Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron sat on the bench after the clock had run out, his head down in a towel, crying.
He was the winning quarterback.
Teammates came over to the quarterback to pat him on the head and congratulate him. His emotion couldn't be controlled, and understandably so. He had just saved the Crimson Tide's undefeated season.
When Alabama fans remember the Crimson Tide's dramatic 21-17 win at LSU — and they will remember it fondly, especially if Alabama goes on to win another national championship — they'll remember McCarron and his fantastic game-winning drive.
McCarron had completed just one pass for no yards in the second half when LSU missed a field goal with 1:34 remaining. Taking over at his own 28, McCarron started the drive with an 18-yard pass. Something to get his confidence going. He completed his next pass to the LSU 39-yard line. Then another to LSU's 28. That was close to field-goal range, but Alabama and McCarron didn't play for the game-tying field goal.
McCarron's most important pass might have been his easiest one. After an incompletion to the end zone, he threw a short screen pass to the left to freshman T.J. Yeldon, who worked his way through LSU's defense for a 28-yard touchdown with 51 seconds left.
"A.J. did a great job on the drive," Alabama coach Nick Saban told CBS in a postgame interview. "Made some big plays."
LSU will have some regrets, and Tigers coach Les Miles will be criticized. A fake field goal in the first half was predictable and stopped cold. A 54-yard field goal attempt was foolish, fell short, and set up Alabama for a touchdown before the first half ended. LSU was stopped short on a quarterback sneak in Crimson Tide territory in the fourth quarter, and the missed field goal with less than two minutes to go gave Alabama hope at the end.
But none of that would have mattered had McCarron not shook off a tough first 58 minutes for a great final drive. He had less than 100 yards passing when Alabama took over with less than two minutes left, but he led the Crimson Tide down the field when it mattered most. The steady quarterback of the No. 1 ranked team in the nation might get some more Heisman Trophy buzz after the comeback win.
"Everybody hung in," McCarron told CBS after the game. "It was an unbelievable win."
For a while, it looked like LSU would win and create chaos in the BCS Championship Game chase. A LSU win would have opened up arguments for a few one-loss SEC teams, and it would have given clearer title game paths to undefeated teams like Notre Dame, Kansas State or Oregon.
Order was restored in the final couple minutes. McCarron made sure of it.
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