Alabama commentary: McCarron saves something for last to rally Tide
Nov 04, 2012 (Menafn - Montgomery Advertiser - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --So talk of AJ McCarron being a Heisman Trophy candidate was premature for the first 58 minutes and 26 seconds of Alabama's 21-17 win Saturday night at Tiger Stadium.
Heading into the game between the top-ranked Crimson Tide and No. 5 LSU, a primary focus was on the inconsistency of the Tigers' Zach Mettenberger and the efficiency of Alabama's McCarron.
It didn't materialize that way.
Mettenberger came back from a slow start to post a career game with numerous critical, second-half third down conversions. He walked off the field with 1:34 left with his team leading 17-14.
Normally, that's a drop kick for a win for the Tigers here with the crowd urging on the defense and an Alabama passing attack stagnant because of McCarron's struggles.
McCarron looked like he was afraid to make a mistake rather than make the big play.
It looked like the McCarron that headed into last year's game with LSU in Tuscaloosa.
He certainly did not resemble the player who had completed nearly 70 percent for 1,684 yards and 18 touchdowns with no interceptions this season.
McCarron missed Amari Cooper for what would have been a 67-yard touchdown in the first half.
He checked down to a running back when tight end Michael Williams was wide open for a big gain.
He overthrew a wide open Marvin Shinn on a third-and-nine in the second half.
Conference title and national championship game runs and award campaigns are made for games like these.
And, it looked like McCarron was going to miss out. But finally something clicked just like it did on the final minute of the first half, which was his best series of the game before the final drive.
Alabama stood 72 yards away with no timeouts but led the Tide to a stunning 21-17 victory.
First, McCarron hit Kevin Norwood for 18 yards.
Then, it was a 15-yard completion to Norwood that was out of bounds on LSU's 39.
McCarron hit Norwood again for 11 yards to the LSU 28.
His only incompletion on the drive was a shot into the back of the end zone to Norwood where there was considerable contact on the play but no flag for pass interference.
Then, McCarron hit freshman T.J. Yeldon on a swing pass to the left and he rambled 28 yards for the go-ahead touchdown and a 21-17 Alabama lead with only 51 seconds left.
Alabama coach Nick Saban said he would remember that drive for a long, long time.
All Alabama fans will.
The Tide captured victory out of near-certain defeat against a bitter rival.
McCarron completed 4 of 5 passes for 72 yards -- after heading into the drive completing only 10 of 22 for 93 yards.
"He was locked in," running back Eddie Lacy said. "He's always locked in every game, but it was something different this time, this drive. I mean, he knew he had to make plays. He got the plays in. He did exactly what he was so supposed to do, made the right reads and the right passes. You can't ask any more from AJ McCarron."
Why did he play so poorly?
No one knows for sure but at least he came alive when it counted the most.
The same question could be asked of the Alabama defense that was ranked No. 1 in every category in the league, but the Tide gave up 435 yards on 85 plays.
LSU held the ball for 39:15 but still lost -- ending its 22-home game winning streak.
But McCarron's struggles or the defense being stretched like Gumby doesn't matter now.
McCarron might have dropped as a contender for college football's most coveted award, but the Tide will just have to settle for another possible SEC and national title run. He may have started late, but McCarron came back from the dead in Death Valley at just the right time.
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