McCarron Couldn't Wish For More
"Man, it was awesome," Alabama's A.J. McCarron said of the exuberant post-game atmosphere, as he spoke to the media for the first time since the Florida win Oct. 1. "Growing up in Alabama, it's the dream of every mom and dad for their son to play football, especially at The University of Alabama and especially quarterback, and win the Iron Bowl."
Before that celebration could occur, McCarron and his team had to stave off numerous Auburn comeback attempts, including one when the Tigers' Onterio McCalebb brought the second-half kickoff back 83 yards to cut Bama's lead to 24-14 with 14:49 left in the third quarterback. Bama responded with a 10-play, 69-yard march ending with a Jeremy Shelley 30-yard field goal.
"I feel like that's been our offense all year," McCarron said. "Whenever we've had our backs to the wall, whether it was Tennessee or other teams, we've come out, first drive of the second half, and we've responded when we had to, some sort of way, even it's getting a field goal. Putting up points; you need to get some points back somehow. I feel like we've done that all year."
A big key for McCarron and his offense en route to rolling up 397 yards was the success of his tight ends, particularly senior Brad Smelley, who hauled in six balls for 86 yards and a 35-yard touchdown catch-and-run.
"I feel like my confidence has been growing with the tight ends since (the) Penn State win," said McCarron. "I know Brad Smelley is going to make plays. That's nothing new. I knew if I'd get it to him, he was going to make something happen."
Said Smelley: "We knew the tight ends were going to be pretty involved in the game plan. They way they were covering us, I was getting open and A.J. was hitting me with some good throws. It all just worked out. Mike (tight end Mike Williams) had a few catches. The tight ends were just real productive in this game. "We found something that really worked for us. The coaches trust in me to make plays, and on third downs, I knew the ball was coming my way, most of the time."
McCarron cautioned Tide onlookers not to overlook their team's offensive line. "I feel like it's the best offensive line in the country," he said, "and they don't get enough credit, because people are always talking about our skill guys. Without that offensive line, we'd be nothing. It's the best offensive line I've ever had (as a quarterback). I love those guys. They take care of me."
Another key moment in the win came when sophomore cornerback Dee Milliner picked off an errant Clint Moseley aerial and returned it 35 yards for a 35-14 lead that iced the win.
"There was good pressure from the d-line, I was playing zone defense, and (Auburn quarterback Clint Moseley) threw it right where I was standing," said Milliner. "I knew I was going to make it (to the end zone) right after I caught it."
Fellow corner Dre Kirkpatrick had a good angle on the play. "I saw six," the flamboyant junior said. "A pick-six. That's all I saw. I was trying to wave (Milliner) over. I knew once he came (right) my way, he was gone."
A few plays before, Kirkpatrick had a friendly exchange of "smack-talk" with colorful Auburn assistant coach Trooper Taylor. "I kind of treat Trooper as family," said Kirkpatrick. "He recruited me when I was in high school. We were just joking around out there, trying to put a little fun in the game. He was trying to tell me how (Auburn) was going to come back on us." Taylor would be wrong in that assessment.
Meanwhile, like his teammates and coaches (and fans), McCarron will anxiously await the BCS pairings. "Hopefully, we'll get the nod and get a rematch (with LSU)," he said. "I want to play in the national championship. That's why you play this game, to get to the ‘Big Dance,' and hopefully, we will."
Milliner said, "We want a rematch against (LSU), because they're the only slip-up we had this year. They're a great team, and hopefully, if we get another chance to play against them, it will come out better for us."
The official BCS announcement will come Sunday, Dec. 4.
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