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November 12, 2011STARKVILLE, Miss. | Across the board, his teammates said he was unrattled and as poised as ever.
When University of Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron entered halftime Saturday in the Crimson Tide's 24-7 win over Mississippi State, his offense had scored only seven points and he had just thrown an interception that nearly cost seven points itself.
But the third-year sophomore didn't blink.
And by game's end, McCarron had completed 14 of 24 passes for 163 yards and played the second half without a turnover.
Cameron Lawrence intercepted McCarron in Alabama territory with a few minutes remaining in the second quarter with Alabama leading 7-0. Lawrence nearly returned the interception for a score, but McCarron saved a touchdown by making the tackle at the UA 4. That gave the Crimson Tide defense the opportunity to stifle the threat.
"He was very mad. There was nothing he could do about it but move on to the next play," wide receiver Kevin Norwood said.
UA coach Nick Saban indicated the decision to call a pass in that situation might not have been the right one.
"AJ did a good job. We probably put him in a bad situation right before the half when he threw the interception. We probably should have just run the ball. If we'd broken a run and gotten a little better field position, maybe we should've gone two-minute," Saban said. "But that was not a good plan. You can't turnover the ball over, though. But AJ did a good job."
McCarron didn't get a second chance for quick points at the end of the half as UA ran out the final minute with running plays to Trent Richardson. But at his first opportunity in the second half, McCarron wasted no time re-establishing himself. On the first play of the second half, he showed patience in the pocket before firing a strike to Norwood, a Mississippi native, for a gain of 38, his longest completion of the night. Subsequent completions to DeAndrew White for 8 yards and Richardson for 19 helped set up a short field goal by Jeremy Shelley, extending the Crimson Tide's lead to 10-0.
"It really never even worried me," center William Vlachos said of McCarron's interception. "I've been with him on the road, I've been with him when he's been struggling, and he always is composed and poised. He stays level-headed and does what he has to do to help us win."
McCarron completed 7 of 9 passes in the second half and did not take a sack in the game.
"I think he was great. He was poised. He kept us poised during the game and was being a great leader," offensive lineman Alfred McCullough said. "We responded to him, and he responded to us. Coach said it all for us (at halftime). He challenged everybody, and everybody accepted that challenge."
Saban said McCarron also showed some good decision-making on Alabama's final drive, which resulted in a touchdown.
"He managed the game well. Even on the last touchdown, he checked the play the other way because of the number count, and Eddie went out and scored a touchdown," Saban added. "AJ is doing a good job of managing the game. He showed good leadership out there, I think. Other than the one play, which I'm sure he'd like to have back, I thought he made some good throws."