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McCarron has Heisman-like moment for No. 1 Alabama

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McCarron has Heisman-like moment for No. 1 Alabama

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) At Alabama, it will go down as a crimson version of ``The Drive.''

For AJ McCarron, it confirmed what the Tide already knew - this guy is a heck of a quarterback.

He saved the season on a Saturday night in Death Valley, and most likely propelled himself into the thick of the Heisman Trophy race.

When it was done, the tears flowed.

``Just so many emotions running through me,'' McCarron said after embracing his parents behind the end zone. ``Sometimes it can be a lot of pressure playing here at this university, especially with all the tradition of winning and everything.''

Alabama (9-0, 6-0 Southeastern Conference) remained perfect on the season and No. 1 in the rankings with a stirring 21-17 victory over LSU, clearing what looks to be its most difficult hurdle on the road back to the national championship game.

The Crimson Tide finally got a challenge after rolling through its first eight opponents.

Thanks to McCarron, Alabama passed with flying colors.

Down by a field goal and 72 yards from the end zone, with just 94 seconds remaining and no timeouts, the junior engineered a drive for the ages. Three straight completions to get into scoring position. Then a perfectly called screen pass to T.J. Yeldon when the Tigers blitzed. The result was a 28-yard touchdown that won it for the Tide.

McCarron needed all of 49 seconds to shred one of college football's toughest defenses, a unit that had totally shut him down for almost the entire second half.

``He was locked in,'' said Alabama running back Eddie Lacy. ``He's always locked in for every game, but it was something different this time, this drive. I mean, he knew he had to make plays. He got the plays in. He did exactly what he was supposed to do, made the right reads and made the right passes. You can't ask for any more from AJ McCarron.''

With the Heisman race a bit of a jumble, especially after Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein was injured in a victory over Oklahoma State, McCarron is moving up the charts with a bullet. He is the nation's third-rated passer, just behind Klein and Florida State's E.J. Manuel, with 19 touchdown passes and zero interceptions. McCarron extended his school-record streak without a pick to 289 passes.

His father, Tony McCarron, called that final possession the sort of signature moment that defines every Heisman winner.

``You know how they always say you have to have one?'' the elder McCarron said. ``There it is.''

He also scoffed at those who have described his son as more of a game manager than a star, a player whose main role is to make sure he doesn't do anything that gets the nation's most talented team beat.

``He wasn't much of a game manager there, was he?'' Tony McCarron said.

No reply required.

AJ struggled through much of the second half, having completed just 1 of 7 passes for 0 yards when he got the ball back for Alabama's final possession. But his confidence never wavered.

``I just love moments like that,'' he said ``I like having the ball in pressure situations. When you've got teammates like I have, it makes your job easy.''

McCarron went to Kevin Norwood for an 18-yard gain that stopped the clocked while the officials reset the chains. Then, two more completions to Norwood for 15 and 11 yards, both along the sidelines so he could get out of bounds. McCarron went looking for Norwood one more time, throwing it up in the end zone. But the receiver and defensive back got tangled up, sending them both to the Tiger Stadium turf. The ball fell harmlessly to the ground.

Deciding it couldn't sit back any longer, LSU called a corner blitz. McCarron saw it all the way, swinging a pass to Yeldon slipping out of the backfield. He slipped away from one would-be tackler, faked out another and raced to the end zone with 51 seconds remaining.

A perfect call. A perfect result.

``It was like clockwork,'' McCarron said. ``The whole offense just looked at each other and you could just tell in everybody's eyes it was like, `We do this every Thursday, so what's the difference here?'''

LSU, which had done such a good job against McCarron in the second half, was helpless against him with the game on the line.

``They were efficient throwing the football,'' Tigers coach Les Miles said. ``AJ McCarron played pretty well in that game.''

Slipping from fifth to ninth in The Associated Press rankings and likely eliminated from the national race, LSU (7-2, 3-2) seemed more disconsolate after this one than it was back in January, when Alabama romped to a 21-0 blowout in the BCS title game.

``This one hurts,'' Logan said. ``This one hurts more than the national championship game because we had this one. It was the little mistakes we made as a defensive unit that cost us this game and cost us the chance to reach a lot of our goals this season.''

