McElroy Settled Down Nicely
By the time Alabama got to second down, Greg McElroy was at quarterback. And he was also a passing quarterback, doing what any first time starter for Alabama surely would do. McElroy went looking for All-America wide receiver Julio Jones. McElroy completed his first pass to Jones for 14 yards and a first down.
But Virginia Tech knew about Jones, too, and the Hokies committed to double coverage of the talented sophomore. For the night, Jones would have four receptions for 46 yards.
That meant others were open, but McElroy was having trouble hitting them. Of his next 11 passes he completed only one, and that was far more notable for the catch than for the pass. Darius Hanks laid out and snagged a 35-yard pass that led to Leigh Tiffin's second field goal of the game and a 6-0 Bama lead.
After going 2-12 to start the game, McElroy had final passing statistics of 15-30 for 230 yards and one touchdown with one interception (when he was hit just as he released the ball). The touchdown was to tailback Mark Ingram for 18 yards and closed out the scoring in Bama's 34-14 victory.
In the second half McElroy was 9-12 for 136 yards. The three incompletions were a tipped ball, a throw-away, and a drop (by Jones of all people).
Alabama Coach Nick Saban said he "never, ever had any problem with his confidence. Sometimes it's not his fault. We had pressure at times. We didn't have people open at times. We had a plan to try to get Julio the ball, and they double-covered him, so that took Greg's first read away. We had to make some adjustments which opened it up for some other guys to make plays. Marquis Maze had a big play at the end. Darius Hanks had a big play. We had several other explosive plays and it also helped us to run the ball a little bit better.
"I never had a problem with Greg because Greg was doing what he was supposed to do. He was a little late throwing the one that got tipped and intercepted, but he should have had a little better protection on that. If the quarterback is going to play well, the people around him need to play well and as the game went on, I think the entire offense played better. I think that helped him play better. He never got frustrated in the game and sort of stayed on cue. He got success later on in the game because of it."
The pass to Maze was for 48 yards and led to Ingram's rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Saban had praise for the offensive line. He said, "I think they played better as the game went on. We had 230 yards rushing. Obviously our pass protection, our overall passing game – even though we made explosive plays -- probably needs to continue to improve. And I am sure as every one of these guys watches the film, they'll see they have room for improvement, as we all do. But I was pleased that we were able to accomplish what we did and we actually played better as the game went on, which I think is a good sign."
McElroy admitted to first game jitters. He said he was over-throwing receivers early in the game. "The arm has a little more juice in it when your'e in a game sitguation," he said. He also noted that he had not been hit the way Virginia Tech hit him.
McElroy gave credit to his team for giving him support. He also noted that his receivers were beating the Virginia Tech defenders. "It makes my life pretty easy," he said. "Just throw it over the outside shoulder and let them go make a play for you."
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