Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy silences doubters with performance
in SEC title game
By Mike Herndon
December 06, 2009
ATLANTA, GA. - One had all the hype, the championship rings, the
Heisman Trophy pedigree, the Superman nickname and the reputation for
willing his team to victories.
Greg McElroy stole the show with a 12-of-18, 239-yard performance
that earned him MVP honors in Alabama's resounding 32-13 victory in
the SEC championship game.
The other had only 12 games of starting experience at the college
level and, despite an unblemished record, the doubts of some who
watched him struggle midway through the season.
Guess which quarterback lit it up Saturday in the Georgia Dome?
Alabama's Greg McElroy, expected by some to play straight man in a
going-away party for Florida's Tim Tebow, instead stole the show with
a 12-of-18, 239-yard performance that earned him MVP honors in
Alabama's resounding 32-13 victory in the SEC championship game.
And though the quarterback position was one area where top-ranked
Florida was thought to have a clear advantage in Saturday's 1 vs. 2
matchup, Gators coach Urban Meyer said he wasn't surprised McElroy
carried the momentum of last weekend's game-winning fourth-quarter
drive against Auburn into the Georgia Dome.
"He did show a lot of poise for a first-year quarterback," Meyer said
of McElroy. "You saw it coming. You saw it against Auburn. And those
things usually accelerate a quarterback's progress."
McElroy, who still has yet to lose a high school or college game as a
starter, saw his skills questioned during a three-game stretch in the
middle of the season when he did not throw a touchdown pass and the
Crimson Tide offense grew stagnant. But neither he nor his teammates
lost faith in his ability.
"I think everybody wants to be praised and wants to be celebrated at
all times, but that's just not the nature of the beast," McElroy said
Saturday. "As long as you have faith in yourself and continue to
enjoy what you do and what you put in a lot of time for, then you
will be successful.
"I just do it like my idol Tony Romo does and take the good with the
bad and go out there and have fun when you play the game."
McElroy was having fun on Saturday, completing 67 percent of his
passes and making clutch throws to help the Crimson Tide convert on
11 of 15 third downs.
"When he's out there with me, I have so much faith in him," Alabama
tight end Colin Peek said. "I feel like every game, he can do this."
Peek credited a juiced-up offensive game plan by offensive coordinator
Jim McElwain for McElroy's outburst.
"Finally, he was able to get his hands untied and he was able to
implement whatever he wanted to," Peek said of McElwain. "It was just
one of those situations where we implemented some new strategies, some
things that he really wanted to put in for this week.
"A bunch of it was predicated on how Florida's defensive fronts were
Thanks to Alabama's offensive line, the Gators' defensive front played
much of the game on its heels, a fact that McElroy emphasized in
explaining the Crimson Tide's offensive success Saturday.
"You can't say enough about the work our offensive line did," McElroy
said. "It's not what I did or Julio (Jones) or Marquis (Maze) or any
of those guys; it's about the fact that I was kept off my back for the
majority of the game."
But it was McElroy that took advantage of the protection to make the
throws -- a 19-yard dart to Peek over the middle in the first quarter,
a 28-yard strike down the sideline to Maze in the third quarter, a
beautiful 17-yard heave to Peek for his only touchdown.
Meanwhile, Tebow finished 20 of 35 for 247 yards, one touchdown and
one drive-killing interception in his final SEC game.
Tebow wiped away a tear as McElroy took a knee and the final seconds
"It was kind of surreal," McElroy said. "I think it all came
full-circle in the sense that all the things we've done, all the 110s
we've run, all the blood, sweat and conditioning, all the reps in the
weight room, that's what it's all for -- taking a knee against Florida
to win the SEC championship."