Saban: Passing game needs improvement

AJ McCarron made explosive plays against Western Kentucky, but Alabama's passing attack has a ways to grow. Good thing the Tide has playmaker out wide in Kevin Norwood and Christion Jones, who want to lead the passing game to its potential.

Alabama's passing game needs improvement. That's what head coach Nick Saban said after the Crimson Tide beat Michigan in Week 1, and that's what he said after they crushed Western Kentucky 35-0 Saturday.

Quarterback A.J. McCarron completed 14 of 19 passes for 219 yards and threw four touchdown passes for the second time in his career, making him only the fifth quarterback in school history to do so (Gary Hollingsworth set the school record with five in 1989). The Hilltoppers sacked him six times, but aside from that, McCarron had a pretty decent outing by making big plays and spreading the love, completing passes to seven different receivers.

"We were fortunate to hit a couple of big plays today and he threw it to the right guy, and read the coverage correctly and the receivers did a good job of getting in the right place and getting open," Saban said after the game. "We need to do a better job in the passing game. AJ is a guy that is very capable of making a lot of good plays, a lot of good throws. We had a couple of drops today, not perfect passes, but passes that should be caught. We just need to get in sync in terms of what we are doing in the passing game."

Kevin Norwood and Christion Jones were important playmakers out wide, combining for 139 yards on six catches and scoring two touchdowns apiece. But they, too, know there's work to be done.

"We haven't really done anything," Norwood said. "We're still working hard, but that's one thing we've been working towards—letting everyone know that the receiving corps is here and we're going to be physical and make plays."

Alabama came out with the passing attack. On the second play of the game, McCarron found Norwood on a slant for 47 yards. Two plays later, he connected with Jones for a 14-yard touchdown pass. The entire drive took 1:53.

Later in the first quarter, linebacker Adrian Hubbard forced a WKU fumble and nose guard Brandon Ivory recovered. McCarron took over on the Hilltoppers' 33-yard line and only needed one play to find Norwood on play-action for the score.

McCarron continued to make these big, explosive plays throughout the game. In fact, he had a 240 passing efficiency rating, which was the highest of his career.

Norwood said both he and Jones have been working on developing chemistry with their quarterback, and it's showing.

"AJ has more confidence in us," he said. "He knows we're going to get open for him and make plays for him."

Added Jones: "AJ really allows us to run our routes with speed and he's able to put it in the air and by the time we look up, it's already there."

Over the summer, Norwood said he and Jones got together and talked about stepping up their game.

"We had a piece of paper with receivers that were ahead of us and we looked at that and we realized that that ain't where we want to be, so we worked hard and still got a long way to go, but at the same time, we're working hard," Norwood said.

"I've been hungry for these touchdowns for over three years no, so I had to make the plays."

And there's more where that came from as Alabama's passing game has yet to reach its potential.

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