Tide Gets Road Win At Penn State

The word "efficient" comes to mind. Alabama had an error-free offense, a stifling (for the most part) defense, and good play from the special teams to past the Crimson Tide's first real hurdle of the 2011 season. And the big surprise is that it seems Bama had settled on a quarterback earlier than expected.

Alabama sophomore A.J. McCarron played quarterback until the final seconds of the game as the Crimson Tide, ranked third in the nation, ran its record to 2-0 with a convincing 27-11 victory over 23rd ranked Penn State at Beaver Stadium in University Park, Pa., Saturday. The Nittany Lions fell to 1-1.

Alabama returns to Tuscaloosa next Saturday to host North Texas in Bama's third non-conference game of the year. Kickoff in Bryant-Denny Stadium will be at 6:30 p.m. CDT with regional television coverage by Fox Sports.

Alabama fell behind early and gave up a late touchdown to the Nittany Lions, but for the most part Penn State was held in check. Penn State drove to a field goal on its first possession of the game and scored a touchdown in the final two minutes of the game, but in between it was all Bama.

It was the second consecutive season the Tide had dominated the Lions in this two-game series of college football elite.

McCarron completed 19 of 31 passes for 163 yards, including the go-ahead touchdown, and did not suffer an interception.

Although Trent Richardson had his second consecutive game with less than glittering statistics, he did crack the 100-yard mark with 26 carries for 111 yards and two touchdowns. Eddie Lacy had 11 runs for 85 yards.

McCarron threw to eight difference receivers. Marquis Maze had four catches for 42 yards, Mike Williams three for 34 yards, Kevin Norwood three for 25 yards, Richardson four for 19, and Brad Smelley two for 18. Making one reception each were Kenny Bell (14 yards), Eddie Lacy (6), and Brandon Gibson (5).

Smelley also had official rushing yardage of 1 yard. It was actually less than that and made a critical first down by inches on a fourth down fake punt play. Trailing 3-0 at the time, Bama rode the momentum of that first down at the Tide 40-yard line to complete an 11-play, 69-yard drive and take the lead for good.

McCarron had back-to-back completions to Maze for 29 yards and Bell for 14 to move to the Penn State 12. Three plays later McCarron rifled a short pass to tight end Michael Williams for the touchdown. Jeremy Shelley's point after touchdown kick made it 7-3.

Penn State had opened the game with a 16-play, 54-yard drive that consumed half of the first quarter and ended with Evan Lewis kicking a 43-yard field goal.

Alabama tried to go back to the McCarron-to-Williams combination, but when that pass was overthrown, Bama ended up losing a touchdown opportunity and settling for a 22-yard Shelley field goal. Bama had driven to a first and goal as Richardson ran 22 yards to the Lions' 8-yard line. His first down run gained three and then two pass plays blew up, forcing the field goal and a 10-3 lead.

In addition to McCarron suffering no interceptions, Alabama also did not have a fumble in the game. Meanwhile, Mark Barron had an interception and Dre Kirkpatrick caused two fumbles by Penn State, one recovered by Barron and one recovered by Dequan Menzie.

The first fumble caused by Kirkpatrick and recovered by Menzie at midfield was a big play in the Bama win. The takeaway came with 4:41 remaining in the first half. McCarron completed three third-down passes for first downs as the Tide drove to the Penn State 3-yard line. Richardson ran it in with just 35 seconds remaining before halftime for a 17-3 advantage.

Alabama's first two possessions after intermission were disappointing, back-to-back three-and-outs. Additionally, some poor Bama punts had given Penn State good field position. The Tide defense forced a three-and-out near midfield. the Lions' punt was taken by Maze at the Tide 5 and returned 44 yards behind nice blocks by Vinnie Sunseri and Hardie Buck.

That flip in field position helped lead to another Tide score. McCarron connected with Williams on a 24-yard gain to a first-and-goal at the Penn State 7. After Richardson picked up six yards on first down, a touchdown seemed likely. But Richardson was held for no gain and then McCarron threw an incomplete pass. Shelley's 18-yard field goal -- a couple of yards shorter than an extra point kick -- made it 20-3.

Lacy did the heavy lifting on Bama's final touchdown drive, but it was Richardson who picked up the touchdown. The Tide's final scoring drive was set up by Kirkpatrick's second caused fumble, this one recovered by Barron at the Tide 34.

Lacy had four consecutive runs that ate up 52 yards. The last of the four went for 30 yards to the Penn State 13. Lacy was taken out to get a breather and Richardson took advantage of getting back into the game, going 13 yards up the middle for the touchdown that made it 27-3 Bama with just over six minutes remaining in the game.

If there was a major disappointment for Alabama Coach Nick Saban, it was that Bama's defense allowed the Lions a final touchdown with a 14-play, 71-yard drive that ended with just 1:53 left in the game. Bama seemed to have held Penn State when it was third-and-20 at the Alabama 27, but quarterback Rob Bolden connected with wide receiver Shawney Kersey for 26 yards. Running back Silas Redd scored the touchdown that made it 27-11.

Barron had seven tackles (five solo) and a fumble recovery and interception to lead the Tide defensively. Linebacker C.J. Mosley was also in on seven tackles (four primary), while Menzie and Quinton Dial were in on five each.

There was not a sack in the game, although quarterbacks on both sides had to scramble a few times.

Alabama's defense allowed Penn State 251 yards on 69 plays. Of those, the Lions had 30 plays for 125 yards combined on the first and final series. On the other 10 series, Penn State managed just 39 plays for 126 yards.

Alabama finished with 41 rushes for 196 yards. With McCarron's passing, the Tide finished with 72 plays for 359 yards. Bama had an eight-minute advantage in time of possession, 34:05 to 25:55.

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