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Alabama 27, Penn St. 11

McCarron has plenty of zip for Alabama

QB solid in Tide’s win over Penn St.

After losing his helmet, Penn State defender Nick Sukay lost track of Alabama receiver Kevin Norwood on a first-half completion. After losing his helmet, Penn State defender Nick Sukay lost track of Alabama receiver Kevin Norwood on a first-half completion. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)
By Ralph D. Russo
Associated Press / September 11, 2011

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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - To call Alabama tight end Michael Williams open would have been a stretch.

It didn’t stop A.J. McCarron from delivering a fastball that must have made lots of Alabama fans think the Crimson Tide’s quarterback competition is over.

McCarron was poised and efficient in a rare trip to Big Ten country for No. 3 Alabama, throwing for 163 yards and a 5-yard touchdown that he delivered through traffic to Williams as the Tide beat No. 23 Penn State, 27-11, yesterday.

Alabama completed a sweep of the home-and-home series between the two storied programs with a smothering performance reminiscent of last year’s 24-3 win in Tuscaloosa.

Both teams came into the second week of the season with unsettled quarterback issues. At Alabama (2-0), those now appear to be settled.

“That’s not my concern. That’s why coach make the calls,’’ McCarron said. “Coach tells me to go out and I’m going to play.’’

Playing in front of 107,846 at Beaver Stadium, the largest crowd ever to see an Alabama football game, McCarron was 19 for 31 with no turnovers.

“Not just myself, the whole offense did a great job of not allowing turnovers and the defense got us turnovers,’’ the sophomore said. “That’s the way we have to play. If we keep playing like that, it’s going to be a special team.’’

McCarron started the Tide’s first game against Kent State but had to share the job with Phillip Sims. This week he was on his own. He gave coach Nick Saban no reason to make a change until the game was out of reach.

Saban, of course, was not about to declare McCarron the unchallenged No. 1.

“We still have a competition at the position,’’ Saban said. “We really do feel like we have two very good players and we want both guys to continue to develop. But I thought A.J. did a nice job today.’’

Nittany Lions fans might be wondering if either Robert Bolden or Matt McGloin are the answer at quarterback for Penn State (1-1). They combined to go 12 for 39 for 144 yards. McGloin completed 1 of 10 for no yards. Bolden led a late scoring drive and threw an interception.

“We certainly deserved a whooping today,’’ said Penn State coach Joe Paterno, who coached again from a box way above the field as he recovers from pelvic and leg injuries. “I think we’ve just got a lot of work ahead of us.’’

Trent Richardson was workmanlike for Alabama with 26 carries for 111 yards and two touchdowns, including a 13-yarder with 6:14 left in the fourth that made it 27-3.

Led by defensive backs Dre Kirkpatrick and Robert Lester, the Tide defense held Penn State to 251 yards.

At one point in the third quarter, Alabama nearly intercepted five straight passes. The first two thrown by Bolden were called picks on the field, but did not stand up to video review. On the next series, McGloin relieved and Alabama defenders got a piece of all three of his throws.

Alabama finally did get an interception that stood on Penn State’s next possession when free safety Mark Barron ranged to the sideline and leaped high to get Bolden’s underthrown pass.

Alabama improved to 10-5 against Penn State and snapped the Nittany Lions’ 23-game winning streak in nonconference home games.