ORLANDO, Fla. -- It was late in the second quarter when Nick Saban channeled his inner Les Miles.
Looking for the perfect play to blow the Capital One Bowl wide open, the Alabama coach borrowed a page from his successor at LSU to finish off another former employer.
The end-around that Julio Jones ran 35 yards to take a four-touchdown lead came on the exact play that LSU used to sink the Tide’s national title hopes in November. Greg McElroy handed off to Trent Richardson, who flipped it back to Jones, who broke free just as the Tigers did on a crucial fourth down in their 24-21 win over the Tide in Baton Rouge.
This time, it helped seal the 49-7 pounding of Michigan State for Alabama.
“As coaches, sometimes you call it copycat, but we actually had a session the other day in practice where we ran every play even though Michigan State didn’t,” Saban said. “That was some kind of a different play we had not practiced that was effective against us, and the play that LSU ran against us was one of those plays because you figure the other team is going to look at what hurts you all year, and they may do some of those things.”
The highlight of the play -- and subject of sideline conversation -- was the role Greg McElroy played.
After handing off to Richardson, the quarterback broke for the left sideline, where Jones followed.
With one defender separating the receiver from the end zone, McElroy turned into an offensive lineman. His block on free safety Trenton Robinson was the final piece of the puzzle.
Still, it was Jones who got the credit.
“I thought Julio set the block up pretty well the way he dipped in and then went back out,” Saban said. “That was a pretty classy move, but the runners always set up the blocks for the blocker.”
McElroy laughed at that assessment.
“The one time I could probably get credit for making a physical play is because Julio set it up,” he said. “I’m surprised I didn’t trip on myself, running around the edge. I debated briefly whether I could cut him or go up top. I figured he would probably jump over me if I tried to cut him. I got lucky.”
Those who block by trade got a kick out of watching their quarterback get dirty.
Tight end Preston Dial said McElroy was perhaps the only one who wasn’t concerned about the quarterback playing for the first time since suffering a concussion against Auburn on Nov. 26.
“He put his health on the line for us to win,” he said. “I’m proud of him.”
Starting right guard Barrett Jones was able to rate the block numerically.
“Normally I would give him about a two after his Florida block,” he said referencing his last attempt at hindering a tackler. “Today, he was a 10.”