Matured McCarron pilots Alabama’s win over LSU

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) - AJ McCarron tucked the ball into Trent Richardson’s gut in an oh-so familiar move. Then he pulled it back and tossed it to tight end Brad Smelley on Alabama’s first offensive play.

The second? Same thing, other side.

Richardson as a decoy? You bet.

McCarron deftly guided the Crimson Tide to a national title Monday night in a 21-0 win over LSU in which the Tigers were geared up to stop Richardson just like every other defense.

Only this ferocious, speedy defense was maybe good enough to pull it off.

“We’ve been leaning on No. 3 (Richardson) all year,” McCarron, the offensive MVP, said. “He’s our workhorse. I mean, he’s our main guy.

“And we knew coming into the game somebody else had to step up, and coach just gave me an opportunity.”

McCarron delivered, even after No. 1 receiver Marquis Maze’s early exit with a left hamstring injury.

The third-year sophomore sprinkled the ball around, avoided big mistakes and played with poise even as LSU senior Jordan Jefferson struggled.

McCarron, who needed a couple of games to secure the starting job, completed 20 of 34 passes for 234 yards. He even scrambled 13 yards for a first down in the fourth quarter to help set up Richardson’s 34-yard touchdown run that finally proved LSU coach Les Miles hadn’t erected some invisible goal line barricade.

“We knew that he was going to have to play well, because we knew that we were going to throw the ball,” Tide coach Nick Saban said. “He showed great leadership and poise in making good decisions.”

Richardson pounded away at a defense that refused to give up an inch without a fight. He did carry 20 times for 96 yards, with two catches for 11 yards. It’s a far cry from the 169 total yards in the November meeting.

McCarron normally takes secondary status to the Heisman Trophy finalist. This time, the roles were largely flipped.

When Alabama played Texas in the national championship game two years ago, Richardson and Heisman winner Mark Ingram both topped 100 rushing yards. McCarron’s predecessor, Greg McElroy, needed only pass for 58 yards.

Placekicker Jeremy Shelley helped pick up the slack when LSU’s rubber-band defense snapped back at the end of numerous promising drives. Shelley’s five field goals tied a bowl record to provide redemption for both he and long-range kicker Cade Foster after their 2-for-6 performance in LSU-Alabama I.

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