Big Test Coming For McElroy

Life is good for Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy. Last Saturday night he started his 15th consecutive game for the Crimson Tide. As in the previous 14, the entire 2009 season, McElroy finished with a victory. He is in his second year of college after having earned his degree prior to last season. And he may be headed for future study at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.



It rains in England, and as it turns out Greg McElroy had a little rain on his parade this week. The Alabama statistics crew had credited McElroy with a 13-15 passing performance in the Crimson Tide's 48-3 season opening victory over San Jose State. Sportswriters had him with three misses--an uncharacteristic drop by Julio Jones, an uncharacteristic misread by McElroy trying to force the ball to Jones, and the one the statsman gave to back-up quarterback A.J. McCarron, an overthrow of Marquis Maze.

Thus, McElroy's completion percentage plummeted to 81.2 per cent as his performance against SJSU was adjusted to 13-16. He suffered no interceptions and accounted for 218 yards with one touchdown, a 48-yard strike to Maze. So all-in-all, it's likely his grade in the game was very acceptable.

McElroy would have received a lower grade on the quiz he took Monday. The quiz, popped by sportswriters (we're going to get a bad reputation in Alabama's football offices!), was on Alabama vs. Penn State football history. Considering the teams have not played since McElroy was a toddler (the last game was in 1990 and he was born in 1988), he probably should be given a pass.

"I think I have a pretty basic understanding of Joe Paterno," McElroy said."I saw him play in the Rose Bowl a couple of times. I know that he coached the teams in '78 and '79 in the Sugar bowls. I know a little bit, right? Maybe more than the average Texas kid."

Partial credit. Penn State's 1978 team played Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

The goalline stand?

"I know that Barry Krauss was involved and I've seen the Sports Illustrated cover. With the exception of that, I don't know much."

He should have stopped.

"I know Steadman Shealy was the quarterback," he said. "What else should I know, guys?"

Shealy was actually the back-up to Jeff Rutledge in that game.

"Was Major Ogilvie was on the team then?"

Yes!

"I know Major Ogilvie's son." Morgan Ogilvie is a walk-on quarterback for Bama.

"I'm not sure, guys," McElroy concluded. "That's about all I know."

The relative ancient history of Alabama-Penn State football doesn't matter this week. The importance is in the moment. The Crimson Tide will be hosting the Nittany Lions of Joe Paterno in Bryant-Denny Stadium at 6 p.m. CDT Saturday. The game will be televised by ESPN.

McElroy began his study of Penn State Monday, watching about an hour and a half of video. "I spent some time looking at personnel," he said. "That's really what I do on Mondays--evaluate personnel, see where we might be able to have an advantage; or somewhere they might have an advantage against us, maybe a weakness we might have relative to their defense."

McElroy was impressed with what he saw. "They do a really good job," the Tide quarterback said. "They're obviously really well coached. They do a good job tackling. They're always known for very athletic and highly touted linebackers. They definitely have some of those. They do a really good job in their coverages and stuff. It's not the most difficult defense I've ever seen, but they're so sound. They really just do such a good job of being in the right place at the right time.

"It's kind of fun to watch. When you play a team that is very sound, very fundamental, it makes you earn the yards. It's a little bit more enjoyable. When you play a team that maybe isn't as sound, it's more lucky. Say you pick the right gap that they refuse to cover or something like that. It makes things a little bit more fun and enjoyable for us as an offense to play against a well-coached team."

McElroy isn't predicting how Alabama will play against Penn State. He thought the passing game in the opener was "pretty strong...something we can build on.

"You have to improve each and every week," he said. "It was a good starting point and definitely something we can build off of."

Alabama Coach Nick Saban was asked about the difference between his quarterback from a year ago to today.

Saban said, "I think he has been different all throughout camp. He's had a really good camp and is more confident. I think his arm has gotten a little stronger. He is confident in making throws that I don't think he was confident in making a year ago. I think that is all going to benefit us in being able to utilize the skill players that we have."

While McElroy is a seasoned veteran, Penn State will be starting a true freshman quarterback in Robert Bolden, who was the first freshman to start at quarterback in the first game ever for Paterno.

McElroy finds that hard to fathom. "When Coach Paterno first started, they didn't even allow freshmen to play, right?" he said, correctly. "That's pretty remarkable. It's really a testament to Bolden. He's obviously quite a talent.

"I'm sure he's been looking forward to the opportunity to play against us, and I know our defense is looking forward to the opportunity to play against him."

McElroy was asked what life would have been like for him as a freshman starter at Alabama.

"I would have gotten killed," he said. "I was skinny. The game was moving 100 miles an hour for me. I don't think I was as highly touted as he was coming out of high school. That's okay. We make do with what we've got. For me, it's not a sprint; it's a marathon. For some people, not so much. It worked out for me, I guess, in the long run, right?"

He got that right.

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