McCarron's takeover key to Tide's title win

McCarron's takeover key to Tide's title win

Published Jan. 10, 2012 2:10 a.m. ET

NEW ORLEANS — I am just going to say that thing you are not supposed to say. This game never should have been the championship game for college football.

It was unfair to LSU to have to play an Alabama team it already had beaten. And Stanford and Boise State and Oklahoma State have every right to be furious for not getting a shot at LSU. Or Alabama in what would have been a semifinal game, if college had a playoff.

I am guessing Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy was somewhere Monday night screaming at his TV as he watched Alabama absolutely dominate previously unbeaten LSU en route to a 21-0 victory and the national championship the BCS has mandated goes along with it.

Only the BCS believes going from one undefeated team to four legit one-loss teams is a good way to determine its champion.
Life is not fair, it is what it is, and various other obvious statements that have come into vogue lately apply here. This is not the game anybody wanted. But it is the game we got, and a game 'Bama quarterback A.J. McCarron took by the "Lesticles."

He went all Tim Tebow on this championship game. He did what nobody expected and few thought him capable of, and was the key element in yet another Crimson Tide national championship.

"He was ready for this moment," Tide offensive lineman William Vlachos said. "And that is what life is all about, taking advantage of the opportunities and moments that you get to do something special."

McCarron was not the guy most were expecting to unleash special. He has been called pedestrian, screamed at by four-lettered TV that he could not start for a single team in the Big 12 and alternately loved and vilified by 'Bama Nation.

Alabama wide receiver Kevin Norwood said this week he had been teasing McCarron that, "You know you have to have a big game."

It was the answer that surprised him, what McCarron said as well as how confidently he said it.

"He's like, 'Man, I got it. I got it,' " he said. "There was just something different about him."

The difference extended onto the field, where McCarron finished 23 of 34 for 234 yards, zero interceptions and only two sacks. These are not Robert Griffin III numbers by any means, or Brandon Weeden or Andrew Luck.

In some ways, they are more impressive.

They came against one of the best defenses going in college football. What McCarron did so well was manage the game, extend plays by avoiding LSU's pass rush and, most important, he completed the big pass enough to make LSU have to account for it.

In short, he did all of the things people did not think he could.

"I don't pay attention to the naysayers and the haters," McCarron said. "Now, my mom has got a list that she puts people on. I don't really care what people say as long as my teammates and coaches believe in me."

The game plan said they did. It was genius really in how counterintuitive it was. They put the ball in the hands of their biggest non-kicking question mark. You have to tip your cap to Alabama coach Nick Saban. He may indeed be an evil genius, but the emphasis is on genius. I can only imagine him stewing since the first game between LSU and Alabama this year, thinking of how he was going to beat LSU, what he'd do differently.

What he decided was, he could not play it safe, sit back and hope his defense would be good enough to win it for them. They had to attack. And that meant letting McCarron loose on first down. What started out as dump-offs to his tight ends became well-placed longer passes until LSU's defense had no idea what was coming or how to stop it.

"We've been leaning on No. 3 all year. He's our workhorse. I mean, he's our main guy," McCarron said about Trent Richardson. "And we knew coming into the game somebody else had to step up, and coach just gave me an opportunity."

There will be odes written to Alabama's defense, and rightfully so. It held LSU scoreless. It also had plenty of help from Tigers quarterback Jordan Jefferson, who was awful.

It led to the most awkwardly delicious moment of the whole evening.

Former Saints quarterback Bobby Hebert, now a New Orleans talk-show host and father of current LSU player T-Bob Hebert, asked Tigers coach Les Miles a question that ostensibly was about why he did not bring in backup Jarrett Lee but went off the rails into "… come on, that's ridiculous. Five first downs?"

It was an epic rant by any standard and phenomenal by boring media postgame standards. It also underlies the national frustration of another "boring" and "ugly" defensive battle many believe SEC football to be.
"That was beauty to me," 'Bama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart said when I asked him for a defense of defense.

"Now there are guys out there who will say, 'We'll spread it out on you and score 25 points.' They might score 25 points, but we'll score 30 on them because we will pound them to death. And they can't see the pounding we'll do."

There was defensive beauty in their first meeting on Nov. 5 as well. And they lost.

A rematch may not have been the game we wanted. It was, however, the game we got. And why 'Bama is walking away champion is because McCarron took it over.