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Letterman Confronts Kim Kardashian West About Working With Trump – The Daily Beast

David Letterman knows how to make a splash. Over three seasons of his Netflix interview series My Next Guest Needs No Introduction—the most recent of which drops this Wednesday—the former Late Show host landed a majorly famous guest for each premiere episode.

First came former President Barack Obama in early 2018, giving his most in-depth on-camera interview since leaving office to the long-bearded Letterman. Last year, season two opened with a fiery sit-down with Kanye West, who both said he felt “bullied” by liberals for supporting Trump and admitted that he had never voted in his life. “Then you don’t have a say in this,” Letterman shot back to cheers from a crowd that included the rapper’s wife Kim Kardashian West.

Now, it’s that reality show star-turned-fashion mogul’s turn to join Letterman on stage for yet another fascinating conversation to open season three.

Letterman begins the interview, which was taped early this year, before the coronavirus pandemic began, by admonishing the Kardashian clan for arriving late to the theater. “Oh for Christ’s sake, the showtime’s not on the ticket?” he asks jokingly as Kris Jenner, Kourtney Kardashian and Khloe Kardashian file in. An empty seat next to Jenner is soon occupied by an even later Kanye West.

The interview itself begins with genuinely curious questions from Letterman about hair extensions before the host actually submits an apology of sorts for making fun of Keeping Up With the Kardashians in his Late Show monologues back in the day. “Well, here we are and we’re not laughing now,” he says, pointing to the overwhelming success her family has achieved. He also rejects the whole notion that Kardashian is “famous for being famous” because he admits there is some skill involved in making a show like theirs work.

From there, things quickly take a turn towards more substantive topics, including her father’s role in the O.J. Simpson trial—she still won’t say if she thinks he’s guilty out of respect for his children—and Kardashian’s most recent crusade as an advocate for prison sentencing reform. Which, of course, leads to her unlikely alliance with President Donald Trump.

“Hopefully, for the next multiple administrations, I’ll be working with the White House, helping them with clemencies,” Kardashian explains, as a photo appears onscreen of her with Alice Johnson, the woman whose life sentence she personally persuaded the president to commute, in the Oval Office with Trump.

Clearly uncomfortable with the notion of aiding Trump’s image, Letterman then asks, “But do you feel that what is being done on behalf of sentencing reform now via this current administration in any way allows the balance of democracy back in a corridor of viability?”

It’s a terribly worded, nonsensical question that elicits the only logical response from his guest, who replies, “Well, I have no idea what you just said.”

After the laughter and applause dies down, Letterman tries another tack. “I’m grateful for what you’re doing, but it doesn’t make me feel any better about the current administration,” he says. But as she has done repeatedly over the past couple of years, Kardashian refuses to say one bad word about the man in the White House, only telling him, “I understand that.”

She will not even tell Letterman who she’s voting for in the presidential election, sitting in silence as he presses her with, “I know who I’m voting for.” Though the interview was taped before Joe Biden had locked up the Democratic nomination and before Kanye West officially threw his MAGA hat in the ring, the obvious implication is whoever has the best chance of beating Trump.

“Trust me, everyone called me and said, ‘Don’t you dare step foot in that White House or your reputation is done,’” Kardashian says, arguing that it was a small price to pay for saving the lives of people who would otherwise die in prison.

“But see, your good work is overwhelming,” Letterman admits. “It’s a positive force that diminishes what I consider to be unacceptable behavior by the president.”

Trust me, everyone called me and said, ‘Don’t you dare step foot in that White House or your reputation is done.’

Kim Kardashian West

Instead of agreeing that any such “unacceptable behavior” exists, Kardashian only says she is “extremely grateful” for the administration’s work on criminal justice reform and will “stay focused” on what she can accomplish.

“Why don’t I feel like that? I’m not as good a person as you, maybe?” Letterman asks in response, before realizing that he has perhaps reached a dead end and moves onto other topics. Their conversation culminates with a truly harrowing account of the 2016 Paris robbery during which Kardashian says she was sure she was going to die.

Throughout the hour, Letterman’s obvious affection for Kardashian is apparent. Ultimately, he tells her that she’s “come out on the right side of everything.” But he is also clearly distressed by her outright refusal to criticize Trump, who he has known for decades should never have been given the power of the presidency.

Months after their interview, Alice Johnson appeared as a featured speaker at the Republican National Convention. But while she profusely thanked the president for commuting her sentence, she notably declined to endorse him for a second term. Like Kardashian, Johnson told CNN’s Jake Tapper that she was “focused” on this narrow mission and clearly did not want to say anything that might bruise Trump’s ego.

