TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron doesn’t take any issue with being called a “game manager.”
“To me, you can’t be a quarterback unless you’re a good game manager,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said Monday. “There’s a ball in your hand every time, and you’re making some kind of choice or decision on what to do with it — whether you hand it off, what play you hand it off on, where you throw it in the passing game — and you’ve got to process a lot of information quickly and make good decisions. So I don’t think it’s fair to (call) AJ that, because I’ve said he’s a really good game manager for us, like that means he doesn’t do anything.”
Standout moments for McCarron are many this season, in which he’s completed 68.9 percent of passing attempts and 18 touchdowns without an interception.
“He does everything, and I don’t think you can be a good quarterback unless you’re a really good game manager, so that’s the ultimate complement to me,” Saban said.
McCarron said he agreed with Saban’s assessment.
“A game manager can be anything. He can throw nine touchdowns in one game, but he still managed the game. He could hand the ball off 47 times and still manage the game,” McCarron said. “I think coach, in that aspect, is saying he’s taking what the defense is giving him and not making any real bonehead mistakes. That’s the biggest thing. People nowadays love to see the ball thrown around and everything, but that’s not our style of play.”
Against Mississippi State, McCarron found junior receiver Kenny Bell for a 57-yard touchdown pass, pushing Alabama to a 14-point lead by the end of the first quarter.
Bell noticed the throw. He didn’t forget how nice it was.
“It couldn’t have been thrown any better,” Bell said. “AJ threw it right on the money. First look, it looked like I was going to get overthrown, but he threw it on the money, and I went and caught it and scored a touchdown.”
McCarron has helped define Alabama’s offensive effort all year, particularly with the team’s success in the red zone.
“AJ’s a nice quarterback,” Bell said. “He’s been getting better every day, so ... we’ve been working as a receiving corps, making sure our timing is right with him, so whenever our number is called, we’ll be there for it, because he’s expecting us to be on the spot.”
And while McCarron has thrown more than any other Alabama quarterback to start a season, totaling 24 scoring throws in his last 11 games, the Crimson Tide players make little mention of the streak.
“I think more importantly than the interception streak — because he’ll be the first one to tell you that there were few balls he’s thrown that could have been picked off this year — but just kind of an overall effectiveness in taking care of the football, taking what the defensive gives him and not trying to force things,” offensive lineman Barrett Jones said. “I think that’s how you keep your interception numbers low.”
But McCarron’s success isn’t limited to the numbers.
“From time to time, you’re going to have one, but if the interception streak ends, we’re not going to call the game or quit or anything,” Jones said. “(The streak is) not that big of a deal to us, or to him. But certainly, taking care of the ball has always been a big focus of this offense, and he’s done a really good job this year.”
Getting deeper into the season, McCarron has had no trouble maintaining intensity, even after suffering a back contusion during Alabama’s 38-7 win against the Bulldogs when he was sacked by Cameron Lawrence in the third quarter.
“He’s actually been pretty good. I think he’s got good focus,” Saban said, referring to McCarron’s mentality in the days leading up to the LSU game.
“I don’t see him being out of sorts in any way. I haven’t detected anything. He’s usually pretty good about things.”
Added tailback Eddie Lacy: “That’s just AJ. He gives everything he’s got in practice, so when we get in the game, it’s just clockwork. You know, he’s the leader. He’s the captain.
“Nothing surprises (him) at all.”
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