By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Timing is critical, and it looks like A.J. McCarron is getting his down.
If there was once a soft spot for No. 2 Alabama, it might have been quarterback where exactly who would take the wheel was a question, but McCarron, a sophomore, distanced himself from freshman Phillip Sims.
If McCarron’s four-touchdown performance in a 34-0 win over Vanderbilt was a jolt of confidence, you’ll have to draw your conclusions from second-hand sourcing.
“You ought to ask him, you know, when you get a chance. I know I don’t make him available to you, but I’m sure it helped his confidence,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said.
McCarron has thrown eight touchdown passes through the Tide’s (6-0, 3-0 SEC) first half of the season, but his most impressive stat is interceptions – just two and none in the last five games or 127 attempts.
Talking points around Alabama include the defense first, the running game second, but Ole Miss coaches aren’t overlooking McCarron.
Alabama and Ole Miss (2-3, 0-2 SEC) will meet Saturday at 5 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The game will be televised by ESPN2.
The Crimson Tide has risen from quarterback uncertainty to No. 2 in the SEC in total offense, trailing only Arkansas.
The passing game gets only marginal credit for that at 217.83 yards a game, but McCarron and the wideouts asserted themselves against Vanderbilt. McCarron was 23 for 30 for 237 yards with touchdown passes of 6, 5, 39 and 17 yards.
“Now teams won’t be able to roll their coverage as much knowing we have guys out there who can make plays,” senior wide receiver Marquis Maze said.
Maze didn’t get in the end zone against the Commodores but had nine catches for 93 yards. He leads Alabama with 31 catches for 355 yards and one touchdown this season.
Maze is an after-the-catch threat.
“I like the crossing route under the linebackers. I get the ball early and make plays with my feet. It’s dangerous, but I’m a dangerous player. I’m not afraid to go in and get tackled by those guys,” he said.
Interceptions a key
The plays that most impress Saban, however, are those that end with the Crimson Tide in the end zone or retaining possession.
Saban has credited McCarron for his decision-making, a factor in his current interception-less streak.
Ole Miss posted only six interceptions last season but has eight so far this season, at least one in each game. Safety Charles Sawyer leads the team and shares the SEC lead with four.
McCarron is 98-for-150 passing (65.3 percent) for 1,156 yards and eight touchdowns. He ranks 39th nationally and sixth in the SEC with a 145.0 pass efficiency rating.
He has completed 66.1 percent for 930 yards and seven touchdowns in his current streak.
The Alabama record for passes without an interception is 190 held by Brodie Croyle.
“They have done an excellent job with him in teaching and coaching him how to manage the game and take care of the football,” Ole Miss defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix said. “You saw some turnovers early in the year, but you haven’t seen them since then.”