Alabama coach Nick Saban was happy to leave the Swamp with a 31-29 win over No. 11 Florida on Saturday, but he couldn't overlook the performance of his defense, which struggled to stop the run and get off the field on third down.
The Gators racked up 258 rushing yards against the top-ranked Crimson Tide and converted on five third downs. It was just the fifth time that an Alabama defense under Saban gave up three rushing touchdowns in a game.
"What concerned me most is we could not maintain our intensity, especially on defense," Saban said. "We had a lot of mental errors."
Saban said it appeared as if players got tired and were reeling as the game wore on. He wondered whether more players would need to play in the future to provide fresh legs.
Alabama outside linebacker Will Anderson Jr. appeared to hobble off the field when the game ended, but Saban said it was more a matter of fatigue than his knee, which he injured the previous game against Mercer.
Saban credited Florida for having a good plan offensively, which necessitated Alabama defenders to play disciplined football. In that respect, he said, they didn't succeed. Florida averaged 6.0 yards per carry.
"All in all it was just our execution on defense and the fact that we didn't get off the field on third down," Saban said.
Still, Saban said he was proud of the way his team didn't quit. Alabama jumped out to a 21-3 first-quarter lead only for Florida to come storming back and make it a one-score game in the fourth quarter.
The Crimson Tide offense went three-and-out on three straight drives, but Saban said quarterback Bryce Young did a good job overall and credited his composure. Young, a sophomore making his first start on the road, completed 22 of 35 passes for 233 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Saban called it an "outstanding win" and "a tough environment to play."
"Our players showed a lot of resiliency in the game," he said.
Alabama hosts Southern Miss next Saturday.