Several backups get key experience in win
By MICHAEL CASAGRANDE
Special to the Ledger-Enquirer
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Breathe easy Marion Military Institute.
Never miss a local story.
Your place in Alabama football history is secure.
Though one of the most lopsided matchups in recent memory, the beating Alabama handed Georgia State was not one for the record books. The Crimson Tide called off the assault well before equaling the 110-point cushion it finished with in 1922 over MMI.
Still, the domination was more than complete.
Alabama took care of the first-year FCS program 63-7 in a final tune-up for a highly-anticipated visit from Auburn. The 63 points tied for the sixth most scored by an Alabama team in program history.
Scoring on an interception, punt return and with the conventional offense, the Tide took a 42-7 lead to halftime where the starters could have remained.
After that, it was up to the backups.
“I thought our players showed maturity with the way they handled the short week and I was pleased with the support the fans gave us in coming out,” coach Nick Saban said. “It was exciting to be able to get so many players to play.”
Two days before his Rhodes Scholarship final interview, Tide quarterback Greg McElroy was an efficient 12-for-13 for 159 yards against a Georgia State secondary that featured nothing but true freshman cornerbacks.
The 92.3 completion percentage was a school record for quarterbacks throwing at least 10 passes and breaking the mark he set last season against North Texas when he completed 13-of-15 for an 86.7 percentage. His only incompletion Thursday came on a dropped screen pass that hit running back Eddie Lacy in the hands before reaching the turf.
McElroy exited to an applause with 6:50 left in the second quarter as did the offensive line in the final minute of the half.
Other starters ran up impressive stat lines including Mark Ingram (12 carries, 86 yards) and Julio Jones (eight catches, 86 yards, two touchdowns).
Defensively, the Tide (9-2, 5-2 SEC) recovered after allowing an 55-yard pass on the first Panther play of the game. By halftime, Georgia State gained just 14 additional yards and recorded just one more first down the rest of the half.
After that long reception, Alabama defenders caught as many Georgia State passes as Panther receivers. The Tide had four interceptions -- including one by C.J. Mosley, who returned it 41 yards for a touchdown -- as Georgia State finished with five total completions and 165 total offensive yards.
The Georgia State highlight of the evening came with five minutes left in the first half when Albert Wilson returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown -- the first special teams touchdown surrendered by the Tide since Sept. 12, 2009 when Florida International’s T.Y. Hilton took a touchdown back 96 yards.
Besides that, the script saw few deviations as the traditional power took care of the new program with ease.
With all the backups seeing action, 10 different Alabama players ended up catching passes and eight recorded rushes.
Lacy was the most productive replacement running for 81 yards on 13 carries and one scoring touchdown.
Backup quarterback AJ McCarron played almost all the way after McElroy exited, though he only threw nine passes and completed seven for 57 yards and a touchdown.
“Any quarterback wants to throw the ball,” McCarron said. “But as long as we win, I could care less about my stats. I just want us to go out as a whole offensive unit and produce points and yards.”
On defense, the leading tackler was reserve defensive back Wesley Neighbors, while the often-injured Chris Jordan had an interception, two tackles for loss and one sack.
Up next: Auburn.
The stakes: Potentially spoiling a national title hope for its closest rival.
just as the Tigers attempted to do a year ago.