No. 1 Bama finding painless ways to learn lessons

BY foxsports • September 23, 2012

Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron was philosophical about the top-ranked Crimson Tide's latest performance.

''It's not always going to be perfect,'' McCarron said. ''Just some days, you know, things aren't going to go your way. You've got to fight through adversity, and that's what we did.''

Some adversity is easier to conquer than others. The Tide (4-0) dispatched its latest outclassed opponent with ease Saturday, beating Florida Atlantic 40-7 in a game that was even more one-sided on the stat sheet.

The first four games have amounted to little more than glorified scrimmages, illuminating some areas for mild concern without really raising the stress levels on game day.

This time the issues were offensive efficiency in the red zone, which hadn't been a problem coming in, and giving up a mostly meaningless touchdown in the late minutes that waylaid the bid for three straight shutouts.

A fumbled punt return and no forced turnovers for the first time this season troubled coach Nick Saban somewhat. Now, Alabama has ''only'' a 12-2 turnover margin.

As for the red zone, the Tide heads into Saturday night's visit from Mississippi (3-1) having scored on all 18 trips inside the opponents' 20-yard line. This time those visits included settling for three field goals - plus a 52-yarder by Cade Foster.

Saban offered mixed reviews but also notes that even with seemingly small mistakes ''the consequences will be greater'' when the opponents are better, starting perhaps with the Rebels. His team, after all, has outscored its first four opponents by a whopping 168-21 margin.

''All in all, I was really pleased with our approach,'' he said. ''This game is about getting ready for the conference, and we have got a lot of good conference games coming up. So we need to still focus on improving and doing things that we need to do to make our team better, get more players in a position to play winning football to contribute to that.''

When Alabama opened the game with a 3-yard loss and false start penalty, McCarron responded by hitting Kenny Bell for an 85-yard touchdown.

Christion Jones' fumbled return put Florida Atlantic in scoring position for the only time in the first 55 minutes. But noseguard Jesse Williams blocked a low field goal attempt after the Owls (1-3) went nowhere.

''We know later on down the road, situations are going to hit us like that, where we're going to be backed up against the wall and we've got to stand up,'' safety Vinnie Sunseri said. ''The offense has been unbelievable this year, and they did unbelievable (Saturday). Sometimes we have to go out there and prove that we can make stands like that. It was just really great for the defense to get a stop right there.''

Foster and fellow kicker Jeremy Shelley, who handles the shorter field goals, made sure the Tide didn't come up empty in those stalled drives.

McCarron, who threw three touchdown passes, said there are some minor things to clean up offensively.

''Just not hurt ourselves, get some penalties in certain situations, keep executing,'' he said. ''It's nothing big, just little things. That's why we've got to watch film, correct our mistakes, and move on.''

It's easier to do that after outgaining an opponent 503-110, allowing only one first down through three quarters and sailing to a 30-0 halftime lead.

The postgame focus was more on fine tuning than celebrating a win that wasn't really in doubt even before kickoff.

''That's the mind-set for coach Saban,'' right tackle D.J. Fluker said. ''He always says we can do better. There's room for improvement. That's the mind-set you have to have going into each week and every Saturday. You've got to have that `I will not be denied' attitude. When you have that type of attitude, you have to go out and do it.''