As a fellow reality show star, Kardashian knows that Trump cares far more about being liked than he does about actually helping people so she wasn’t going to reveal even the slightest hint of disapproval. Letterman has become a world-class interviewer in his new longer format, but even he couldn’t get her to break.

Chicago man, 18, accused of molesting cousin, 7, in online view of girl’s teacher, classmates – Fox News

A Chicago teacher and her young students were shocked last week when they reportedly saw an 18-year-old man molesting a 7-year-old girl as the class participated in an online learning session, according to reports.

The teacher alerted the school’s principal and the man — who was identified as the child’s older cousin — was soon arrested, Chicago’s FOX 32 reported.

Authorities said the suspect, Catrell Walls, a resident of the city’s South Side, faces a felony charge of predatory criminal sexual assault in connection with the Thursday incident, the station reported. A judge denied bail for Walls when he appeared in court Saturday, the report said.

“I don’t know why. I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” a tearful Walls told prosecutors after he was taken into custody.

The suspect, a high school senior, has trouble controlling his impulses because he suffers from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), his defense attorney said, according to FOX 32.


The alleged sex crime reportedly happened in the home of the cousins’ grandmother, where the girl had been staying during the day for online classes. After the teacher alerted the school’s principal, the principal contacted the girl’s family, Chicago police and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

During a visit to the child to get more information about what happened, the girl reportedly told the school principal that Walls had molested her other times as well, the report said. That alleged history factored into the judge’s no-bail decision regarding Walls.

Catrell Walls, 18, faces a felony charge of predatory criminal sexual assault, authorities say. (Chicago Police)

Catrell Walls, 18, faces a felony charge of predatory criminal sexual assault, authorities say. (Chicago Police)

“This ongoing history of assault, for approximately a year, according to the victim, leads me to believe this is not something that will just stop because I have ordered it to,” Judge Charles Beach said. “This history and his actions from this case lead me to believe that he is a threat to an individual and the community as a whole.”


The child was taken to Comer Children’s Hospital, police said, according to the Chicago Tribune.

In recent years Chicago Public Schools has increased its support for students who are victims of sexual assault or other harm because teachers and counselors are often the first to spot a problem, schools CEO Janice Jackson told the Tribune.

Walls’ next court date is Nov. 21, according to FOX 32.

Rudys Russian Agent Pal Teases Second Laptop With Hunter Biden Kompromat – The Daily Beast

Rudy Giuliani has dismissed concerns that his latest anti-Biden smears are part of a foreign-election interference plot, but a Ukrainian lawmaker recently deemed an “active Russian agent” by the U.S. Treasury is now touting further details to come.

Andrii Derkach, one of the key players in Giuliani’s years-long dirt-digging mission against Joe Biden in Ukraine, piggybacked on the former New York City mayor’s latest Biden smears—supposedly involving a forgotten laptop. Derkach claimed on Facebook that there is a “second laptop” with evidence of corruption involving the Biden family.

The claim appears to muddy the waters around Giuliani’s latest “smoking gun” charge against Hunter Biden. He says they came to light after an obscure Delaware computer repair shop owner found Biden’s laptop in his possession and copied the hard drive before alerting federal authorities and inexplicably Giuliani’s own lawyer. Now, with Derkach jumping in with claims of a “second laptop,” that would mean private computer contents allegedly connected to Hunter Biden have somehow found their way into the hands of three separate parties: A media empire controlled by a Chinese billionaire who’s tight with Steve Bannon; a random Delaware shop owner who is outspoken in his support of Trump; and Derkach, a Ukrainian conspiracy theory peddler who studied at Moscow’s FSB academy.

Derkach wrote on Facebook about the questionable New York Post report that relied on unverified images of emails provided by Trump allies to supposedly prove a corruption scheme by Biden and his son involving Ukrainian gas company Burisma. He then said there was a second laptop, which was used by “two representatives for the interests of [Burisma founder Mykola] Zlochevsky.”

“That laptop was given to Ukrainian law enforcement,” Derkach wrote, adding that the Burisma representatives who used the laptop were now serving as “witnesses in criminal proceedings.” He said the witnesses were ready to testify about an international corruption scheme involving Biden and his son, Hunter, who served on the board of the gas company.

It has already been reported that Russian intelligence agents successfully hacked into Burisma computer networks last year, although it is not clear how much they were able to access and copy.

