McCarron Takes Over the Game
If you read my previous article, you know I hate Tennessee. It seems they have a way of raining on our parade just when they should take a back seat.
Saturday looked like one of those nights.
Every team has a bad night, a night that the energy just isn't there just as the other team gets fired up.
Offensively AJ McCarron's second attempt was picked off. The mistake seemed to stick in his head the entire half, as he was tentative and slow to get the ball out.
The line wasn't opening the kind of holes we have been seeing as of late. While starting guard Anthony Steen was out with a concussion, the truth is the whole line was just not opening the holes.
Defensively, it seemed Tennessee was running right up the gut. Heresy!
Falling asleep on what seemed like an obvious fake-punt situation resulted in more Vols points.
As the Tide entered the locker room for halftime, I couldn't help but remember two years ago when Alabama's national title hopes almost ended and were finally decided by a low kick and the big hands of Mount Cody.
On that night, Greg McElroy struggled with midseason mediocrity. His 18-of-29 for 120 yards passing yielded no touchdowns.
Alabama was once again trying to survive on determined running by Mark Ingram and solid defense. When Ingram coughed up a fumble, the thin margin got a lot thinner.
I knew the team was going through something, and I knew this halftime would be critical. Championship teams do get in these situations, championship teams respond, "almost champions" don't always respond enough.
I pondered the 6-6 score and wondered how much more agony I was going to suffer this night.
I have a 14-year-old daughter. I've tried to raise her as a Bama fan, and it wasn't always easy. So much of her early life was spent during the "dark times."
Thankfully, she overcame that with a little help from Nick Saban and the joy of Tide victories since he arrived.
She had been working for hours prior to the game on carving her pumpkin. She refused to let anyone see her artwork until it was finished. She took a break from carving for the game and sat distraught at the horror in front of us.
She went outside at the half and finished her work, and in utter defiance of the horrible football we had witnessed for 30 minutes, she unveiled what will forever be known as "The Magic Pumpkin."
The photo says it all.
Unlike in 2009, thanks to the Magic Pumpkin, some leadership on defense and AJ McCarron and his band of receivers, Alabama responded this time. They responded like a nuclear blast on the helpless Tennessee Vols.
AJ McCarron, who like all Alabama quarterbacks carries the "game manager" label, hung that hat in the locker room and put on the "Four-Star Mega Recruit" hat. He hit his first four passes and ran it in for the go-ahead touchdown.
On the next series, he uncorked a 39-yard bomb to Kenny Bell on the first play.
For all intents and purposes, the Vols were finished. On the next series, McCarron continued to hit on passes, but at this point the Vols were grabbing at Alabama runners instead of tackling.
If there was any life left in Tennessee, Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy drained it on the ground.
Defensively, Alabama put a choke hold on Tennessee's offense that would not abate until the final horn.
This Alabama team, with a little help from the Magic Pumpkin, survived to fight another day.
With two unbeaten teams going down Saturday, the LSU game now appears to hold the key to the 2011 National Championship. This is the kind of game our boys signed with Alabama to play.