Alabama Football: This team has found its identity

The Alabama Crimson Tide could be the best team in America. It has the equivalent of an NFL defense. The television crew enjoyed citing ESPN’s Todd McShay’s belief that the Crimson Tide boasts eight of the top 150 pro defensive prospects.

The way the Alabama football team smothered Penn State was a statement—defense is the heart of this Alabama team. The defense is this team’s identity.

It would be tempting to lavish praise and shine the spotlight on Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron. He deserves praise. McCarron was solid in the Alabama win over Penn State.

McCarron finished the day at 19 of 31 for 163 yards and one touchdown. He executed well despite being on the road in a hostile and loud environment. He did not commit a turnover after tossing two interceptions last week against Kent State. The experience will help McCarron and the entire Alabama offense making the road trips in the savage SEC. McCarron was aided by a strong ground game with Trent Richardson gaining 111 yards on 26 carries with two touchdowns. Richardson added four catches for 19 yards.

Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron said he was pleased by taking care of the football this week. “Not just myself, the whole offense did a great job of not allowing turnovers and the defense got us turnovers,” Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron said. “So that’s the way we have to play. If we keep playing like that, it’s going to be a special team.”

McCarron’s play garnered praise from his teammates.

“A.J. (McCarron) is a leader himself,” Alabama wide receiver Marquis Maze said. “He is young but he takes command of the huddle. He does a great job.”

Some of that leadership was learned from watching former Alabama star Greg McElroy.
“I’ve been sitting behind Greg (McElroy) for two years; I learned a lot sitting behind him,” Alabama’s quarterback said. “That’s why I have the players around me though to help me out. As long as they have confidence in me, we’re fine.”

Alabama football coach Nick Saban praised A.J. McCarron, but pointed out there remains competition for the quarterback spot.

“Well we still have competition at the position,” Saban said. “We really feel that we have two very good players. We want both guys to continue to develop, but I thought A.J. (McCarron) did a nice job today.”

Saban made a few additional points about the quarterback.

“AJ’s got a good arm. He’s accurate. When he sets his feet right, he’s really good. Sometimes he gets a little out of sorts, as he did the week before,” Alabama football coach Nick Saban said. “I think he played a lot better today. Probably was a lot more confident. I think he did a good job with the plan on what we needed to do on offense today- try to create some balance and barriers of our own, and able to nickel and dime a little bit to move the sticks, and put some really good drives together. I still think we need to minimize the 3 and outs. We did a good job on 3rd down today. We have to continue to improve in those areas.”

However, this game was all about Alabama’s defense.

The Crimson Tide defense showed more poise this year than it did last year. It is clear there is more maturity on this squad.

“(Last year) we were young. When the game got rowdy, a lot of people’s focus went the other way,” Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick said. “A lot of people started getting down about themselves. But this year when someone makes a bad play it’s just like water under the bridge and go to the next play.”

Saban praised the way his team overcame the first Penn State onslaught.

“They fought early in the game and we had to sort of overcome some adversity early on in the game,” Saban said. “I think it speaks well of the kids and the discipline and certainly the toughness to stay within yourself to do the things you need to do to stay focused and make adjustments and get things right.”

This defense is special. It made a statement Saturday.