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01.04.2017 • WedneSday • M 1


’Bama dismisses Kiin factor Saban gets snippy with questions about departed coordinator ASSOCIATED PRESS


Kiffin says he could have remained at Alabama as ofensive coordinator through the national championship game if he had wanted to. Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban, meanwhile, got testy Tuesday when asked several times about how the Kiffin-to-Steve Sarkisian move would change preparation. “We’re in the planning stages right now, so I don’t know why y’all keep asking me what changes we’re going to make,” he said in response to the first question asked on a media teleconference. “Dabo’s a good friend of mine. Maybe I’ll just call him up and tell him what we’re going to do.” Saban also dismissed Kiin’s talk of possibly helping the Tide in some capacity from the press box Monday. He made it clear that’s not happening. “It’s really not even possible from a legal standpoint for him to do those things,” he said. “That’s not something that we’re interested in pursuing.” Kiffin told ESPN’s Mike & Mike show Tuesday that the decision to leave was mutual, even though the Tide’s ofense could have performed better in the 24-7 semifinal win over Washington. “I know this was a decision that I came up with, and it was very diicult to do,” said Kiin, who’s taking over as Florida Atlantic’s head coach. “This was not something that Nick Saban forced me to do by any means. “If I wanted to coach this game, I would have coached this game, and I just thought that it wasn’t the best thing for the players.” Kiffin and Saban announced Monday that incoming ofensive coordinator Sarkisian, who has worked as an analyst this season, would run the ofense and call plays against Clemson. Both described it as a mutual decision. Alabama had just 57 passing yards against the Huskies. Backup tailback Bo Scarbrough accounted for 180 yards, or 55 percent of the Tide’s total offense. Saban said he didn’t think leading up to the Peach Bowl that letting Kiffin juggle two jobs would be a problem. Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart did it last season before leaving for Georgia and ofensive coordinator Jim McElwain finished the 2011 season after taking the Colorado State head job. “I try to make the decisions based on what’s best for helping our players be successful,” Saban said. “At the time there was no anticipation or thought that there would be any kind of


Alabama coach Nick Saban reacts after Alabama fumbled against Washington during the second half of the Peach Bowl on Saturday. Alabama won 24-7.

problem relative to managing to jobs at once. When we sort of saw, and agreed, that that was a little bit of a tough team, then we decided to move in a diferent direction.” It’s unclear how well Alabama players know Sarkisian. He was involved in coaches meetings and planning, but Saban said analysts aren’t “really allowed to be involved with the team.” Scarbrough was asked what kind of interaction he has had with Sarkisian. “On the sideline, he always

tells me to keep my helmet on and stay ready because you never know when your number is called,” the tailback said. Kiin, meanwhile, praised his relationship with Saban on the radio show. “We had a great relationship,” he said. “It just kept getting better and better as time went. Obviously the success on the field was fun and the players that we were able to coach in our three years in one of the greatest runs in the history of college football. And one more game to finish it.”

Kiffin said he watched Alabama’s defense struggle against Clemson in last year’s national championship, with Smart pulling double duty as Georgia’s new head coach. “I don’t know if that’s part of it or not,” he said. “But I didn’t want to have that feeling and if it was, and we lost the game because I wasn’t 100 percent focused on our players, I didn’t have them in the best position to win, I couldn’t live with that.”

COLLEGE FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK Minnesota ires Claeys Minnesota ired coach Tracy Claeys on Tuesday, just over two weeks after the football program became embroiled in a standof with the administration over the suspension of 10 players in connection with allegations of sexual assault, the school announced. Athletics director Mark Coyle said he made the decision to “address challenges in recruiting, ticket sales and the culture of the program. We need strong leadership to take Gopher football to the next level and address these challenges.” The Golden Gophers went 9-4 this season and beat Washington State in the Holiday Bowl. But that was overshadowed by a threatened boycott of the bowl by the entire team a week before the game. The players ultimately decided against a boycott. Claeys publicly supported his players in lobbying for fairness in the sexual assault investigation. A tweet he sent out in support of their movement drew wide criticism. Claeys later said he chose his words poorly and planned to donate $50,000 to raise awareness for sexual assault victims. The 48-year-old Claeys went 11-8 in a year and a half leading the Gophers. He became a head coach for the irst time when he took over midway through 2015 after Jerry Kill was forced to retire because of health issues. Claeys had been an assistant under Kill at Southern Illinois Carbondale. Washington loses four • Four players who helped lead Washington to the Pac-12 championship and an appearance in the College Football Playof announced decisions to forgo their senior seasons and enter the NFL draft. Wide receiver John Ross, safety Budda Baker, defensive tackle Elijah Qualls and cornerback Sidney Jones are all leaving early. A number of other players announced intentions to leave school early, including Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the FBS leader with 5,052 yards passing this season. Others to announce included Tennessee wide receiver Josh Malone and defensive end Derek Barnett, Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine, Wisconsin linebacker T.J. Watt, Miami running back Joe Yearby and Florida cornerback Quincy Wilson and ofensive tackle David Sharpe. Bowl attendance down • More than 1.635 million people attended bowl games this postseason, with an average of 40,892 spectators at each game — down around 5 percent from the previous season’s average of 43,002—– based on numbers provided by the Football Bowl Association. Twenty of the 40 games set higher attendance marks than the previous season, including the two College Football Playof semiinals and the Rose Bowl. Associated Press


