Alabama tired of being a first-half team

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- At some point, it's going to catch up with Alabama.

Then again, maybe not.

All of a sudden, the No. 2 Crimson Tide can't finish a football game, which sits about as well with Nick Saban as seeing one of his players get penalized for celebrating after scoring a touchdown.

Yes, Alabama might be 7-0 and 4-0 in the SEC. And the Crimson Tide might be ranked No. 2 in the polls and likely to be one of the two teams atop the first BCS standings when they're released Sunday.

But Saban wasn't exactly basking in Alabama's 24-20 win Saturday over Ole Miss. Maybe that's because he knows his team is playing with fire.

"We did not exactly get done what we wanted to get done today," said Saban, whose club led 24-3 at the half. "But when you win a game in this league, you have to be pleased and happy about it. The last three games, we haven't played as well in the second half as in the first, and we have to analyze that."

The numbers are pretty telling.

In its last three games, Alabama has outscored its opponents 69-3 in the first half.

But in the second half of the last three games, Alabama has been outscored 61-13.

As he reeled off the common denominators in Alabama's inability to put teams away in the second half, Saban's voice rose each time he mentioned a different factor.

Then it hit a crescendo.

Saban, still livid over freshman Marquis Maze's celebration penalty after his touchdown catch in the first quarter, couldn't hold back.

"We need to quit doing stupid stuff," bellowed Saban, not stopping there. In fact, he was only beginning.

"Please act like you've been there and act like you've got enough maturity to say, 'I'm a good player. I made a good play. Everybody knows it. I don't need to do all this (bleep) to get a 15-yard penalty and now we've got to kick the ball from the 15-yard line,' " Saban fumed. "That's selfish. It hurt the team."

The Alabama players all said it was hard to put a finger on why they were having problems in the second half.

It has to be maddening for Saban. His team has looked like a national championship contender for stretches this season. At other times, the Crimson Tide have looked like a team capable of losing to just about anybody.

"We need to quit being a first-half team and play for the whole 60 minutes," said Alabama nose tackle Josh Chapman, who will see his snaps increase now that Terrence Cody is likely out for the next few weeks. "I know Coach is tired of telling us that, and we're getting tired of not doing it."

Still, there's something to be said for finding a way to win, and Alabama has done that seven-straight times this season. It's the first 7-0 start in Saban's head coaching career.

"We had a chance to score some touchdowns and put them away where they're not even in the game," said Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson, who finished 16-of-25 for 219 yards and two touchdowns, but threw an interception and managed just 67 yards in the second half.

"But our team's done a good job of winning, knowing how to win and knowing what it takes. When we put everything together, we're going to be pretty good."