After three huge meetings between Alabama and LSU, at least in terms of consequence, the 2013 edition of the best game the SEC West usually has to offer wasn’t very close or dramatic, as A.J. McCarron and T.J. Yeldon had no problem brushing aside what might be the toughest challenge they have left before the SEC championship game.
And their 38-17 win over LSU was their toughest game since the week 2 49-42 win over Texas A&M. That’s how this season is turning out to be for Alabama. People keep criticizing them for not playing well on offense in complete games, but they’re so good at certain moments that it really doesn’t matter.
LSU were able to hang on for one half, but turnovers (two fumbles) ended any sort of momentum they had. Alabama outscored them by 18 points in the second half, keeping the Tigers at only 52 yards of offense in the second half, reminding some of the 2011 season national championship game between the two teams, and an embarrassing -9 yards of offense in the final quarter.
McCarron didn’t need big numbers or any heroic game-winning drives like last year in Baton Rouge. He finished with 14-of-20 from 179 yards and three touchdown passes, while Yeldon himself provided more running offense than the entire LSU running crew. He gained 133 yards on 25 carries, scoring two touchdowns. He ran for 100 yards inside the tackles after LSU haven’t allowed any team to go for more than 100 yards through the middle all season long.
The difference between McCarron and Zach Mettenberger as quarterbacks who get things done was exemplified not just in their general numbers, but how they handled pressure and where they got their points (Mettenberger threw one touchdown pass). McCarron connected with his wide receivers for scores facing a blitz on all three touchdowns, and has an SEC-best 13 touchdowns this season against the blitz.
Mettenberger dropped in efficiency as the game went on, not being able to complete the long ball as well as he did in the first half (3-for-3, 89 yards), making only one of those throws in the second half for 22 yards. It seems that every big game he has to shine in somehow brings out the mediocrity in him, or it’s simply about him being on the wrong LSU team in the wrong bunch of years, not good enough to handle the unbeatable Crimson Tide.
McCarron needed 129 yards in the first half to become the school’s all-time leader in passing yards, blowing by John Parker Wilson with 7924. The top 4 are all quarterbacks who have played in the last 15 years for the school, including Brodie Croyle and Andrew Zow. Unlike the others, McCarron might end up winning three national titles in all three years as a starter for the school, although it’s still slightly too soon to make any proclamations such as that.
I think we probably played our best half of football. We didn’t play great in the first half, but man I tell you what, a lot of character out there in the second half. All he does is win and does what his team needs for him to do. I think the guy is the best quarterback in the country.