Blues would do well to repeat Classic performance BLUES • FROM B1

together and start feeling good about ourselves, we’ll definitely be a very, very dangerous team. “I think this game was really big for us, especially after how we finished the last game against Nashville. We’re playing a great team and with all the crowd, all the things that have been leading up to to this and we come out on top and we actually play a great game. This is a big game for us.” The end of the Friday’s Nashville game was fairly

typical of the team’s lategame inefficiencies. In their 11 games before the Winter Classic, the Blues were outscored 15-7 in the third period, and all seven of the goals they scored came in just three games: three in two games with New Jersey, one of the worst teams in the league, and the other four against a Philadelphia team that has run hot and cold. (Before the Chicago game, the Blues were scoreless in their past seven games against Western Conference opponents.) And that Philadelphia


Patrik Berglund had a goal for the Blues in Monday’s Winter Classic and has ive goals in his last eight games.

game proved one of the undying truths about the

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Blues this season: What happens in one game is no indication of what will happen in the next. The Blues were coming off scoring four goals in the third against Philadelphia when they went AWOL in the final two periods against Nashville in a 4-0 shutout loss. The Blues have seen this show before but as well as they know the script, it’s been tough to get a repeat performance. In each of the past three games in which they have scored a third-period goal, they’ve been shut out in the third in the next game. A big thing for the Blues on Monday was not just taking a 2-1 lead in the third, but then turning it into a 3-1 lead. The Blues actually had some breathing room in the final minutes for a change. “I think the best part

about tonight,” defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said, “and the problem that we’ve had all year, is that we’ve been sitting on leads, and tonight we were able to just keep applying that pressure. We got right back on the attack and I think that’s the most important thing. We got right back to the game that we were doing so efectively.” Part of the challenge will be keeping that going without the emotions of the Winter Classic and 46,556 fans at their backs. The Blues will be back in action Thursday against Carolina at Scottrade Center with about half the fans and against a low team in the Eastern Conference standings. An emotional dip seems inevitable. While the Winter Classic has caused problems for home teams, the Blues were able to channel the emotions of an outdoor game into a positive instead of a negative. “Our group played well,” forward Alexander Steen said. “I thought our passing game and the way that we supported each other throughout the game was as good as it’s been all year. I think we’re more proud of the way that we played, the type of game that we played. Our passing game was probably as good as it’s been all year.” If they can keep it up, the Blues have a chance

at winning consecutive games for the first time since Nov. 28 and Dec. 1. (That was also the most recent time they had consecutive games with goals in the third period.) And with three more games on this season-long homestand, they have a chance for some momentum as they head toward the halfway point of the season Tuesday. All they have to do is repeat themselves for a change.

RATTIE ON WAIVERS The Blues put forward Ty Rattie on waivers Tuesday to send him down to Chicago of the AHL to get in some games. Rattie hasn’t played for the Blues since Nov. 28, having been a healthy scratch in 15 consecutive games (and 31 overall this season). He has appeared in just four games, but the Blues haven’t wanted to send him down for fear of losing him to a waiver claim. But for a young player like Rattie, the team’s secondround pick in 2011, the extended idleness can’t be a good thing, and the Blues apparently have decided he needs to see some action. They’ll know at 11 a.m. Wednesday if he cleared waivers and can report to Chicago or was claimed by another team. Tom Timmermann • 314-340-8190 @tomtimm on Twitter ttimmermann@post-dispatch.com