McElroy Defends Tide Passing Game

The prosecution has called a number of witnesses in the case against Alabama's passing game. National broadcasters, newspaper columnists, radio talk shows, and Internet sites have provided more than ample testimony, most of it centering on quarterback Greg McElroy "going backwards."

For the defense, Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy:

McElroy spent only a moment Monday in discussing progress made during the off week. "I think we had areas we wanted to focus on, areas we thought we could improve," he said.

Then McElroy made his case, citing the no-touchdown 12-10 lucky-to-win game against Tennessee. "As far as execution of the passing game, we really did a good job," said the junior quarterback. "We took what the defense gave us,.they're a bend-don't-break team, and I was really pleased with my performance. Although we didn't throw for however many yards, it really doesn't matter because we moved the ball and we didn't turn it over in the passing game. It was a positive from the week before. Obviously there were negatives we wanted to focus on [last] week, and I feel strongly about the improvements that were made."

Then McElroy played the facts card.

"If you look at the last couple of weeks, against Tennessee, they had corners that played extremely soft and they had a guy, No.14 (All-America safety Eric Berry) who can run pretty well," McElroy said. "Really they didn't give us a lot of opportunities downfield. There were a couple of shots where we could take chances, but they play soft, they played a conservative style of defense, they don't want to get beat deep.

"You look at South Carolina, they play a quarters coverage base with soft corners, and they give up things underneath. You look at Ole Miss, they don't really test you – they played off of (Marquis) Maze and double-covered Julio (Jones) most of the time and didn't allow you to get downfield.

"The last team that's really allowed us to go downfield on a consistent basis was Kentucky, and we took some shots against them. Arkansas the week before that, they pressed us up and we took advantage of the deep ball.

"It's learning to take what the defense gives you and I think did a good job of that against Tennessee."

McElroy does recognize possibilities for improvement.

"We do need to take some shots though," he said. "We have a lot of speed on the outside. If you hit a couple of shots here and there, it can really open it up."

McElroy also acknowledges failures in the Red Zone (inside the opponents' 20-yard line). Bama has scored 86.5 per cent of the time, but half of the 32 opportunities have resulted in field goals rather than touchdowns.

" If you finish drives the scores do look much more in our favor," he said. "That's obviously what we want to do – that's our goal, that's what we work for. A lot of the distraction and the pressure of the red zone drives can get to people and it leads to a little poorer execution.

"Plays are there to be made in the red zone and we just haven't made them, and it's unfortunate. In the running game and the passing game, we're just a hair off, and we were hitting those at the beginning of the year. Once you have a little success in the red zone it starts to build, and from there you push a little harder, a little harder, and it leads to just a little bit of toughness as far as the adversity you're facing. It's just minor details here and there."

Asked if there is a risk-reward situation in throwing deep, McElroy said, "I think there is a risk-reward in everything you do in this game. That's why not everybody can play it. It's tough."

As for the risk-reward on deep balls, McElroy said, "If one guy is covered, another guy is usually open. Sometimes you want to play a little more conservatively, and when the defense is playing like they were, we have been playing pretty conservatively on offense trying not to give them the short field, so yeah, I think there is a risk-reward. We've done a good job of executing and taking what they're giving us. We have three interceptions all year; two we were hit on and one we threw an inaccurate pass, so you've got to feel strongly about how we've taken care of the ball. Obviously the goal is to not have any turnovers."

McElroy dismissed earlier talk this season about him being a Heisman Trophy candidate. "But," he said, "did I feel great about the way I played against Tennessee? Yeah, I did. I don't care how many yards I throw for, I couldn't care less about the recognition or the honors I've received, I want to put this team in the best opportunity to win a championship and win games, and we've done that up to this point.

"So as far the the Heisman and that stuff, it was nice to be considered for that, and obviously you can read things into that, and it can get to you, and I think it might have a little bit with me. But right now we got back to what we do best and that's taking care of the football and moving the football methodically down the field. That's what's going to win us football games, that's what has won us football games.

"People build you up to break you down, and I've experienced that a little bit this year. That's unfortunate. But I know what goes on in the film room, I know what the coaches are saying to me and I feel strongly about the performance I had against Tennessee and the work we had in the off week."

McElroy is not upset when a receiver drops a pass, as has happened this year. "Those guys make outstanding catches, and I get credit for a great pass," he said. "It's just part of the game. Everyone out there is doing his best. We're 18-22 years old and we're going to make mistakes. I'd love to go out there and be perfect every single snap, but that's not realistic."

He said there are drops, there are inaccurate passes, "and sometimes it's great defense. Those guys are on scholarship, too."

McElroy will see some fine scholarshipped defenders when Alabama hosts LSU at 2:30 p.m. CST Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. CBS will televise the game between the top ten teams, Bama 8-0 and ranked third in the nation and LSU 7-1 rated ninth. It's a key SEC game with Alabama 5-0, LSU 4-1.

The Bengal Tigers have an aggressive secondary. "That can be a good thing at times for us, and it also puts pressure on our wide receivers to make plays," McElroy said. "LSU has a very talented secondary. LSU's defense is talented as a whole. They're big, they're fast, their technique is sound and they're good tacklers. Obviously those are four things that lead to a pretty successful defense. They're very aggressive and they're very good, and they do a very good job of what their coach asks them to do.

"We're going to have to have a good week of preparation and study to really have a good feel of what they're trying to do defensively. And the way to do that is we're going to have to get in the film room extra hours and be ready to come out swinging on Saturday."

Most would say the jury is out, but a verdict could come this weekend.

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