McClain Must Learn From Mistake

It wasn't like it was a clip or a face-mask or a horse-collar, one of those tactics that can cause injury. It certainly wasn't a sucker punch, like LeGarrette Blount of Oregon used after the game against Boise State. It wasn't even the sort of thing that has as its purpose a career-ending cripple, the cowardly, despicable chop block.

That doesn't make right what Alabama middle linebacker Rolando McClain did against Virginia Tech. From a "personal foul" perspective, it was one of the least foul imaginable, a shoulder punch of a Tech player. The two were obviously having one of those common football post-play episodes: words and a little extra shoving.

But Rolando McClain, the junior defensive captain for the Virginia Tech game, lost his composure, continuing to try to scrap even after drawing a penalty. And when an official tried to calm McClain, he brushed the official's arm away.

Alabama could not have complained if the official had ejected McClain.

Alabama could complain that McClain's "self-indulgent behavior," as Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban put it, was costly in a very close game. Lorenzo Washington had just made a terrific play to move the Hokies back from first and goal at the five to second and goal at the 19. The two penalties assessed against McClain—a personal foul and then unsportsmanlike conduct--put the ball back at the four.

From there the Hokies scored a touchdown and took a 17-16 lead to intermission. That advantage would hold up through the third quarter before Alabama scored 18 final period points to win by 34-24.

McClain otherwise had a good game. He made four primary tackles and assisted on another and had two sacks for 19 yards in losses.

Saban addressed the situation in his press briefing Monday.

"Ro's a very positive guy," Saban said. "I'm as proud of his development as any player we have. He certainly is a team leader. He's a great competitor.

"I think sometimes guys that are that competitive and that emotional about what they're trying to do need to know when they're getting overboard.

"He obviously lost his cool in the game and that's not good. I would classify that as self-indulgent behavior."

The coach said that that type behavior by anyone, including himself, could cost the team. "That certainly cost the team and could have cost the team even more."

Saban said that McClain had apologized to the team and to Saban at halftime. And, the coach said, "He learned from it. And at the end of the game he was the first guy to come up to me and say, ‘I really messed up.'

"I'm sure he feels worse about it that just about anybody, but it's something he can learn from. He certainly made a mistake. He needs to learn from it if he's going to be a leader on the team, and he has been a positive leader for us.

"That is not the kind of thing good leaders do."

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