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November 19, 2011TUSCALOOSA | Nick Saban had his hands full this week, preparing his players to face a Georgia Southern triple-option offense that the Crimson Tide hadn't previously seen.
But the University of Alabama's football coach may have had a bigger challenge in defending his players' emotions as Friday night faded into Saturday morning.
When Iowa State knocked off BCS No. 2-ranked Oklahoma State in double overtime late Friday night on ESPN, Alabama re-entered the BCS Championship Game discussion. That's when UA players took to Twitter to paint a picture of the scene at the Hotel Capstone, where the team stays the night before home games.
Senior tight end Brad Smelley tweeted: "If y'all could see our hotel right now. Haha. The adrenalines pumpin. Now that the excitements slowing, we gotta finish the season strong!"
Junior left tackle Barrett Jones tweeted: "Absolute mayhem in hotel capstone. Everyone in the halls hugging each other. Now WE control our destiny!"
Saban, one of the country's top defensive coaches, responded to his team by going on the offensive.
"I really addressed the team about that this morning, and I told our players, before any of this ever happened, that the legacy of the seniors, who have won 45 games since they've been here, won a national championship, would completely be defined if we didn't get everybody's best effort in this game," Saban said. "That we needed everybody's best effort so that our team could function and that we could play well in this game.
"When what happened happened, I told everyone this morning, 'That hasn't changed.' Nothing has changed. We have got two games to play. We're asking everybody, 'Do you know what your best is? We need your best the rest of the season and in this game today. We can control what we can do, and that's how we need to play. Nothing's changed.' Nothing changed from our perspective.
"We're not worried about the national championship. We're worried about the next game. All right? None of that stuff matters if you don't take care of your business and win your next game."
After staving off a feisty Georgia Southern Eagles of the Football Championship Subdivision on Saturday, Alabama only has in-state rival Auburn - barring an unlikely appearance in the Southeastern Conference title game - blocking a potential BCS title game appearance.
"I'm not going to lie, we were pretty excited about (Iowa State winning)," Smelley said. "Obviously, last night definitely helps us. We tried to turn it down a little bit and not get too rowdy in the hotel.
"It was pretty emotional."
Senior center William Vlachos didn't even know Oklahoma State was playing Friday night.
"We were excited. It's obviously something that opens up a window for us and allows us to control our own destiny," Vlachos said. "But at the same time, we've got to do what we do. That's what coach Saban preaches. That's what he told us this morning."
Even team captain and normally stoic middle linebacker Dont'a Hightower got caught up in the emotion
"I was excited. We all knew that we still had hope in getting back into the national championship. That definitely helps out a lot," he said.
"But we've learned from the past not to get too hype, to not get into too much of the hype when things happen. But it was definitely a blessing for us for (Iowa State) to come out and beat (Oklahoma State) and help us out a little bit more. It was definitely a sign for us to go out and handle our business (today)."
Senior linebacker Courtney Upshaw may have summed it up best.
"We just thank Iowa State, I guess."