A.J. McCarron walked into Tuesday night's interview session with reporters wearing a crimson beanie with a white letter A on it. Despite multiple pleas from one sports information director, McCarron would not remove the hat for cameras.
"My hair is too long," he joked. The beanie was staying put.
The jovial attitude was unexpected. Alabama was upset over the weekend by SEC newbie Texas A&M, 29-24, in Bryant-Denny Stadium, and despite having a career night throwing for 309 yards, McCarron was intercepted twice, one of which came in tight coverage at the goal line in the final minutes of the game. McCarron had previously attempted 291 straight passes without an interception.
Before the Crimson Tide hit their toughest two-game stretch of the season, McCarron was leading the nation in passing efficiency and was a hot name in the Heisman Trophy race.
But the Alabama quarterback has been average at best these last two weeks against LSU and Texas A&M's defenses. So far in the month of November, he is ranked 70th in the country in passing efficiency with a 126.91 rating (seventh overall through all games with a 168.18 rating) and No. 78 in completion percentage, hitting his receivers only 57.4 percent of the time. His combined stat line from the last two games reads 35-for-61 for 474 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Monday, head coach Nick Saban was asked if he thought his quarterback has hit a plateau.
"I just think that as a quarterback, you're always going to get a little more credit than you deserve when things go well and maybe a little more of the blame when things don't go well," he said. "But I do think that the kind of competitor AJ is, my expectation would be that he takes the bull by the horns, learns the lessons he's learned in the last two games and tries to work on improving.
"I think he needs to break through and continue to improve and not be satisfied where he is and get the players around him to help him do that."
And that is what McCarron is doing. After the loss Saturday, he was one of three players to stand up in the locker room and speak to his teammates.
"I said all we can do is move on," he said. "There's no reason to worry about what happened in that game. That game was that game. We got other people on our schedule, other opponents, so we're gonna have to prepare week in and week out and take care of our business."
The other players who stepped up as leaders in that locker room were Nico Johnson and Chance Warmack. That's three players who usually aren't the most vocal, going outside of their comfort zone and doing what's necessary to push Alabama forward.
After resting Monday, McCarron said the attitude at Tuesday's practice was positive.
"That's one good thing about this team," he said. "You can't worry about things that happened in the past. You can't control that. Gotta move on. We gotta win out, take care of business and, you know, just control what we can control."
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