TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- When Alabama coach Nick Saban stepped to the podium last week and unleashed a long-awaited tirade, it was the result of a lot of factors, notably the media overlooking an unranked opponent in Western Kentucky and people beginning to buy into the hype of being the No. 1 ranked team in the country.
But maybe more than anything, a bad week of practice had the sixth-year coach of the Crimson Tide irritated. His screams beyond the walls of the practice fields were audible from the minute players stretched until they hung up their cleats.
Fast-forward a week and the attitude around the Tuscaloosa campus has changed. Even after a 35-0 thrashing of Western Kentucky, players are looking for what's missing, what can be worked on and what can be improved.
Sure, beating a team by five touchdowns looks good on paper, but quarterback AJ McCarron, who described himself as a perfectionist Tuesday, said there might be only one positive to take away from the game, never mind the fact he tied a career high with four touchdown passes.
"We're 2-0," McCarron noted listlessly.
Whatever complacency the Tide had a week ago appears to have vanished in anticipation of this weekend's SEC opener against Arkansas. The Razorbacks were caught napping against Louisiana Monroe on Saturday night in Little Rock, Ark., and Alabama isn't about to make the same mistake. It's why McCarron can find fault in a shutout victory. It gives him and the team something to work on.
"I’m just hard on us," McCarron said. "That’s the way I raised, always trying to be perfect, the way Coach Saban’s always coached. So when you play and you get a W, that’s all great and dandy, but it’s really not as good as you can play.
"So you really can’t be that happy at the end of the day."
McCarron said Saban snapped the Tide back to reality this week, noting that, "Chewing us out probably does it."
"We just have to keep progressing as an offense week by week," McCarron continued. "Last week was a good win but definitely not satisfying for us on offense as a whole, kind of a let-down week to our standards so we're definitely going to have to step it up with the first SEC game.
"We're going to have to be on our A game."
Right tackle D.J. Fluker, who was part of a unit that gave up six sacks to WKU, echoed McCarron's statements. He said the line as a whole needs to pick up its game.
"We can do better than that," Fluker said. "You can't go into a game like that with a messed up mindset, not very focused. That wasn't very good for us."
Sophomore safety Nick Perry, who started his first game Saturday, said he expects Arkansas to come out with something to prove.
"The game's going to be even bigger for them," Perry said. "They're going to want to bounce back and bounce back hard. We're going to get their best shot.
"Coach Saban's been saying that they’re a great team; obviously they have a great offense and they have a returning quarterback and we’re preparing for their best."
Perry said facing Tyler Wilson and the Arkansas passing game is going to be "a big-time challenge."
"We have a lot of new players on defense and it’s going to be a big test," he said. "This game is going to pave the way for the rest of the season and I believe we can handle this big-time road challenge and have a great season."
McCarron expects a challenge as well. Arkansas might be down on the mat after a humiliating loss Saturday, but he doesn't expect the Razorbacks to stay there long. After all, they're just now starting the part of the season that can get them to the Georgia Dome in December.
"They still have a chance to win the SEC," McCarron said. "They're definitely going to throw everything in the book at us. We're going to have to be ready for the things they've shown on film and the things they haven't shown and the things they're going to come up with. Like I said, we're going to have to progress from the way we played last week to this weekend."