Despite what Team Trump would have the public believe is a towering mountain of evidence, neither Joe or Hunter Biden have been charged with any wrongdoing, and Ukrainian prosecutors confirmed months ago that they had found no evidence of any crimes.

Derkach is no newbie to the Biden saga. While cozying up to Trump allies like Giuliani during impeachment proceedings, he held repeated press conferences in Kyiv touting purported proof of corruption by the former vice president, and claiming it was not Russia that interfered in the 2016 election, but Ukraine. He also featured prominently in an “exposé” by the Trumpian One America News Network, and met with Giuliani in Kyiv last year as part of their anti-Biden mission. His claims have not held up under scrutiny.

After Derkach was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in September for working as a foreign operative, Giuliani insisted he had not seen “any evidence” to conclusively say whether Derkach was working as a Russian agent or not.

He told The Daily Beast this week that he believed it was a toss up whether his partner in the Biden smearing campaign was an active intelligence operative. “The chance that Derkach is a Russian spy is no better than 50/50,” he said.

But U.S. intelligence officials had begun warning in spring 2019 that Derkach was part of a Russian effort to worm their way into the U.S. presidential election and spread the narrative that Biden and his son were involved in nefarious corruption schemes overseas.

Giuliani’s allegations against Biden have evolved drastically since he first began his attacks on Trump’s then presumed 2020opponent by claiming the former vice president improperly forced out a Ukrainian prosecutor. After numerous “exposés” on Biden’s supposed abuse of power aired on OAN largely failed to gain much traction, Giuliani shifted his focus to Biden’s son, Hunter, who he has now deemed a “national security risk.”

Bizarrely, even Giuliani’s allegations against the younger Biden have pinballed all over the place, from his initial claim that Hunter used access to his father to line his own pockets, to his very personal attacks on his admitted struggles with substance abuse, and, perhaps most desperately, his latest smear that Hunter Biden engaged in “disgusting sexual behavior.”

New Zealands Ardern credits virus response for election win – The Associated Press

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) — A day after winning a second term in a landside victory, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Sunday she sees the election result as an endorsement of her government’s efforts to stamp out the coronavirus and reboot the economy.

Speaking at a cafe near her Auckland home, Ardern said she expects to form a new government within three weeks and to prioritize work on the virus response.

“We’re cracking on very quickly with the work we need to do as a new team,” Ardern said.

Her comments came as health officials reported one new case of community transmission after New Zealand went three weeks without any new infection. Officials said the man works on foreign ships at the ports, and they believe they caught his case early enough to contain the threat of further spread.

In the election, Ardern’s liberal Labour Party got 49% of the vote, crushing the conservative National Party, which got 27%. Ardern said the margin of the victory exceeded their expectations.

The result will give Labour an outright majority in Parliament, the first time any party has achieved that since New Zealand implemented a proportional voting system 24 years ago. Typically parties have formed alliances to govern but this time Labour can go it alone.

Asked what she would say to those Americans who may draw inspiration from her win ahead of the U.S. elections, Ardern said she hoped people globally could move past the partisan divisions that elections often accentuate.

“That can be damaging for democracy, regardless of the side of the House that you sit on,” she said.

Ardern’s popularity soared earlier this year after she led a successful effort to halt the spread of the virus by implementing a strict lockdown in late March. New Zealand has had fewer than 2,000 cases of the virus including 25 deaths.

Ardern, 40, won the top job at the 2017 election. The following year, she became only the second world leader to give birth while in office. In 2019, she was praised for her empathetic response to a massacre at two Christchurch mosques in which a gunman killed 51 Muslim worshippers.

Arden said she’d been congratulated on her win by a number of world leaders, including those from Britain, Denmark, Canada and Spain. Asked if she planned to run again at the next election, Ardern laughed.

“I’ve just run in 2020. I haven’t yet taken a weekend,” she said. “I’m enjoying this moment.”

Teofimo Lopez Jr. vs. Vasiliy Lomachenko results, takeaways: Lopez backs up talk as Loma struggles early – CBS Sports

In boxing’s biggest fight since the global COVID-19 pandemic, Teofimo Lopez Jr. won a lightweight world title unification bout against Vasiliy Lomachenko in a pretty shocking upset. The common thinking ahead of the fight was that Lopez could only beat Lomachenko by knockout, with Lomachenko being the better “pure” boxer in the fight.

