Saban: Game manager label is high praise for QB

Saban: Game manager label is high praise for QB

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) A quarterback described as a game manager can often be perceived as someone who's mostly responsible for supervising plays and not making them.

Unless the QB is AJ McCarron and he plays for Nick Saban.

The coach of top-ranked Alabama considers it the highest praise. No. 5 LSU (7-1, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) would love to get a McCarron-like, efficient performance from Zach Mettenberger Saturday night in Baton Rouge where both passers will be supported by punishing tailbacks and terrific defenses.

McCarron has been the consummate game manager even with 18 touchdown passes.

``I don't think it's fair to AJ that because I said he's a really good game manager for us that it's like that means he doesn't do anything,'' Saban said. ``He does everything. I don't think you can be a good quarterback unless you're a really good game manager. That's the ultimate compliment, to me.''

McCarron has been the nation's most efficient passer with a quarterback rating of 182.4 for Alabama (8-0, 5-0). He's thrown 262 passes without an interception dating back to last season, second-longest in SEC history behind the 325-pass streak by Kentucky's Andre' Woodson.

McCarron wants to clear up what being a game manager means in his eyes.

``What I think and then what the media tries to make a game manager out to be is two totally different things,'' he said. ``I probably think more along the lines of coach Saban. A game manager can be anything. I mean, he can throw nine touchdowns in one game but he still managed the game. He could hand the ball off 47 times but still manage the game.

``I think coach, in that aspect, is saying he's taking what the defense is giving him and he's not making any real bonehead mistakes. And that's the biggest thing. People nowadays love to see the ball being slung around and everything but that's not our style of play. So I'm going to, like what coach always, take what the defense gives me and ... eventually they'll give you the game.''

The strong-armed Mettenberger might still be finding his way toward the game manager role in his first year as starter. He hasn't completed 50 percent of his passes in any of the last three games - all against ranked SEC teams - and has one touchdown pass, two interceptions and a modest 403 passing yards during that stretch.

Mettenberger has been intercepted a modest four times through eight games.

Running back Michael Ford and his teammates are standing by their quarterback.

``He throws a little bad ball and everybody jumps on his back,'' Ford said. ``We've just got to go out there and give him confidence.''

It's Mettenberger's first time playing in an Alabama-LSU confrontation. He knows the big-game drill, though.

``You have to be level-headed,'' Mettenberger said. ``You can't get too jacked up or you will start throwing balls in the stands. You can't play with your tail tucked between legs or you'll play too timid. It's a fine line, between looking too relaxed and being too jacked up. A quarterback has to do a good job keeping your emotions in check during the game.

``You want to get amped up, but at the same time I don't have to go hit anybody. I'll definitely be ready to go for this game, I promise you that.''

Taking care of the ball is an important challenge for both quarterbacks. Alabama's defense leads the SEC with 14 interceptions and LSU is second with 13.

Tide cornerback Dee Milliner said Mettenberger is a ``great quarterback, a big-armed quarterback.''

``He does a great job of operating and knowing what the defense does and hits the key holes on pass plays,'' Milliner said. ``He's checking a lot and doing some great things. We've got to come in and try to throw some different things at him, different schemes to try to mix him up.''

McCarron was solid in the first meeting last season and was offensive MVP of the BCS championship game with an impressive performance, keeping LSU off-guard with frequent passes on first down.

LSU defenders said they see a big difference in McCarron this season.

``He's improved a lot,'' Tigers linebacker Kevin Minter said. ``He's a totally different person. His confidence is through the roof right now. You can just tell. He's very comfortable back there passing the ball. You can just see it in his play and his stats. That's why he's a dark horse to win the Heisman. The guy is just doing his thing this year.''

McCarron said that means taking care of the ball and capitalizing on what the defense gives you.

Managing the game, in other words. Saban would much rather take a throwaway or a scramble for a few yards than a pass that hands it right back to the opposing offense.

He's old-fashioned that way.

``We have an old saying that if every offensive series ends with a kick, whether it's a punt, a field goal or an extra point, that's pretty good,'' Saban said. ``Could be worse. When you give the ball away to the other guys, that's never a good thing. It has a really significant impact on the outcome of games.

``AJ has done a good job of taking care of the ball. That's going to be really, really important as we continue to press through the season.''


AP Sports Writer Paul Newberry in Baton Rouge, La., contributed to this report.

