McCarron, No. 1 Alabama roll over Chattanooga in Iron Bowl tuneup
It wasn't the biggest pass of AJ McCarron's career, but it might have been the most personal.
McCarron threw for two touchdowns and became No. 1 Alabama's winningest quarterback in Saturday's 49-0 victory over Chattanooga. His most memorable toss went for 3 measly yards.
On his final drive in his last game at Bryant-Denny Stadium, McCarron found his little brother, Corey, early in the third quarter. The crowd might not have gotten excited, but their mom, Dee Dee Bonner, made her feelings known.
"I literally could hear her screaming as soon as he caught it over everybody," AJ McCarron said. "I guess the rest of the crowd was, `All right, great, 5-yard gain.' And she was still yelling. The whole family was probably crying."
McCarron completed 13 of 16 passes for 171 yards for the Crimson Tide (11-0). He improved to 36-2 as a starter, breaking a tie with Jay Barker for the school mark.
McCarron and Alabama got an easy tuneup for the Iron Bowl against No. 6 Auburn to determine the Southeastern Conference Western Division champion. Both teams are still hoping for national title shots in a state that has claimed the last four BCS championships.
The Tide defense produced its third shutout of the year, blocking a field goal against the FCS Mocs (8-4).
"For me, it was perfect," linebacker C.J. Mosley said of his final home game. "We came out with a shutout. It can't get any better than that for a defensive player. We talked about this being a momentum game, going into next week and the rest of the season."
Kenyan Drake ran for 77 yards and a 13-yard touchdown with starting tailback T.J. Yeldon sitting out to rest a sprained ankle. Freshman Derrick Henry ran six times for 66 yards and scored on a 5-yard touchdown set up by his own 27-yard scamper.
Christion Jones scored on a 75-yard punt return in the second quarter for his third return TD of the season. It was atonement for Jones, who fumbled a return after Chattanooga's first series.
Alabama outgained the Mocs 435-175 despite turning to the backups for most of the second half.
McCarron and the other seniors were honored in a pregame ceremony. The two-time national champion quarterback threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Norwood and a 38-yarder to Amari Cooper. Norwood had four catches for 84 yards -- all in the first half -- also in his home finale, including a 50-yarder.
"It was kind of an emotional thing for me, too, at the end of the game, because a lot of those guys have meant a lot to the program," Tide coach Nick Saban said. "We really wanted to go out and play well for those guys."
Backup receiver Chris Black took an end around 31 yards for a touchdown and Henry scored on a 5-yarder.
Chattanooga started backup quarterback Terrell Robinson with Jacob Huesman nursing a knee injury. Robinson went 8 of 15 for 82 yards with an interception. He also ran 13 times for 37 yards.
The Mocs had already clinched a share of the Southern Conference title. Now, they're hoping for an at-large berth to their first FCS playoffs since 1984 with Samford getting the automatic berth with a 33-32 win over Elon.
Chattanooga coach Russ Huesman pointed to Georgia Southern's upset of Florida Saturday as evidence of the league's strength in his own team's postseason prospects.
"Our conference, the Southern Conference, stinks according to everybody out there," Huesman said. "But we've got the fourth-best team in the conference beating Florida. If everybody thinks the Southern Conference stinks, you're nuts."
The Mocs had a couple of scoring chances halted.
Trey DePriest picked off Robinson's fourth-down pass at the Alabama 17 after Jones' early fumble. A'Shawn Robinson blocked a field goal for the Tide, which has allowed five touchdowns in its last six games.
"We lost 49-0, but at the same time we knew what we were up against this week -- the No. 1 team in the nation," Terrell Robinson said. "They're blowing a lot of teams out this year. We just wanted to come in and compete today, and I think we did that."
Along with Yeldon, tight end Brian Vogler and cornerback Deion Belue sat out the game with injuries. Guard Arie Kouandjio sprained his left ankle during the game but Saban said he could have returned.
As for the McCarron-to-McCarron connection, the Tide quarterback had been pushing for the chance for a while. Saban asked offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier to make the call and told AJ McCarron exiting the locker room at halftime that it was coming.
"If I had dropped it, he would have yelled at me in front of a lot of people," said Corey McCarron, a transfer who walked on. "That was one of the greatest moments of my life. I would never trade it for anything."