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A PASSING GRADE
ANDY STAPLES
January 19, 2012
THE TIDE ROLLED THE DICE AND PUT ITS TRUST IN THE HANDS OF ITS YOUNG QUARTERBACK
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January 19, 2012

A Passing Grade

THE TIDE ROLLED THE DICE AND PUT ITS TRUST IN THE HANDS OF ITS YOUNG QUARTERBACK

From SI.COM, September 10, 2011

THE OFFENSIVE COACHES AT ALABAMA AND PENN STATE began the week needing to resolve the same critical issue. Each team had two quarterbacks, neither of whom had differentiated himself enough during preseason camp or the season opener to win the starting job outright. There are two potential solutions in that situation. The Tide's staff chose one. The Nittany Lions' staff chose the other.

Third-ranked Alabama elected to play AJ McCarron over Phillip Sims. The only way McCarron was getting pulled was if he came out chucking multiple interceptions. Number 23 Penn State elected to rotate Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin.

And now, the numbers.

The Tide's McCarron: 19 of 31, 163 yards, one touchdown, zero interceptions. (Note the lack of periods in AJ. "My mom doesn't like to have dots in my name—at all," Raymond Anthony McCarron Jr. said on Saturday.)

The Nittany Lions' Bolden: 11 of 29, 144 yards—50 in garbage time—zero touchdowns, one interception.

The Nittany Lions' McGloin: 1 of 10, zero yards, zero touchdowns, zero interceptions.

Don't blame the PSU offensive line. If a quarterback doesn't spend the day on his back against 'Bama's ferocious defense, it means he got plenty of help. Neither Bolden nor McGloin was sacked, and both consistently had time to throw. But Alabama was there in coverage, breaking up numerous passes and getting a leaping interception from safety Mark Barron in the third quarter.

Of course it's tough to judge quarterbacks who have to play wondering if their next throw will win them the job or earn them the hook. McCarron didn't have to worry about that, and it showed.

"He was a little more comfortable," Tide center William Vlachos said. "They told him going in that he was the quarterback today. He didn't have to look over his shoulder."

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