STATE COLLEGE| What started out as rough waters became easy sailing for the Alabama Crimson Tide, as the team defeated the Penn State Nittany Lions 27-11, moving Alabama to 2-0 on the season.
Penn State drove 54 yards on its opening drive, controlling the clock for 7:34 minutes before kicking a field goal to go up 3-0 on the Tide. Alabama then went three-and-out in a drive that lasted no longer than a minute.
“This was a tough atmosphere especially in the beginning of the game,” head coach Nick Saban said. “Penn State came prepared. Early in the game we had to overcome some adversity. I think it speaks well to the character and the moral toughness of our team to stay focused.”
After another three-and-out Alabama finally broke through, scoring on a five-yard touchdown pass from quarterback AJ McCarron to tight end Michael Williams. The score came on a third-and-three, with McCarron threading a fireball through the Penn State defense. The play spoke volumes about the young quarterbacks confidence.
“You cant be scared playing quarterback,” McCarron said. “If you are scared you are going to turn the ball over. That’s just not how I play.”
It was McCarron who captained the Tide through a raucous sea of white, leading the Tide passing 19-31 with 163 yards in his first start on the road.
“They were rocking at the beginning,” McCarron said. “We had to get into a rhythm, but that is anywhere you go. If you are at home or away, it really doesn’t matter. As long as you get into a rhythm everything is going to be fine.”
While Saban said that he has still not named a starter at the quarterback position, he applauded McCarron’s performance on Saturday.
“I think he played a lot better today,” Saban said. “I thought he was a lot more confident, and I think he did a good job of planning what we had to do on offense today.”
Alabama’s defense turned out another stellar performance, holding Penn State to 251 yards. The Tide was able to hold the Lions early, allowing time for the Alabama’s offense to settle in and take control of the game.
“I always tell the defense, you have to get through the script,” Saban said. “Everybody has a script to start the game, they are going to get multiples and different tendencies than what they have done before. When Penn State was doing that and moving the ball, it was very important that we stepped up and kept our focus on the next play, which I think is a sign of maturity.”
The Tide was able to win the turnover battle against the Lions, as the Alabama came away with three turnovers.
“Special teams and turnovers played a big factor in the game,” Saban said. “We had a couple turnovers, we had a big change in field position on punt returns. I think those things were critical in the game. I just can’t tell you how proud I am of our team and the way they competed in this game.”
Alabama running back Trent Richardson rushed for 116 yards and two touchdowns in his first 100-yard game of the season. The Heisman hopeful said he felt confident with the ball Saturday.
“I feel like I got going,” Richardson said. “Even if it was only one or two yards, it doesn’t matter as long as we win. I knew I was going to pop off sometime during the game.
The Tides next test comes at home when they come home to face North Texas at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 17.
“I know there is a lot to come,” Richardson said. “We just got to take this one day at a time and one game at a time.”