He never really had a need or a chance to prove his metal in fourth quarters this season, because Alabama were never in a close on until their visit in week 10 to LSU. A.J. McCarron struggled for most of the night, but with 1:34 left on the clock, the Tide’s quarterback came through, eventually finding T.J. Yeldon, who scored a 28 yard touchdown to cap off a game winning drive.
As much as it was heartbreaking for LSU, who gave the national champions everything they had and probably missed out on a win because of failing to execute on some of their trick plays, like the fake field goal, the onside kick and the missed field goal with 1:40 left to go, it was always going to be Alabama’s night. LSU have one of the best defenses in the nation, but I think few were doubting that McCarron and his crew of rushers were going to pull it off on the final drive. There was just that feeling all night in the air.
To be truthful, that last touchdown was mostly Yeldon. McCarron did go 4-5 on the last drive, but his screen pass still left a lot of work for the freshman, who finished with 76 yards on the ground and 28 on his only catch of the night, turning out to be the crucial one. McCarron also ran for the Tide’s second touchdown of the night, the one that put them up 14-3 in the second quarter, when it felt like their running game was too much for the Tigers’ defensive line to handle.
LSU haven’t faced anything like this all season, including their loss to Florida. Eddie Lacy and Yeldon, along with McCarron, ran for 166 yards, averaging 6.6 per carry, he highest average allowed by the Tigers since Auburn averaged 8.5 on Oct. 23, 2010. LSU haven’t given up a touchdown on a screen pass all season, but despite their relative success against ‘Bama’s offense, they simply couldn’t keep up with the routes in crunch time.
This was special territory for Alabama as well. The last time AJ McCarron threw a pass with the Tide behind was in the first quarter against Tennessee on Oct. 22, 2011. He went 10-16 while they were behind. The last time Alabama even trailed during a game was n the 4th quarter was November 26, 2010 vs Auburn (Lost 28-27).
What was a bit surprising was Zach Mettenberger’s success in moving the chains, finishing with 298 yards and one touchdown pass; a big one to Jarvis Landry that gave LSU their 17-14 win early in the fourth quarter. Jeremy Hill, who ran for 107 yards on the night, scored the touchdown that brought the Tigers back in the game. It was their first touchdown against Alabama in 11 quarters.
Is McCarron a deserving Heisman candidate? There are certainly quarterbacks with better numbers, in the air and on the ground. But he’s doing what he needs to, probably even more. On a team that’s mostly about a mammoth like offensive line, power rushing and a superb defense, having a quarterback actually standout the way he has means something about the quality of this kid, looking to be on his way for a second consecutive national championship game.