Well, I think the goal that we had for this game was to try to reestablish our identity as a team in terms of the discipline that we played with and the kind of toughness and accountability, and everybody putting the team first. I thought we got off to a little bit of a slow start in terms of our ability to execute, but not because of lack of effort or attitude, and I think as the game went on, we played better and better as the game went on.
Obviously I thought offensively, once we got going, we executed fairly well. I thought Tua played really well. I think 3rd down was a big difference in the game. We actually were 6 for 9 in the first half on 3rd down, which kept a lot of drives going, and the key to it on defense was we got some 4th down stops when we got off the field on 3rd down. I think they were 3 for 12 or whatever. It's a good win for us.
I don't think one game sort of reestablishes anything. I think you've got to do it over time, and I think you have to do it as a team, and everybody has got to buy into it, and hopefully this group has been good that way, and we certainly hope we can continue to improve and build on what we did out there tonight.
There's obviously a lot of things that we can improve on, and that's certainly what we'll focus on here in the week to come.
Q. Just wanted your opinion on how overall the offensive line played. NICK SABAN: Well, we knew this was going to be a difficult task for us up front. This team is a little quicker and do a lot of stunting and plugging backers, which we knew would cause some problems for us in the running game. We thought they may give us some negative plays, but we also thought we might fit some runs. I would say that we need to do better up front, probably on a consistent basis. I think pass protection was pretty good for the most part, and we were able to operate and get the ball in a lot of playmakers' hands on the perimeter, and that was the difference in the game. You know, there's obviously things that I'm sure when we watch the film we're going to -- every player is going to say we could do better, and I don't think it'll be any different up front.
Q. How do you feel Tua did, and secondly, your freshman kicker, how did you think he did? NICK SABAN: Well, first of all, Tua I thought played really well in the game because he took what the defense gave. There was a couple times that he probably could have thrown the ball when he handed it off, probably down and distance wise, and it was probably one of the worst things we did is have 2nd and 1 about three minutes to go in the half, not be able to convert on 3rd and 1 after a bad play on 2nd and 1 and gave them the ball back and went two-minute and you never want to give the other team the ball back. Whether you score or not, you don't want to give the other team the ball back before the half. That was probably something not great we did on offense, not necessarily Tua's fault. I thought he played well in the game. He usually plays well when he's patient and takes what the defense gives, so I was pleased.
And Will? Will did great. He kicked a lot of touchbacks, which shows his leg strength. I think he hit both field goals that he hit, he really hit well. It's a little unlucky that both of them hit the pole, but hopefully he'll be able to gain confidence and improve on that in the future.
Q. Talking about that slow start, will that be something at the beginning of the season that you attribute to chemistry and timing? NICK SABAN: Well, I think their defense was playing really well. But I also think that we were probably not firing on all cylinders for whatever reasons. Maybe a little anxious for some of the new players. And you know what, a couple players that weren't playing early in the game, so we had some young players playing at some positions. But first-game jitters. I'm not making excuses for anybody. We need to be able to start fast and finish strong, and we'll certainly look into it. But I'm sure that when we look at the film, it's going to be because of a lack of execution, whether it's fundamental footwork or however we blocked people or didn't block people. And you know, as the game wore on, I thought we did a little better job of that.
Q. Just your immediate reaction to (indiscernible) how they handled the moment? NICK SABAN: Well, I think they did a good job. There was a couple things that we sort of made some errors on, but for the most part, for the first game, for both of these guys, both being true freshmen, I thought they made a lot of good plays. You know, we got some things thrown at us early in the game that was totally different, sort of a double wing almost wishbone type stuff. We had never practiced that before. But they did a good job adapting with the run reads, and they did a pretty good job in coverage for the most part. I'm sure that there's going to be a lot of things that we're all going to learn from from this experience, but I was pretty pleased for the first time out.
Q. (Indiscernible) what did you think of that match-up? NICK SABAN: I'm sorry, I don't understand the question.
Q. (Indiscernible) what kind of match-up did that present to Duke, and why do you think it worked for you? NICK SABAN: Well, they're a 4-2-5 team, which means they play nickel all the time. Sometimes when you have the ability to play bigger guys on the edges, it is helpful. But that's something that we've always done. I think that's an area of our team that we definitely need to continue to improve, the tight end position, because we don't have really much experience at that position. So hopefully we'll be able to continue to utilize those things and play a physical style up front that we'd like to be able to play, which we did at times today, but at times we weren't what we needed to be.
Q. Any update on Jerry? NICK SABAN: Jerry is fine. He just had some cramps. I think Emil probably has a little bit of a knee injury. I don't think it's a real bad thing. He may be out for a week or two. But I don't think it's something really bad. It's something that he's had before. Most of the time those things are not that significant. But we'll get him an MRI and check him out and make sure.
Q. Could you please comment on the play calling that Sark did and how (indiscernible)? NICK SABAN: Well, I think that Sark did a good job in the game. You never know how first games are going to go. I think we started out a little bit maybe trying to run the ball and then we just decided, hey, the way they're playing, we're going to have to throw the ball on 1st down and get the ball to our playmakers' hands on the perimeter and make them play on the perimeter, and when we started doing that, I think that those guys made a lot of plays, and Jerry obviously played well in the game, but we think we have four or five guys at that position that can make plays, and hopefully we'll utilize all their skill sets here in the games to come.
Q. What happened on the play where you got the 15-yard penalty? NICK SABAN: Undisciplined. You know, one of the things that we wanted to establish here was discipline, and the coach did a poor job in his leadership of setting a good example for how you're supposed to be disciplined. But I guess my reaction was, you know, the kids are having fun. So the guy intercepts the ball and everybody jumps up and down on the sidelines and we get a flag. So my reaction to that was, the kids are having fun. But I deserved it. I'm not making any excuses for it. It's the first time it's happened. I don't remember the last time it happened, but it's been a long time. But I'll learn something from that, too.