(3) Alabama - 27, (23) Penn State - 11
September 11, 2011
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- The energy inside Beaver Stadium ignited Penn State
like the pair of jets that rattled this historic venue with a pregame flyover.
Trent Richardson #3 of the Alabama Crimson Tide crosses the goal line
for a touchdown against the Penn State Nittany Lions.
Photo Credit - Rob Carr/Getty Images
The 23rd-ranked Nittany Lions began pounding away at No. 3 Alabama on Saturday
afternoon surrounded by whiteout conditions - most of the 107,846 fans dressed
in white shirts, with a splash of crimson in the north end zone.
The opening, 16-play drive gobbled up half of the first quarter, but Penn State
could dig up only three points. That woke Alabama's defense up.
The Tide's offense got its motivational slap in the face when Alabama converted
a fake punt. That unit was led by a stone-cold quarterback who proved worthy of
retaining the starting job.
Alabama rolled out of Happy Valley with a 27-11 win against Penn State, taking
its third straight from the Nittany Lions.
"We wanted to be aggressive today," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "We wanted
Defensively, Alabama continued to validate the preseason buzz of potentially
becoming one of program's top defenses ever. After two games, there's nothing
to scoff at.
The Tide forced Penn State (1-1) to punt on its next three drives while it
tried to find a pulse with quarterbacks Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin. Bolden
was 11-for-29 passing for 144 yards and an interception. McGloin completed
one of his 10 pass attempts for zero yards.
Alabama (2-0) charged up the offense on its second drive, the key decision
coming on fourth-and-1 on the Tide's 40-yard line. Alabama lined up for a punt,
but H-back Brad Smelley took the snap and managed to eke out 1 yard to keep
the drive alive.
"I thought we could change the momentum of the game," Saban said. "If you're
gonna take chances, sometimes you have to take them early in the game. I had
a lot of confidence in our defense."
The drive continued into Penn State territory with a huge third-down conversion,
a high pass from quarterback AJ McCarron to wide receiver Marquis Maze. It went
for 29 yards and put the Tide on Penn State's 26. Four plays later, McCarron
showed his mettle by firing a pass through seemingly impossible traffic to find
tight end Michael Williams for a touchdown and a 7-3 first-quarter lead.
"You can't be scared playing quarterback," McCarron said. "If you're scared,
you're gonna turn the ball over. That's not how I play."
Turnovers were a concern for Alabama entering the game after it committed five
in last week's 48-7 win against Kent State. The only turnovers Saturday were
those committed by the Nittany Lions - two fumbles and an interception.
The Tide played flawlessly in that regard while the defense held Penn State
to 251 yards of total offense.
After taking a 10-3 lead thanks to a 22-yard field goal in the second quarter
by Jeremy Shelley (he finished with two field goals for the day), Alabama's
defense produced another significant engine stopper.
Bolden connected with tight end Andrew Szczerba, who was hit by Tide defensive
back Dre Kirkpatrick, dislodging the football. Cornerback DeQuan Menzie recovered
it at the 50-yard line.
"It was just a good play," Kirkpatrick said. "I wasn't trying to strip it out,
I was just trying to get the man on the ground."
Alabama in turn ate up all but 30 seconds before halftime by using a 10-play,
50-yard drive capped with running back Trent Richardson's 3-yard touchdown run
for a 17-3 lead.
Richardson led all rushers with 26 carries for 111 yards and two touchdowns,
his second giving Alabama a 27-3 lead with 6:14 to play.
"I feel like I got it going," Richardson said.
As did McCarron. The sophomore quarterback finished 19-for-31 passing for 163
yards and one touchdown. He was not sacked, and he earned the praise of Saban,
who said he would continue to develop McCarron and redshirt freshman Phillip Sims.
Sims played in the final two minutes of the game after competing with McCarron
for the starting job throughout the preseason.
"He did a good job," Saban said of McCarron. "I think this is a work in progress."