STATE COLLEGE, Pa.| It was a dramatic setting.
It was a frenzied audience.
It was a familiar result.
For a second straight season, the University of Alabama used superior strength and precise execution to handle Penn State, overcoming a few minutes of first-quarter Nittany emotion with inexorable force and a near-flawless performance from quarterback AJ McCarron in a 27-11 win.
A week after stepping forward in a time-sharing situation, McCarron was solid in his first road start. He completed 19 of 31 passes for 163 yards and one touchdown, and didn't throw an interception or take a sack.
"I thought AJ managed the game well," said Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban. "This was a step in his development. AJ is still a work in progress and he is going to continue to improve as is Phillip (Sims.)
"But he was good today. He did a nice job. He showed leadership, confidence. He distributed the ball."
Said McCarron, "It was the whole offense that did a great job today, not me." (Penn State) was ready at the beginning. We had to get in rhythm, but that's the case wherever you play, home or away. We found that rhythm."
The No. 3 Crimson Tide was also solid, if not overwhelming, in its ground game. Trent Richardson went over the 100-yard mark, gaining 111 yards on 26 carries and scoring twice. Eddie Lacy added 85 yards on 11 carries.
Penn State opened the game with a solid drive, a 16-play marathon that netted a 43-yard field goal by Evan Lewis. The Nittany Lions then stifled Alabama on a three-and-out series, to full-throated roars from the Lion fans.
The cheering soon died away, as talent and physical strength overwhelmed emotion. UA took a 7-3 lead as the first quarter ended, prolonging the drive with a fake punt, with Brad Smelley gaining just enough for a first down, then capitalizing with McCarron firing a rifle bullet pass to Michael Williams for a 5-yard score.
Alabama added a short Jeremy Shelley field goal and a 3-yard Richardson touchdown run in the second quarter, and held Penn State to just 33 yards in the period, to take a 17-3 halftime lead.
By the time Richardson scored his second touchdown on a 13-yard run with just over six minutes remaining, the outcome was settled.
Penn State struggled with its own alternating quarterback situation, particularly when backup Matt McGloin (1-for-10, 0 yards) was in the game. Starter Rob Bolden fared somewhat better and did direct a late touchdown drive.
Still, the Crimson Tide defense limited Penn State to 251 yards and forced three turnovers, narrowly missing several other interception opportunities. Safety Mark Barron and linebacker C.J. Mosley shared leading tackler honors with seven each.
Alabama returns to Bryant-Denny Stadium next Saturday, hosting North Texas.