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Alabama safety got ripped by Nick Saban, then made up for it

Sitting in the middle of Alabama’s locker room, a few players huddled around Keaton Anderson’s iPhone. They watched closely, then busted up laughing.

It was funny mostly because things worked out. In the moment, the video of Nick Saban ripping the redshirt junior safety after an unsportsmanlike conduct flag was no joke.

Oklahoma had just pulled within 31-20 late in the third after trailing by 28 and Anderson was flagged for a late hit after a touchback on the following kickoff. It was one of a few undisciplined penalties that sent Saban over the edge even after breaking a headset before halftime.

Redemption, however, came a few football minutes later after Oklahoma’s next touchdown. The Sooners went for an onside kick reminiscent of Alabama’s 2015 title game move against Clemson, only this one didn’t work out. It was Anderson who secured the ball when Oklahoma tried to catch Alabama off guard.

Anderson explained the moment saying they practice all the time on the kickoff return team.

“We know it’s a possibility and Oklahoma showed in their film that a surprise onside kick was up their sleeve,” Anderson said, “so we talked about it on the sideline and were prepared and we executed.”

The Sooners shifted just before the kick and Anderson acted fast. His job?

“Just making sure everybody is lined up,” Anderson said. “We were in a normal kickoff return unit so we had to get everybody moved up into the right spots. Make sure everybody is blocked up and ready for the ball.”

Smiling in the locker room was easier after winning 45-34 to advance to a fourth straight national title game.

Anderson was happy his kick recovery helped erase what happened on the previous kickoff.

“Just wanted to make up for it and make a big play for the team,” Anderson said. “Luckily, I was in a situation to be able to make up for it. Luckily, the offense also backed up on that drive and when down and scored and took the air out of it so that was big time. Shout out to those guys for having my back.”

The late hit backed the Alabama offense back to the 13-yard line instead of the 25 before Tua Tagovailoa and the running game got back to work. The Tide chewed 4:55 off the clock on the resulting 87-play drive that ended with DeVonta Smith’s 10-yard touchdown catch.

And the emotional teaching moment Anderson received from Saban wasn’t a shock to the fourth-year player from Florence High.

“Well, I’m an older guy so it’s definitely not my first one from coach,” Anderson said. “But it’s all good. He just wants what’s best for the team and for myself and it’s what I deserved.”

Michael Casagrande is an Alabama beat writer for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @ByCasagrande or on Facebook.



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