STATE COLLEGE, PA - SEPTEMBER 10: Quarterback AJ McCarron #10 of the Alabama Crimson Tide throws a pass against the Penn State Nittany Lions during the second half at Beaver Stadium on September 10, 2011 in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
"I think the biggest sign of a physical offensive line is when you have one of those signature drives at the end of a game where they know you're running the ball, you know you're running the ball, and you take it down the field and score," Jones said. "That was a good way to cap it off."
Penn State scored on its first and last possessions of the game. They converted twice on third down and picked up their fourth down conversion on that opening march. Late in the game, trailing 27-3, Penn State converted a third-and-10, and third-and-1 and a third-and-20 that Nick Saban found inexcusable. So, between those two drives, the Nittany Lions were 3 for 12 on third down against an Alabama defense that seemed to engulf them tighter and tighter as things went on.
Now, two weeks into the season, Maze has emerged as the team's primary playmaker. "Marquis has been sort of our go-to guy," coach Nick Saban said Saturday after No. 2 Alabama dispatched Penn State 27-11. "We're missing some of our other players at receiver, and he's done a fantastic job two weeks in a row. And he's given us a weapon on special teams."
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. Alabama's McCarron didn't have to worry about that, and it showed. "He was a little more comfortable," Alabama center William Vlachos said. "But they told him going in that he was the quarterback today. He didn't have to look over his shoulder." McCarron didn't beat out Sims in the previous five weeks, but Alabama coach Nick Saban and offensive coordinator Jim McElwain felt that against a tough opponent on the road, the Tide needed to know the identity of their quarterback. Afterward, Saban said the competition remains open. It seems logical that Sims will get a shot next week against sacrificial lamb North Texas. But by the time Arkansas visits Bryant-Denny Stadium on Sept. 24, it's a safe bet the Tide will have one quarterback again. Given Saban's reaction Saturday, there is a good chance that quarterback will be McCarron. "I say, 'Good job,'" Saban said. "There was no but."
"I think it speaks volumes about our character and discipline and moral toughness to stay within yourself to do the things we do to stay stable and make adjustments and get things right," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. On the other side, No. 3 Alabama scrapped the co-starting quarterback system at least for a day. AJ McCarron took all the meaningful snaps in what Saban said was a vital step in his maturity.
Looks like Alabama found its answer at quarterback in AJ McCarron, who was solid in a hostile environment, going 19 for 31 with a touchdown and no interceptions at Penn State. McCarron played just how Nick Saban needs him to: he didn't make many mistakes, played smart, hit some big throws and kept things moving for Trent Richardson and the run game. On the other side, the 'Bama defense caused fits for another rival offense as Nittany Lions QBs combined to go 12 for 39 for just 144 yards. Thus far opponents have only completed 37 percent of their passes against the Tide. Obviously, it's still early and the Tide really haven't seen any proven quarterbacks, but keep in mind last season's top defense in that category, TCU, held QBs to 49 percent.
Unfortunately for Penn State, those days will soon be days gone by, as Paterno surely does not have a long tenure still left ahead of him. And in some ways, things might get better once the inevitable happens. The Nittany Lions’ playcalling looked too rooted in the 1970s or 1980s, the fullback employed far too often against a defense much too quick to be damaged by it, and an atmosphere too defined by the echoes of the past to find its own voice in the present.
[Tyler] Wilson, the Hogs' starting quarterback, was held out of the second half as a precaution after showing signs of a concussion during the halftime. "At halftime, we noticed when we were going through the script of how we were going to start out, that he didn't have the exact focus that we'd like," Petrino said.