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Redskins starters training camp one-liners, offense

Associated Press

Redskins starters training camp one-liners, offense

During training camp, it’s natural for the media coverage to gravitate towards the long shots and underdogs and the backups fighting to hang on to a roster spot. The starters go out and do their thing and those players doing their thing isn’t news. 

With that in mind, here is a one-liner review of how each anticipated starter fared in training camp. We’ll start with the offense today, look for the defense tomorrow. 

QB Alex Smith—He still needs some work on timing with his receivers but overall, he looks like a quarterback you can win with. 

RB Rob Kelley—After his move up to starter in the wake of the Derrius Guice injury, Kelley continues to work as he has from the start of camp, like a guy fighting for a roster spot.

WR Paul Richardson—The $40 million free agent pickup showed that his game has some versatility as he made some tough catches over the middle along with some deep receptions. 

WR Josh Doctson—His heel injury slowed down what was solid progress early in training camp.

WR Jamison Crowder—His solid, workmanlike camp should make Redskins fans hope that the team is working on a long-term contract extension with Crowder right now. 

TE Jordan Reed—Considering his importance to the offense, his progress after having surgery on both of his big toes is the most positive story from camp

LT Trent Williams—The plan to ramp up his activity as he continues to recover from offseason knee surgery is right on track and there’s every reason to believe he’ll be a full strength in Week 1. 

LG Shaun Lauvao—When he’s healthy, Lauvao is a good enough guard to win with and so far, he has been healthy. 

C Chase Roullier—His strength is often on display during one-on-one blocking drills and he has the appearance of a center the Redskins will be able to plug in and play for at least the next several years. 

RG Brandon Scherff—The fourth-year player is working his way towards his third straight Pro Bowl appearance.

RT Morgan Moses—He is still working through some ankle pain but he should be good to go Week 1. 

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Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler

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John Gant homers, pitches Cardinals to 6-4 win over Nationals


John Gant homers, pitches Cardinals to 6-4 win over Nationals

ST. LOUIS -- Even John Gant cracked a smile.

Gant homered for his first major league hit and pitched one-run ball into the sixth inning, helping the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Washington Nationals 6-4 on Tuesday night for their season-high seventh consecutive victory.

Kolten Wong had three hits and three RBIs as St. Louis (65-55) pulled within four games of the NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs and moved within one game of the Philadelphia Phillies for the second NL wild card. The Cardinals also improved to 18-9 since Mike Shildt was named interim manager on July 13, the most wins for a manager through his first 27 games in franchise history.

"Things are starting to click for us," Wong said. "We're playing confident. We're out there playing aggressive and I think it's the kind of baseball Cardinals fans have been waiting for."

The Nationals (60-60) have dropped six of eight to fall eight games behind Atlanta in the NL East.

"We've just got to keep pulling the same rope, keep grinding it out, keep trying to win ballgames," Nationals slugger Bryce Harper said.

Gant (5-4) permitted four hits and struck out six in 5 1/3 innings. He has given up just two earned runs over 11 1/3 innings in his last two starts, both wins.

The 26-year-old Gant was 0 for 30 for his career when he drove a 1-1 pitch from Gio Gonzalez (7-9) over the wall in left in the second. The two-run shot gave Washington a 3-0 lead.

"I was jogging kind of my hands in the air," said Wong, who scored on Gant's homer. "I already knew it was going out. Looking back I think he almost caught me."

Added Gant, "I thought it was going to hit the wall maybe but when I finally looked up and (Wong) was looking back at me, that's when I knew it was going over the wall."

Gant, who has a reputation for being a stoic player, admitted to smiling "once or twice" once he got back to the dugout.

Wong's solo homer made it 6-1 in the sixth, but Washington responded with three in the eighth. Harper hit a two-run shot, and Daniel Murphy singled in Anthony Rendon.

Matt Adams then struck out looking against Dakota Hudson, ending the inning, and Jordan Hicks worked the ninth for his fourth save in eight chances.

Paul DeJong also doubled and scored for St. Louis one night after he connected for a game-ending homer in a 7-6 victory. Matt Carpenter walked in the sixth to extend his on-base streak to 32 games.

"We have a 25-man roster and we have confidence in all of them," Shildt said. "They're here for a reason and guys are looking to contribute every night and in different ways."

Gonzalez was charged with five runs and five hits in four innings. The veteran left-hander is just 1-4 in his last six starts.

"I wasn't hitting my spots," Gonzalez said. "Just not being as consistent in the strike zone as I should be. It's just one of those games you can't explain."