Kirby Smart says Alabama 'did not respect' Ohio State quarterbacks

Written By Allie Davison
(Getty Images)

Kirby Smart believes Alabama learned a much-needed lesson after its 42-35 loss to Ohio State in the College Football Playoff semifinals: Respect every player, no matter where they are listed on the scouting report. 

The Crimson Tide's defensive coordinator told 680 The Fan in Atlanta that the most difficult challenge he has faced in his 15-year coaching career was preparing his team for all three of the Buckeyes' quarterbacks before last January's Sugar Bowl. He understands the attempt was widely unsuccessful. 

MORE: Six Buckeyes on All-Big Ten team | Preseason Top 25 | Top coach: Meyer or Saban? 

During exit interviews, Smart asked three of his top defenders — Landon Collins, Nick Perry and Jarrick Williams — where they thought the team went wrong. Their response was simple: They weren't ready.

“All three of them said they did not respect the quarterback, and our job as the coaches was to make them respect the quarterback," Smart said in the interview. "Well, they heard from the media, they heard from ESPN, they heard from everybody that (OSU starter Cardale Jones) was a third-string quarterback. How can a third-string quarterback beat Alabama? We didn’t promote him enough and they didn’t value his talents enough, and he came in — we thought he was a really good passer. Well, he ran the ball well, too. Well, we had not seen him run the ball . . . and not a runner like (Bama QB) Blake (Sims) and not a runner like their other guy, just big."

Although Alabama lost by just a touchdown, Smart realized shortly after kickoff his defense was in for a long night against Jones and Urban Meyer's lethal weapons Devin Smith and Ezekiel Elliott.

“See, everybody’s talking about the score, we were leading, but we weren’t leading," Smart said. "We had not slowed them down. We had two red area stops, which were six points (two field goals), could have been 14. We had a turnover, we stripped a ball. We had not slowed them down, and I’m thinking this could be 21 but it’s six, 21-6, could be 21-21. And then they scored right before the half, which we thought was deadly. They had a good two-minute drive and scored, and I knew that we were in trouble.”

The loss weighed heavily on head coach Nick Saban, who didn't waste much time gathering intel to try to improve, according to Smart. Saban flew in Houston coach Tom Herman, whose game plans as Ohio State's offensive coordinator produced 537 yards against a normally stout Crimson Tide defense. 

"We said (to Herman), 'Hey, look, we want to meet with you. You know us better than anybody. You spent four weeks getting ready for us. What’s our tendencies? What do we do wrong? What do you think?’," Smart said. "And he was honest with us, he just told us what he thought. It was very valuable for us.”

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