Sunday, November 4, 2012

Death Valley Drive: When all was lost…Alabama won

Alabama has officially been tested, and AJ McCarron is officially an Alabama football legend.

In a game that lived up to the hype, and then some, the Alabama Crimson Tide defeated the LSU Tigers by the score of 21-17, in theatrical grand fashion.

In what will certainly go down as an “instant classic” in every sense of the phrase, Alabama and LSU provided fans of college football with an early Christmas present. Dramatic football from start to finish, coupled with just enough tears to tug at the heartstrings of those who understand the power of “team” and what it means to triumph as a collective unit.

In every game preview, the key to victory, for LSU, was essentially always the same. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger would need a “career-game” against one of the most vaunted defenses in all of college football. When the smoke had cleared, Mettenberger had exceeded every expectation, and more. Throwing for 298 yards and one touchdown, LSU fans got a taste of the quarterback they thought they had signed, and Alabama fans got a taste of a superb quarterback playing with supreme confidence.

While Mettenberger channeled his inner Stephen Garcia, something Tide fans know all too well, given the context, the Alabama second half offense looked like something else ‘Bama fans know all too well…Iron Bowl 2010.

While the Tide held at 14-3 lead at the half, courtesy of a late second quarter rushing touchdown by AJ McCarron, the second half was dominated by LSU. In large measure, visually and statistically, the Tigers looked like the No. 1 team in the nation, while the Tide looked to be the team attempting to spring the upset.

Thanks to wonderful play from Mettenberger, the LSU offensive line, and the Tiger defense, Alabama was essentially relegated to watching the time run down, and the season slip away.

Then it happened…

When favor and fate seemed to indicate it wasn’t meant to be for the Crimson Tide…it suddenly was. The Tide offense, who had struggled mightily in the second half, proceeded to drive the ball 72 yards in five plays, while doing so in just 43 seconds…with no timeouts.

AJ McCarron, who had garnered less than 100 passing yards prior to the final drive, was able to maintain ultimate composure and connected with wide receiver Kevin Norwood three times, which placed the football at the LSU 28-yard line, with 60 seconds to play.

As for the finish, a “simple” screen pass from AJ McCarron to freshman running back T.J. Yeldon can now, arguably, be considered the greatest single pass play in Alabama history. The lore of the play will become even more significant if Alabama is able to capture the BCS title.

Following the touchdown, which gave Alabama a 21-17 lead, the exhausted and often defeated Alabama defense, was able to make one final stand. Zach Mettenberger, who had played lights out, ended the night on his back looking up at the lights, as the Crimson Tide escaped with the victory. The Tide defense, which always seemed to be just a second late on essentially every blitz, were able to sack Mettenberger when it meant the most.

Alabama was tested, and Alabama passed…in dramatic fashion.

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