Tide's McElroy Back On Track
Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy broke out of any doldrums in the fourth quarter against ninth-ranked LSU a couple of weeks ago with a 73-yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones, then had an excellent game in the Crimson Tide's 31-3 pounding of Mississippi State in Starkville last Saturday.
"Greg did a nice job in the game," said Alabama Coach Nick Saban this week. "His pass efficiency rating was really high in the game, in terms of his execution. We probably didn't throw the ball quite as much as what we'd planned on going into the game. When we did throw it, we executed and made a couple of explosive plays doing it, three or four times. We spread the ball around to some of our playmakers --Julio (Julio Jones), Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks and made plays.
"I think we need to continue to do that and have that kind of balance and I thought Greg did a really good job in the game doing that."
Alabama good balance in the game against State, 252 yards and two touchdowns rushing, 192 yards and two touchdowns passing. For the year Bama has been remarkably balanced, 2,169 yards rushing and 2,007 yards passing, a difference of 16.2 yards per game.
Saban said, "Some of things (against State) that didn't work, a couple of screens that we tried, we didn't block the right guys and really had nothing to do with Greg. We were very pleased with his performance and the way he managed the game."
McElroy completed 13 of 18 passes for 192 yards with two touchdowns and was not sacked. He also ran four times for 30 yards, including a 16-yard run on an option keep.
No one would dare suggest it around Saban, whose job is to get Bama ready to play each week, but this Saturday could be a game in which McElroy and most other Tide starters get a little break, and back-up performers have a chance to show their stuff.
Alabama, 10-0 and ranked second in the nation, hosts Tennessee-Chattanooga. The Mocs are 6-4 under first-year Coach Russ Huesman. Kickoff Saturday from Bryant-Denny Stadium is at 11:21 a.m. CST with limited regional television coverage on the SEC Network.
Last weekend in Starkville, Alabama had dominated the game, but Mississippi State had gotten on the scoreboard with a field goal and trailed by just 14 points when the Tide broke the game open. Javier Arenas returned the kickoff 46 yards to the Mississippi 48 and on first down McElroy connection with Jones on a touchdown pass. If the game wasn't over then, it was a few minutes later. Mark Barron got his second interception for Alabama at the Tide 30. On first down, Mark Ingram went 70 yards for the score and the final score in the 31-3 rout.
McElroy also had a 45-yard pass to Darius Hanks to get the scoring started against the Bulldogs.
McElroy was pleased to have no turnovers, no sacks, and no penalties by the offense.
"Isn't that great? That's awesome," he asked and answered.
"Looking back on it," McElroy said, "I think we did a pretty good job of executing. As far as the three-and-outs, we had a couple of those in the second half and the first series of the game was a three-and-out, I'm not sure exactly how many we finished with. That's obviously something we want to eliminate. But the lack of penalties is obviously huge. No turnovers, and we also had a lot of explosive plays, which are our three most important goals. We obviously executed well in those areas. I think third-down conversion percentage we probably need to improve on a little bit. I'm not exactly what it was." It was 4-11.
McElroy said, "One think I was a little disappointed with was our two-minute drive right before the half where we tried to steal some points. I ran for 10 (yards) and we had seven or eight seconds left, threw a quick out and we would have been in field goal range (for about a 55-yard effort) but we just ran out of time right there at the end. Maybe just a little bit better clock management by me in that situation, and we probably could have had three more points."
For the year, his first as Alabama's starting quarterback, McElroy has completed 153 of 254 passes for 1,913 yards and 13 touchdowns with only four interceptions.
McElroy addressed a number of questions:
On how Mark Ingram is handling being labeled a Heisman Trophy candidate:
"Mark's done great. Mark is such a great teammate. He isn't focused on that stuff all that much, I don't think. If he does, he doesn't bring it to our attention. A lot of good players just are satisfied with what they've got. But Mark, what makes him special, he'll rip a 70-yard run but that's not the play he's thinking about. He's thinking about a play where he maybe went a little too far inside on a (pass) block. A lot of running backs would say, 'Forget about it, it's a block. That's a quarterback's job to get rid of the ball.' But Mark? No, he takes it with a lot of passion. He's such a special player, and such a joy to have in the huddle. I wouldn't trade him for anybody."
On the seniors who will be finishing up (McElroy is a senior academically, but has another year of eligibility):
"They've meant so much to the program. As much as any senior class, this senior class was such a huge part of last year's success. Last year's senior class was nine or 10 players, so these guys really made up a lot of key positions for us. Their leadership, their resiliency. The fact that they were able to be such a big part of getting this program back to where it belongs, we can't say enough about those guys.
"Just the fact that so many of those guys have been so good to me, it's going to be strange having the last game in Tuscaloosa with them. It's going to be a surreal experience because you can't believe have fast it's gone. It feels like it was just yesterday that Coach (Mike) Shula was here and we were just getting ready to start it up. But time flies by. I can't believe this is their last game. We're going to try to take care of business just for those guys. They deserve it. They've given a lot back to this program. It'd be good to go out with a convincing and quality win on Saturday."
On his 16-yard gain on an option keeper on the last play of the first quarter on Bama's first touchdown drive:
"It's something that we haven't done really. We haven't done a lot of zone read stuff, but Mark had been just ripping people on that play. A lot of defenses were starting to crash so we kind of put it in last week to keep those guys honest. I got a chance to read that end and he crashed inside and I got around the edge. We were giving Julio a hard time because if he makes a block, I'm scoring.
"Another good thing about that was the quarter ended after that so I could regain my breath because I could barely breathe, I was so tired. Two positives in that play. I think that allowed things to open up a little bit more on that play for Mark throughout the rest of the game on Saturday and hopefully throughout the rest of the season because they have to respect it a little bit more. Obviously people are going to try to minimize his output as opposed to mine but I think it's a nice little wrinkle we put in and that's something we have to keep in our back pocket that we can use again at any given time."
On the fact that McElroy doesn't ordinarily run out of bounds or slide when he runs the ball:
"When I do run, it's usually third down or I'm close to the chains. If it's third down or in the red zone, I'm not sliding. I've said it before. My body will probably pay the price for it on Sunday, but I'd rather be sore on Sunday than come up short on a key play on Saturday. On third down, I try to put my head down. I feel like I've put in a lot of time and effort in the weight room, I might as well use my body for something."
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