakness? The cornerback position. Before exiting the game late in the first quarter, Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers was dicing up the Alabama secondary, an area that needs to be fixed before it’s too late. 

For now, it’s still an active competition at that position every day according to Saban. 

There’s plenty of the season left, and there is a lot of speculation about how far this Alabama team can go. Expect the Crimson Tide to show up on its home field with a lot of motivation, as Alabama looks to reestablish its identity against its Sun Belt foe. 

Kickoff from Bryant-Denny Stadium is Saturday, Sept. 17 at 3 p.m. CT on the SEC Network.

Questions or comments? Email Austin Hannon (Sports Editor) at [email protected]