McCarron has Heisman-like moment for No. 1 Alabama


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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Sam Dekker happy to be with Wizards, back on court again following trade


Sam Dekker happy to be with Wizards, back on court again following trade

Injuries had limited Sam Dekker to only nine games this season with the Cavaliers, who he joined just this past summer in a trade. He hadn't played in a month. Yet, with only nine players available after Otto Porter Jr.'s injury on Monday against the Pacers, head coach Scott Brooks was left without much of a choice.

So, Dekker was summoned off the bench to make his debut with Washington, the third team he has called home all within this calendar year. Though the game amounted in a loss, Dekker's start with the Wizards could not have gone much better.

They instantly went on a 19-0 run to climb back into the game and Dekker played his part in it. He scored on a dunk, had two steals, a rebound and an assist. 

For Dekker, after missing weeks due to a left ankle injury, it was just good to get back out there.

"There was definitely some rust to knock off," Dekker said. "Our trainer was laughing at me. He said 'I've never seen someone drink their water so fast in a timeout.' My bottle was gone."

The dust will ultimately settle, but it has been a tumultuous few days for Dekker. He was still getting adjusted to the Cavs organization when on Friday night his name popped up in trade rumors. His phone started buzzing with "hundreds" of messages from friends and family.

At first, it looked like Dekker was going to Milwaukee, back to his home state and not far from where he starred at the University of Wisconsin.

"I didn't answer to any of them because I did not feel like I was going to Milwaukee," Dekker said. "Something was telling me that was not the case. It just didn't make sense in my head. So, I was like 'no way.' "

Sure enough, Dekker's gut feeling was proven correct. Soon after he was tied to Milwaukee, full details of the trade were released. It was a three-team deal and he was off to Washington, the fourth team in his young career.

The 24-year-old has been traded three times now. That's a lot of moving for he and his wife, Olivia.

"This is the third time I've made her move, so that's no fun. I feel terrible about that," he said. "But she's been awesome. She's been keeping me grounded through all of this."

Dekker said the first order of business after he was dealt to Washington was finding a sitter for his dog, Riggins. He had a 6 a.m. flight the next morning. 

Now, he is in the process of breaking a lease in Cleveland and looking for a new place in the Washington area.

"There's a lot more to it than people understand. They think we just put a new jersey on," Dekker said of getting traded.

Dekker's time with the Wizards has been a whirlwind so far. Things will calm down and, as he says, it all comes back to basketball.

"The one constant is playing hoops. Last night, to get on the court finally, that is one thing that feels like home," he said.


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John Wall making progress but his status, along with Otto Porter's, in doubt vs. Celtics

John Wall making progress but his status, along with Otto Porter's, in doubt vs. Celtics

The Wizards look ahead to their first meeting of the season with the Boston Celtics on Wednesday with two starters considered day-to-day with injuries.

John Wall missed their last game, against the Pacers on Monday, with bone spurs in his left heel. Otto Porter Jr. left the game with a right knee contusion.

The Wizards held a light practice on Tuesday that featured a film session and a walkthrough. Porter only participated in the film session. Wall watched film and then went through a workout guided by assistant coaches afterwards.

"We will find out tomorrow," head coach Scott Brooks said about their status.

The answer will likely come shortly before the game starts. The Wizards do not have a scheduled shootaround.

Wall's absence on Monday marked the first game he's missed this season due to injury. He did not play last week against the Hawks because of personal reasons.

The heel injury is something Wall has been dealing with on-and-off for a long time.

"He fights through a lot of things. He's done this with his heel for four, five, or six years - I don't even know, long before I was here," Brooks said. 

"He just fights through it. He's done, along with our staff, has done a good job of monitoring it. It flared up, but it's calmed down. We just have to always be on the lookout."

Wall was also sick in addition to working through some off-court matters. But the fact he went through an individual workout would appear to be a good sign he can return on Wednesday against the Celtics.