Thursday, December 13, 2012
Top 5 moments: The Drive
By Alex Scarborough
Editor's note: Each day this week we'll review the five biggest plays or moments of the season for the Alabama Crimson Tide. Yesterday, we looked at Amari Cooper's breakout performance against Tennessee.
Rarely do match-ups dubbed "The Game of the Century" live up to their billing. There's usually too much hype and too much pressure. The buildup overtakes the game itself.
T.J. Yeldon's TD capped what would be a game and season-saving drive for Alabama.
Alabama's showdown with LSU on Nov. 3 defied the seemingly boundless media attention and promotion. Death Valley shook, and the Crimson Tide roared. A classic unfolded on Saturday night in Baton Rouge, La.
LSU played its heart out in front of a raucous sea of purple and gold. Zach Mettenberger had the game of his life, the Tigers' defense was an iron curtain and the Mad Hatter -- coach Les Miles -- pulled out all the stops, faking a punt and going for an onside kick with the lead in hand.
Alabama answered, with a national championship berth on the line. Louisiana native Eddie Lacy carried the ball like a man on a mission, Kevin Norwood created big plays where there were none to be had and AJ McCarron came up big in the final moments. Alabama's final drive -- or what's become known as The Drive -- was the junior quarterback's crowning achievement. In a game in which he looked lost for the better part of four quarters, McCarron showed up in the end and led his team to victory.
Saban said the game-winning, five-play drive was "Something I'll never forget." McCarron said it was something like clockwork.
"The whole offense just looked at each other, and you could just tell in everybody's eyes it was like, 'We do this every Thursday, so what's the difference here?' " McCarron said.
Alabama marched 72 yards down the field for the final go-ahead score. Three straight passes to Norwood for first downs set up a 28-yard screen pass from McCarron to freshman tailback T.J. Yeldon. A hush fell over Death Valley as the Alabama sideline erupted as Yeldon crossed the goal line for the touchdown..
"The momentum changed," Saban said. "But they kept their poise, kept playing, kept competing. I've never been prouder of a bunch of guys."
Alabama would lose its poise the very next week, though. Johnny Manziel and the Texas A&M Aggies would beat the Tide at home and seemingly shatter their national championship hopes in the process. The Drive was almost rendered useless.
"If we finish out like we're supposed to, probably one of the greatest wins I've been apart of in my life. ... If we don't finish out strong, it really doesn't factor in really," McCarron said before the Texas A&M game.
That tiny premonition from McCarron ended up coming full circle, as No. 1 and No. 2 in the BCS Standings fell and opened the door for Alabama to return to the national championship. Now that the Tide have a date with No. 1 Notre Dame in Miami, The Drive is only picking up more steam. If Alabama wins, it could become one of the biggest moments in school history.