TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — As a throng of reporters bounced question after question off Alabama head coach Nick Saban following the Crimson Tide's 45-10 destruction of Tennessee on Saturday, it would have been hard to guess the seventh-year head coach had just arrived from a fourth consecutive 30-plus point win over a hated rival.
Eyes straight ahead, locked directly on the bare back wall. His words reverberating through the room as his voice remained completely monotone throughout his multitude of topics.
And then a rarity as the questions wound down.
When asked about a student's sign that read "we'll stay for 60 (minutes) if you stay forever," referring to Saban's statement this week regarding his displeasure with fans leaving early, the Crimson Tide head man couldn't help but chuckle.
"Sounds like a good deal to me," Saban said. "Hey I love it here, and I'm too damn old to go someplace else and start all over, I can tell you that."
A quick laugh and a joke.
Seconds later, though, the old Saban was back.
"We've got enough challenges right here trying to work with the players we recruited," he said.
The in-depth critiquing of his players' every move despite their 8-0 record and No. 1 ranking soon returned. Even with yet another nearly-flawless performance, Saban's digging mentality that seems to locate and illuminate the smallest of problems again resurfaced.
"They busted us on a couple kickoff coverages today," Saban said, referring to UT junior receiver Devrin Young's two 40-plus-yard kick returns. "We had three freshmen running down on that side, and that's something we need to improve on too."
The all-business head coach didn't let any mistakes slide during the game either, no matter how much the Crimson Tide lead grew. Minutes into the second quarter with Alabama up 21-0 and set to get the ball back, the Tide were forced to call an unexpected timeout as the Volunteers lined up to punt.
Saban was none too pleased.
He stormed onto the field before abruptly meeting the Tide special teams' unit dead in its tracks for some "words of encouragement." Although extremely heated, Saban's meeting was brief, as the Alabama punt block squad seemed to get the message immediately.
Tide tailback Kenyan Drake wasn't as lucky.
After fumbling on the goal line late in the first half – thus wasting excellent field position set up by a Deion Belue interception – the 6-foot-1, 201-pound running back could do absolutely nothing to avoid the bubbling wrath of his head coach.
Seconds after the play ended, Saban brusquely met Drake beyond the right hash, the 61-year-old's hands placed disgustingly up in the air. The ensuing conversation was not a pleasant one as the two walked back to the sideline, Saban's mouth barking an inch away from Drake's right ear.
While these constant perfection-esque demands may seem unnecessary in blowout situations, they've resonated with the Crimson Tide players, allowing them to stay mentally-tuned in to every contest regardless of the lopsided score.
"The main thing we have to do especially is focus on what we've got to do day in and day out, practice hard and prepare for the team," said Alabama wide receiver Kevin Norwood, who finished with 112 yards and a touchdown. "We know that any team can come back. We've seen it done plenty of times, so we know we have to stay focused."
And focused Saban's Tide were Saturday, racking up at least 400 yards of offense for the sixth time this season in what was Alabama's seventh straight victory over the Volunteers.
"Feels good," Crimson Tide senior quarterback A.J. McCarron said of never losing to Tennessee in his career. "I'll never hear any trash talk from them, so I always got the upper hand on that one.
And as for the talk of Tennessee calling Alabama "the red team" in an attempt to avoid the talk of playing the No. 1 team in the nation, McCarron and his teammates were offended.
The scoreboard confirmed the senior's statements.
"I took it personal," McCarron said. "I wanted to come out and score as many points as possible, and I didn't want to come out of the game either."