For Alabama and McCarron, all the goals are still in play.

The Crimson Tide has essentially locked up the SEC West, pulling two games clear of the field with two conference games remaining. There's still some tough contests remaining, including next Saturday at home against No. 15 Texas A&M, plus a likely meeting with No. 5 Georgia in the league championship game. But if Alabama runs the table, it will definitely be headed to Miami with a shot at its second straight national title and third in four years.

McCarron might have to make a side trip to New York City on his way to South Beach.

This could have been his Heisman moment.

``He wasn't in rhythm the whole second half, and one last drive he doesn't miss,'' his father marveled. ``I don't even know where that comes from. He's been that way his whole life. The light switch clicks on.''

---

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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Wizards vs. Hornets: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

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USA TODAY Sports

Wizards vs. Hornets: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, Jr. and the Washington Wizards battle Kemba Walker, Dwight Howard, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:

WASHINGTON WIZARDS VS. CHARLOTTE HORNETS

Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 7 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (coverage begins at 6 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

On a roll

The Wizards have some serious momentum going right now. With an impressive win over the Cavs on Thursday, they have now won three straight games and eight of 10 since John Wall went down with a left knee injury. They had a week off due to the All-Star break, but didn't show any rust at all in their first game back.

The Wizards are now 34-24, 10 games above the .500 mark. They are fourth in the East and could move into third on Friday if they win and the Cavaliers lose. Even with Wall out, things continue to look up for Washington.

PODCAST: BIGGEST STORYLINES COMING OUT OF ALL-STAR BREAK

Hornets have had their number

The Wizards haven't done so well against the Hornets so far this season. Charlotte has taken both meetings and that includes a 24-point win on Jan. 17. That game featured Dwight Howard taunting the Wizards late in the fourth quarter.

Howard has killed the Wizards through two games with averages of 22.0 points and 14.0 rebounds. Jeremy Lamb (20.0 ppg vs. Wizards) has been a big factor as well as All-Star Kemba Walker (21.5 ppg vs. Wizards).

The last time these teams played about a month ago frustrations boiled over in an incident that got Tim Frazier ejected. Michael Carter-Williams picked a fight with Jason Smith and Frazier went off:

RELATED: BEAL IMPRESSED BY LEBRON AT ALL-STAR GAME

Hornets coming in hot

The Hornets are outside the playoff picture at the moment at eight games below .500, but they have won two straight games and Walker and Howard are coming off huge games. In a win over the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday, Walker dropped 31 points and Howard grabbed 24 rebounds.

Those guys will be riding a high coming into Washington on Friday. But it should be noted that Howard complained after the game how tired he is at this point in the season. That exhausion could affect him more in the second game of a back-to-back.

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS

 

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' huge road win over Cavaliers, including Markieff Morris' alley-oop

5 must-see moments from Wizards' huge road win over Cavaliers, including Markieff Morris' alley-oop

Here are the five best plays or moments from the Washington Wizards' 110-103 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday night...

1. The Wizards didn't start out well, as they trailed by nine points at the end of the first quarter. Kelly Oubre, Jr. stumbled early by missing four of his first six shots and it looked like a carryover of his slump before the All-Star break.

But Oubre got hot in the second quarter and helped the Wizards turn the game around. This was one of his best plays, a two-handed slam that he celebrated with an emphatic scream to the crowd:

RELATED: BEAL IMPRESSED BY LEBRON AT ALL-STAR GAME

2. Tomas Satoransky was one of the stars of the game. He had 17 points to go along with eight assists, four rebounds and two steals. 

Here's one of his dimes, a perfect alley-oop lob to Markieff Morris, who finished with nine points and eight rebounds:

3. Satoransky has reached double-figures in six of the 10 games since John Wall went out with an injury. This was a very impressive move, a stepback fadeaway that was super smooth:

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4. Ian Mahinmi made some key contributions including four offensive rebounds and a steal. This was his best basket, a powerful slam that came at a key time:

5. This play helped seal the victory. It was a smart after-timeout set drawn up by head coach Scott Brooks and it worked to perfection:

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