Instead, Lopez won a wide decision as Lomachenko came out of the gate slowly, giving away rounds from the jump and letting his younger, more dynamic and naturally larger opponent pile up an early lead. In the end, Lopez walked away with with the WBA, IBF and WBO lightweight world championships while Lomachenko was left to wonder how his gameplan coming into the fight will ultimately alter the biggest bout of his career.

Here are the three big takeaways from the massive lightweight unification bout that saw Lopez establish himself as a man among the sport’s elite.

Lomachenko shot himself in the foot

One of the standard talking points about Lomachenko is that he’s willing to give away a round or two to “download” data on his opponent. That is not unique to Lomachenko and, in fact, is very typical of elite boxers. What he could not afford to do against Lopez, however, was to give away half of the fight against a truly elite opponent. Lopez is not just “some opponent,” he’s a rare, elite talent who was ready to face off with arguably the top pound-for-pound fighter on the planet despite being just 23 years old.

So, as Lopez banked round after round in the first half of the fight, it started to feel like Lomachenko was allowing the biggest fight of his career to slip away. During a unification fight on ESPN, Lomachenko was landing single-digit punches round after round, while the young stud was able to ease into a fight under the brightest lights he’s seen yet. There’s being an elite boxer who wants to figure out your opponent, and there’s laying an egg while the world is watching. Unfortunately for Lomachenko, his performance fell into the latter category.

Lopez delivered on years of trash talk

It’s hard to salvage a situation where you — and your very outspoken father — spent years trash talking and hounding a pound-for-pound great about how you have his number. Coming up short with a poor performance is the kind of thing that’s hard to rebound from. Had Lopez been overwhelmed by the moment, or trounced by the man considered arguably the best fighter in the sport, it would have been hard to come back from years of big talk, relegating Lopez to a potential boxing version of Brian Bosworth.

But Lopez never looked overwhelmed by the moment. When Lomachenko was willing to give away early rounds, Lopez happily piled up points. When Lomachenko started to come on late in the final third of the fight, Lopez delivered a huge Round 12, showing he could compete with the best-of-the-best when it mattered most. This was a massive performance in the biggest of moments for Lopez as he took control of the story of his career and simply beat Lomachenko without much doubt.

Let’s hold off on a rematch

One place boxing never fails to shoot itself in the foot is holding endless rematches. Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder have spent much of 2020 in a dance around a wholly unnecessary rematch while more appealing fights have been available. Lopez beat Lomachenko, there’s no real doubt about that. We can play the “What if?” game about Lomachenko choosing to step up and fight earlier in the bout. But, he didn’t do that. He gave away rounds to a younger foe who had spent years running him down. It’s not an effort that demands an immediate rematch.

For all the talk on the broadcast of the fight being for “four belts,” Lopez vs. Lomachenko was a fight for three of the four recognized world championships at lightweight. Lopez was quick to call out WBC champion Devin Haney after his victory. Lopez battling Haney to unify all four recognized world championships would be a very interesting and meaningful fight. Let Lomachenko fight his way back to a title shot — consider it penance for giving away rounds to lightweight’s other elite under the brightest lights in boxing’s “pandemic era.” The last thing the sport needs is to be dragged down by promotional shenanigans once again.

As coronavirus surges across the US, only 2 states are trending in the right direction – CNN

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Next COVID-19 Drug Target: Viral “Molecular Scissor” – SciTechDaily

Disabling Viral Molecular Scissor

The SARS-CoV-2-PLpro enzyme is visualized with an inset of viral inhibitor interaction. Blocking the enzyme’s effects may prove fruitful in stopping coronavirus infections. Credit: Image courtesy Shaun K. Olsen, PhD, laboratory at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine)

Coronavirus uses enzymatic cutter for virus production and to disable essential immune proteins.

American and Polish scientists, reporting October 16, 2020, in the journal Science Advances, laid out a novel rationale for COVID-19 drug design — blocking a molecular “scissor” that the virus uses for virus production and to disable human proteins crucial to the immune response.

The researchers are from The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio) and the Wroclaw University of Science and Technology. Information gleaned by the American team helped Polish chemists to develop two molecules that inhibit the cutter, an enzyme called SARS-CoV-2-PLpro.

SARS-CoV-2-PLpro promotes infection by sensing and processing both viral and human proteins, said senior author Shaun K. Olsen, PhD, associate professor of biochemistry and structural biology in the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio.

