McElroy Returning to Form
Alabama's junior quarterback had not thrown a touchdown pass for a month before he tossed two scoring strikes in Alabama's Western Division clinching 24-15 win over LSU at Bryant-Denny Stadium, a win that made McElroy 24-0 as a starting quarterback dating back to high school.
"I heard the criticism. I dealt with some animosity," McElroy said just after the big win. Hopefully, this will silence the critics."
McElroy did not specify where he heard the catcalls, but it could have been talk radio, the Internet, or even Bama fans. Regardless, he is could be right about the "silencing" after completing 19-for-34 passes for 276 yards and the two touchdowns: a 21-yard bullet to Darius Hanks and a screen pass to Julio Jones (who also had a breakout game) went for 73-yards.
"At first I thought (Jones) had stepped out of bounds," McElroy said. "Then I saw him running down the sidelines. That's the fastest I've ever seen anybody run. I was just wondering who I was going to celebrate with."
Jones caught his first touchdown pass since the Arkansas game back on Sept. 26. Jones, who had 102 yards on four grabs, caught a screen with left tackle James Carpenter and left guard Mike Johnson out in front ready to provide escorts. Their blocks sprung Jones, who took off down the sidelines toward paydirt and a back-breaking, Atlanta trip-aiding score.
"My teammates needed me to make a play, and I did," said Jones, a man of few words who is not a big fan of the cameras, digital recorders and note pads of the media. "It felt good, but I'm willing to do whatever it takes to help my team get the 'W,' whether its blocking catching passes or whatever."
With Terry Grant hurt, Jones became a blocker for Javier Arenas on kickoff returns, helping the senior to 78 yards on three tries with a long of 40. Jones was also an excellent "stalk" blocker on Bama's running plays, as evidenced by the 144 yards rushing by Mark Ingram and the 176 yards on the ground by Alabama, which outgained the Tigers 452 yards to 253 in total offense.
As Bama coach Nick Saban put it, "Julio's an outstanding player. We want to continue to feature him, but I'm pleased with the way the rest of the receivers played. That's what we need."
Saban was referencing the career high six catches by Marquis Maze for 88 yards (all in the first half), and the touchdown by Hanks. Tight end Michael Williams had two grabs for 25 yards, and H-back Brad Smelley chipped in with one for 10 yards. Ingram added to his total offense by coming out of the backfield for five catches and 30 yards.
Bama, which appeared to benefit from the bye week when it held the ball for 10:54 of the final 15 minutes, will now prepare for the Mississippi State Bulldogs and 6:00 p.m. kick time next week in Starkville.
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