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November 17, 2012TUSCALOOSA | University of Alabama starting quarterback AJ McCarron is best known for being a pocket passer, so his 24-yard run in the second quarter of Saturday's 49-0 victory over Western Carolina came as a surprise to many, establishing a new season high for the redshirt junior.
His backup, Blake Sims, however, is known as a runner.
"He's a different type of quarterback," McCarron said. "He played to his strengths and played well."
Sims relieved McCarron with 6:49 left in the second quarter and led the Crimson Tide offense to 14 points. Sims threw for 27 yards on 2-for-6 passing in addition to rushing for 70 yards, second only to Eddie Lacy's 99 yards.
"We wanted to get him at least one series with the (starters)," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "He has the ability to throw the ball. He just gets antsy in the pocket."
Saban was proud to see Sims have so much success against the Catamounts after being a valuable member of the scout team and helping the team prepare for other mobile quarterbacks Alabama has faced, such as Michigan's Denard Robinson.
"For some guys, all the hard work they do is appreciated, and we wanted to get as many guys on the field as possible," Saban said.
Sims made the most of his time on the field, especially with read option plays on which he surveys the defense and chooses whether to carry the ball or hand it off. Sims ran the play with Lacy and reserve running backs Brent Calloway and Ben Howell, often finding great results.
"It was different," Lacy said. "I didn't practice that with him in practice, but it wasn't that bad. I actually liked it."
Lacy likes both the end result of most read option plays - positive yards in bunches - and how the relatively new wrinkle forces defenses to adjust.
"It's different, it's a curve ball," Lacy said. "At first, it took me a while to get used to it because I'm used to, if it's a run play, just grabbing it and going, but you have to be kind of patient because you don't know if he's going to pull it or not.
"It's kind of a mystery thing. It's kind of cool."
The coaching staff's trust in Sims is shared throughout the locker room.
"When you run the zone read, you have to go slower than you normally would, just to make sure," Lacy said. "But he makes pretty good reads, reading the (defensive) end, so I trust him to make the right decision."
Center Barrett Jones likes the change of pace Sims brings to the offense.
"It was fun," Jones said. "It's nice having a quarterback back there that's a little mobile to mix things up a little bit.
"We always say whenever we call the zone read with AJ, we're going to hand the ball off. It's not the same way with Blake."
Sims was able to use his feet to benefit the Tide's passing game with rollouts. Sims rolled to the right after a play-action fake to complete a 13-yard pass to Marvin Shinn in the second quarter, giving Alabama a first down and putting the Tide on the Western Carolina 12.
Sims did it again in the fourth quarter, finding Cyrus Jones for 14 yards and another first down.
"I've seen a lot of improvement from him," Cyrus Jones said. "He's gotten a lot better."
Sims also turned designed passing plays into big runs, like he did with a 23-yard gain that put Alabama on the Catamounts' 5 after juking Western Carolina's Trevor Taylor and working off downfield blocks by Calloway and wide receiver Nathan McAlister. Sims scored on a 5-yard run on the next play.
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