Shaun K. Olsen

Shaun K. Olsen, PhD, studies the enzyme SARS-CoV-2-PL pro and is collaborating with Polish chemists who have developed inhibitors of the enzyme. Dr. Olsen is a faculty researcher in the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Credit: UT Health San Antonio

“This enzyme executes a double-whammy,” Dr. Olsen said. “It stimulates the release of proteins that are essential for the virus to replicate, and it also inhibits molecules called cytokines and chemokines that signal the immune system to attack the infection,” Dr. Olsen said.

SARS-CoV-2-PLpro cuts human proteins ubiquitin and ISG15, which help maintain protein integrity. “The enzyme acts like a molecular scissor,” Dr. Olsen said. “It cleaves ubiquitin and ISG15 away from other proteins, which reverses their normal effects.”

Dr. Olsen’s team, which recently moved to the Long School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio from the Medical University of South Carolina, solved the three-dimensional structures of SARS-CoV-2-PLpro and the two inhibitor molecules, which are called VIR250 and VIR251. X-ray crystallography was performed at the Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago.

“Our collaborator, Dr. Marcin Drag, and his team developed the inhibitors, which are very efficient at blocking the activity of SARS-CoV-2-PLpro, yet do not recognize other similar enzymes in human cells,” Dr. Olsen said. “This is a critical point: The inhibitor is specific for this one viral enzyme and doesn’t cross-react with human enzymes with a similar function.”

Specificity will be a key determinant of therapeutic value down the road, he said.

The American team also compared SARS-CoV-2-PLpro against similar enzymes from coronaviruses of recent decades, SARS-CoV-1 and MERS. They learned that SARS-CoV-2-PLpro processes ubiquitin and ISG15 much differently than its SARS-1 counterpart.

“One of the key questions is whether that accounts for some of the differences we see in how those viruses affect humans, if at all,” Dr. Olsen said.

By understanding similarities and differences of these enzymes in various coronaviruses, it may be possible to develop inhibitors that are effective against multiple viruses, and these inhibitors potentially could be modified when other coronavirus variants emerge in the future, he said.

Reference: “Activity profiling and crystal structures of inhibitor-bound SARS-CoV-2 papain-like protease: A framework for anti–COVID-19 drug design” by Wioletta Rut, Zongyang Lv, Mikolaj Zmudzinski, Stephanie Patchett, Digant Nayak, Scott J. Snipas, Farid El Oualid, Tony T. Huang, Miklos Bekes, Marcin Drag and Shaun K. Olsen, 16 October 2020, Science Advances.
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abd4596

‘SNL’: Michael Che Jokes About NBC Trump Town Hall On Weekend Update: “What Can We Say We Have A Type” – Deadline

Saturday Night Live took on the competing ABC Joe Biden and NBC Donald Trump town halls during its latest episode.  The show kicked off with a cold opening that saw Alex Baldwin reprise his role as 45 and Jim Carrey transform into the Democratic presidential nominee and former vice president.

The jokes about the conflicting town halls also found their way into the latest “Weekend Update” installation. Upon bringing up the topic of the NBC town hall, Michael Che said that the Thursday program shouldn’t have been a surprise.

“What can we say, we have a type,” the comedian said. Next to Che appeared a picture of Bill Cosby, Matt Lauer and Trump, hinting at the first two men’s rape accusations.  

Che’s joke comes after NBC received backlash for running a town hall at the same time as Biden’s on ABC, despite the latter being scheduled first. As a result of the decision, a number of Hollywood stars including Wanda Sykes and and Julia Louis-Dreyfus supported the NBC blackout and urged viewers to watch the ABC town hall instead.

“Weekend Update” didn’t let up on Trump. Joining Che and Colin Jost on the desk were Alex Moffat as Donald Trump Jr. and Kyle Mooney as Eric Trump. With the two on set, the segment went on to mock Trump’s “sarcastic” suggestion of disinfectant as COVID-19 treatment.

Moffat’s Donald went on to drink hand sanitizer, only for Mooney’s Eric to criticize him for it.

“Dad said it was fine,” Moffat joked. 

The “Weekend Update” segment also touched on Trump’s failure to denounce QAnon during the town hall, his surprisingly low tax returns and the president’s packed rallies.



Pros react to Teofimo Lopez vs. Vasiliy Lomachenko showdown – MMA Fighting

Saturday’s highly-anticipated boxing match between Teofimo Lopez and Vasiliy Lomachenko captured the attention of the MMA world.

Lopez won a unanimous decision (116-112, 119-109, 117-111) over Lomachenko to add Lomachenko’s WBA and WBO belts to his own IBF title and become boxing’s undisputed lightweight champion.

