No. 1 Alabama finds plenty to improve before showdown with No. 7 Texas A&M, Johnny Manziel
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) Alabama center Ryan Kelly said the postgame mood in the locker room was subdued and players were upset with their performance in the season opener.
Never mind that the top-ranked Crimson Tide beat Virginia Tech 35-10 Saturday night. It wasn't pristine or dominant enough, especially on offense, to satisfy the two-time defending national champions.
"Obviously we're 1-0 but we knew as a team afterward that we didn't make them quit," he said Tuesday night. "We felt like they walked away with a better sense that they didn't let Alabama take control of them. I think that's what everybody was disappointed about. We should have played a lot better."
The offense did sputter at times during the game, when two touchdowns came on special teams and one on an interception return. The Tide likely won't be able to afford such uneven offensive play in next week's grudge match against Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and No. 7 Texas A&M in College Station.
Alabama has an extra week to prepare to face the only team to beat the Tide last season.
The circumstances are decidedly different from last season, when Alabama was fresh from a down-to-the-wire win over LSU with a week to prepare for Manziel and the Aggies' fast-paced offense.
Texas A&M jumped ahead 20-0 after the first quarter en route to a 29-24 victory.
Coach Nick Saban said the Tide won't start working on Texas A&M until Thursday's practice, giving them two extra days "which is usually the most we do on a team."
"But we have a lot of work to do as a team to be able to play the way we're going to need to play to have any chance of being successful when we play out there against Texas A&M," he said.
Cornerback John Fulton said Tide players have been hearing about this game "since we lost" last year's meeting. Have they heard too much about it?
"We won the national championship last year," Fulton said, "so we'll be all right."
The offense produced only 206 yards against the Hokies, who also had four sacks. Kelly said there were some first-game jitters among the three new starting offensive linemen.
"We played hard. We didn't always play physical at times," Kelly said. "This week is very important, because we can get back to what an offensive line is about, and that's being physical and making the D-line quit. I think that's what we're going to bring to Texas A&M."
The team did have some drama on Tuesday.
Saban said he gave wide receiver Kenny Bell a "personal day" from practice on Tuesday but expected him to miss only one day.
Bell had posted on his Twitter page Tuesday afternoon that "it's been a nice run but I'm hanging up my cleats," saying he wanted to focus on taking care of his kids.
Later, though, he posted an update, referring to quarterback AJ McCarron: "I'm back with the team!! Just needed time to myself for a day but I couldn't leave my boy @10AJMcCarron we ended this run together."