McCarron, Tide turn in sharp performance in rout of Panthers
Saturday’s mismatch at Bryant-Denny Stadium was more a mental test than a physical one for top-ranked Alabama.
Would the Tide perform at a high level against an inferior opponent? Or would they not?
There was reason to believe Bama might not be super crisp. One of its top defensive players, free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, was suspended indefinitely on Wednesday and questions swirled regarding how long Clinton-Dix might be out and what the dropoff might be on the defense.
As it turned out, Alabama didn’t just beat down Georgia State as everyone expected it would — to the tune of 45-3 — it did so in sharp, crisp fashion. So much for Alabama being a little distracted and sloppy.
Quarterback AJ McCarron, who didn’t play a full half, seemed to set the tone for the rest of the team, completing the first 12 passes he threw. He finished 15-of-16 for 166 yards and a tied a career-high with four touchdown passes. He was also interception-free.
“It’s not about who we play, it’s about how we play,” McCarron said.
That’s certainly the mindset McCarran & Co. exhibited with their performance Saturday. Other offensive standouts included T.J. Yeldon (6 carries, 51 yards, 1 TD), Kenyan Drake (5 carries, 40 yards), DeAndrew White (4 catches, 45 yards, 1 TD) and Kevin Norwood (3 catches, 42 yards).
The lopsided score — which got that way in a hurry as Alabama scored touchdowns on its first five possessions — allowed for backups to get more game action than usual too, and guys like Blake Sims (14-of-18 for 134 yards, 1 TD), Derrick Henry (5 carries, 50 yards) and Chris Black (6 catches, 54 yards, 1 TD) certainly made the most of their opportunities and may see more playing time this season because of that.
McCarron, who’s now a best-in-SEC-history 30-2 as a starter, said the key to Alabama’s effectiveness on offense Saturday – as evidenced by its 477 total yards of offense — was due to good communication and not making mistakes to hurt themselves.
“Their defense threw a lot of weird things at us,” he said. “They line up everywhere and kind of move. We did a great job of communicating, and everybody executed.”
Defensively, Alabama held Georgia State to 175 yards of offense and nearly pitched its second-straight shutout. Wil Lutz booted a 53-yard field goal early in the third quarter to make sure Georgia State avoided the goose egg. Linebacker C.J. Mosley led the Bama D with six tackles and had two tackles for loss.
The Tide made sure the outcome was decided by halftime, taking a 38-0 lead into the locker room.
“We got to play a lot of players in the second half,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said afterwards. “We did some good things, and there are some things we’re going to learn from. So it was a good experience for us. We haven’t had a game where we were able to play some of those guys.”
Alabama (5-0 overall, 2-0 in SEC) plays at Kentucky next Saturday.
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