While most seemed to agree that Lopez was the rightful winner, a hard charge by Lomachenko in the latter half of the fight added intrigue to the scoring and it’s obvious that some felt that at least one of the judges wasn’t close to getting it right.

Check out some of the reactions to Lopez-Lomachenko below.

Teofimo Lopez def. Vasyl Lomachenko via unanimous decision

“Our confidence went through the roof”: Nick Saban returns and Bama keeps rolling – ESPN

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — We should’ve known all along that Nick Saban wasn’t going to miss a day’s work. He has always appeared more machine than man during his time in the public eye — a creature of routine and process who’d barely done worse than sniffle during his six national championship runs. He had hip replacement surgery last year, and the day after he went under the knife, his wife found him standing in the driveway, eager to get back to the office.

No, Nicholas Lou Saban wasn’t going to miss a football game, and especially not one the magnitude of Saturday night’s. At home, against No. 3 Georgia and its coach, Kirby Smart, Saban would find a way to get to Bryant-Denny Stadium. He tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, and three days later he had the three negative tests he needed to return to action. He grabbed a state trooper right after that third test came in, and in less than 30 minutes he was at the team hotel for pregame meetings.

And later that night, after Saban led his team onto the field to a raucous applause, he did what he has always done, besting a former assistant for the 22nd consecutive time in his career. After a so-so start in which his defense struggled with a number of uncharacteristic mistakes, Alabama found its footing and wound up beating Georgia convincingly, 41-24, to remain the only undefeated team in the SEC.

It didn’t take long to know Saban was feeling like himself again as he tore into freshman linebacker Will Anderson after a touchdown in the first quarter and screamed bloody murder at a referee after a call for intentional grounding a few minutes later. When a defensive lineman jumped offside on fourth-and-1, triggering an automatic first down, Saban was absolutely beside himself, putting both hands out as if to ask why.

The perfectionist was back in all his glory.

At halftime, whatever adjustments Saban and his assistants made worked, because the defense went from looking lost to being in total control. After forcing back-to-back punts, freshman nickel back Malachi Moore picked off Stetson Bennett, and running back Najee Harris gladly exchanged the turnover for seven points and a double-digit lead. Then, moments later, safety Daniel Wright picked off Bennett again. And, again, the offense did the rest, as Mac Jones furthered his Heisman Trophy campaign with a fourth touchdown pass, truly putting the game to bed.

Safety DeMarcco Hellams said the defense wanted to make a statement in the second half. He said Saban stressed this was going to be a 15-round fight and to finish the game. And they did, surrendering zero points in the third and fourth quarters.

No, it wasn’t Saban pulling Jalen Hurts in favor of Tua Tagovailoa, but it was a heck of a halftime turnaround nonetheless. And if Saban wasn’t there, if he hadn’t cleared COVID-19 protocol with hours to spare and was watching on TV like the rest the country, who knows if Alabama figures things out?

No disrespect to Steve Sarkisian, who called a brilliant game as offensive coordinator, but he’s not Nick Saban. No one can fill those shoes.

Afterward, when Saban spoke to reporters, he didn’t dwell on a shaky first half or whatever imperfections there might have been. Instead, he said it was an “obvious great win” and that he was proud of his team’s fight.

Mostly, he was proud of how his players handled the distraction of his absence. When he wasn’t on the practice field Friday, when his straw hat was so noticeably missing, a source told ESPN it was bizarre and that it felt like an episode of “The Twilight Zone.”

Saban appeared healthy during his Wednesday news conference and his radio show the following night, but for three days, the college football world obsessed over Saban’s condition and whether he could return.

Saban tried to prepare his players for either eventuality. He told them he hadn’t caught a pass or made a tackle in 40 years, so what good was he to them during a game anyway? From afar, he tried to keep them focused on the task at hand.

When Saban showed up at the team hotel before kickoff, the players weren’t prepared. Jones said the reaction “was pretty crazy” when Saban stepped into the quarterback room unannounced.

Senior linebacker Dylan Moses said Saban being there for walk-throughs brought an added energy to everyone. Seeing Saban walk through the door, he said, “Our confidence went through the roof.”

And that, maybe more than any in-game adjustment or halftime speech, is the real value of having Saban on the sideline: the confidence his presence brings. For 14 seasons now, he has been a fixture at Alabama. As it turns out, not even a positive COVID-19 test can stop him from showing up.

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