Do The Hustle? No! The Slide!
Alabama usually has success when Ingram has a lot of rushes for a lot of yards. (Of course, Alabama has had a lot of success ever since Ingram has been at Alabama, a record of 31-2, including a national championship in 2009.) His running from the tailback and wildcat positions led to him winning the Heisman Trophy last season.
No one connected with the Crimson Tide wants to see Greg McElroy running the football. Bama's quarterback is excellent as a game-manager and as a passer and, unfortunately, he is pretty good when he scrambles. What he doesn't do a good job of is avoiding the contact at the end of the run.
"I definitely need to start sliding," the senior said following the Florida game.
McElroy said that he is not usually sore on Sundays, and attributes that to still being excited about the game. But when the Monday work week begins, "Those pains and nicks and bruises start to hurt a little more."
Taking the hit is not a badge of honor for a quarterback. He is such an important player to team success that it is de rigueur in big time football that when the quarterback has to run that job one is to get on the ground or out of bounds before a defender can take a shot.
"It's not that I don't understand the importance of sliding and staying healthy," McElroy said. "When I'm out there, I have a hard time going down. You can see myself slow down before I take a hit, almost as if I'm thinking of sliding, but it doesn't really process, I guess. It's something that I probably need to start doing. It's a long season, and we're five games in. I've gotten lucky not to take too many huge hits. I might not be so lucky next time.
"I think that's just my competitive nature. I think to myself, ‘I can handle that.' Sliding just feels like to me a sign of weakness. I guess that's just my ego or whatever. I probably need to start doing it for my own sake and my team's sake. [Taking the hit] is just not the smartest thing to do."
McElroy doesn't have much experience as a sliding quarterback. When he was in high school, he said, he was bigger than the linebackers trying to tackle him. And in practice at Alabama, "everything is a tag-off. Even before you have a chance to get out of the pocket, the play is blown dead."
His baseball background might be a help. "My best asset wasn't necessarily my base-running ability," he said, "but I do know how to slide with correct form, a hook-slide and all those things."
This week McElroy will be leading the number one ranked Crimson Tide against 19th ranked South Carolina in Columbia. Kickoff time Saturday is 3:30 p.m. EDT (2:30 central time) with national television coverage by CBS. Alabama is 5-0 overall and 2-0 in Southeastern Conference games. The Gamecocks are 3-1 overall, 1-1 in the SEC.
Last year Bama had a tough time against South Carolina, winning 20-6 as McElroy completed only 10-20 passes for only 92 yards and suffered two interceptions.
McElroy said he "learned a lot about myself" in that game, including that he had played "with a lot of false confidence. Up until the South Carolina game, I wasn't sure what I was capable of. I had had success, but a lot of that success was -- I wouldn't say lucky -- but it was fortunate. A lot of good things happened to me throughout the first five or six games. The South Carolina game really opened my eyes that if I don't go out there and prepare and handle myself the right way, that I'm not going to be able to have success at this level. After this game, I kind of turned the corner. I know my statistics weren't great against Tennessee last year, but I played pretty well in that game from a check standpoint, from a decision-making standpoint. That just carried over to the rest of the games. Last year against South Carolina, although wasn't a good game for me, it was a turning point in my mindset, the way I handled myself and the way I prepared for games."
McElroy learned something else in last year's South Carolina game, that Mark Ingram was "going to make my job a lot easier."
McElroy remembered thinking that Ingram's 246-yard rushing performance "was unlike anything I had ever seen. Against a ranked opponent who was really kind of shutting down the passing game and the fact we were pretty much one-dimensional. It was encouraging."
McElroy likes to think that the passing game can open it up for Ingram and Trent Richardson to run, too.
But if the defense is determined to stop the run, McElroy expects the passing opportunities to be there. "We've been very efficient in the passing game," he said. "We've completed a high percentage of passes, which has been such a point of emphasis for us. Last week, Florida did a great job of taking away our deep balls. They kept the ball in front of them and tackled well. They made it difficult for us, but we kind of look for South Carolina to have a similar game plan. That's fine. We had success in the passing game the first half when we needed it. I think that South Carolina will kind of look to do the same thing.
"The great thing about our offense is when the running game's clicking, we kind of get away from the passing game. When the passing game's clicking, we stay away from the running game until we get a big enough lead to where we just put it on those guys' back. It's a great offense to play, it's sure a joy to lead them, and it's great to be able to pick you poison like that."
Another point of emphasis for Alabama's offense this year was to score in the red zone.
"I think the red zone has been good," McElroy said. "We've done a good job taking what the defense has given us. Coach has done a good job of implementing some new ideas, some things that make it a little bit easier on the passing game and running game alike."
This year, McElroy has completed 72 of 103 passes for 983 yards and seven touchdowns with three interceptions.
And he's got 23 rushes for 40 net yards (85 gained, 45 lost). With no slides.
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