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McCarron has Heisman-like moment for No. 1 Alabama

  • Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron (10) is congratulated by the fans after defeating LSU 21-17 in an NCAA college football game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

    Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron (10) is congratulated by the fans after defeating LSU 21-17 in an NCAA college football game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

  • Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron (10) is congratulated by the fans after defeating LSU 21-17 in an NCAA college football game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

    Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron (10) is congratulated by the fans after defeating LSU 21-17 in an NCAA college football game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

  • Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron (10) celebrates after defeating LSU 21-17 in an NCAA college football game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

    Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron (10) celebrates after defeating LSU 21-17 in an NCAA college football game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

  • Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron (10) celebrates after defeating LSU 21-17 in an NCAA college football game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

    Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron (10) celebrates after defeating LSU 21-17 in an NCAA college football game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

  • LSU running back Jeremy Hill (33) is tackled by Alabama defensive back Deion Belue during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

    LSU running back Jeremy Hill (33) is tackled by Alabama defensive back Deion Belue during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

  • LSU running back Jeremy Hill (33) is tackled by Alabama defensive back Deion Belue during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

    LSU running back Jeremy Hill (33) is tackled by Alabama defensive back Deion Belue during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

  • Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron (10) passes in the first half of their NCAA college football game against LSU in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

    Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron (10) passes in the first half of their NCAA college football game against LSU in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

  • Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, rear, congratulates running back T.J. Yeldon (4) after the two hooked up for the winning touchdown to defeat LSU 21-17 in an NCAA college football game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

    Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, rear, congratulates running back T.J. Yeldon (4) after the two hooked up for the winning touchdown to defeat LSU 21-17 in an NCAA college football game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

  • Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, rear, congratulates running back T.J. Yeldon (4) after the two hooked up for the winning touchdown to defeat LSU 21-17 in an NCAA college football game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

    Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, rear, congratulates running back T.J. Yeldon (4) after the two hooked up for the winning touchdown to defeat LSU 21-17 in an NCAA college football game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

  • Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron (10) is congratulated by the fans after defeating LSU 21-17 in an NCAA college football game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)
  • Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron (10) is congratulated by the fans after defeating LSU 21-17 in an NCAA college football game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)
  • Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron (10) celebrates after defeating LSU 21-17 in an NCAA college football game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)
  • Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron (10) celebrates after defeating LSU 21-17 in an NCAA college football game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)
  • LSU running back Jeremy Hill (33) is tackled by Alabama defensive back Deion Belue during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)
  • LSU running back Jeremy Hill (33) is tackled by Alabama defensive back Deion Belue during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)
  • Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron (10) passes in the first half of their NCAA college football game against LSU in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)
  • Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, rear, congratulates running back T.J. Yeldon (4) after the two hooked up for the winning touchdown to defeat LSU 21-17 in an NCAA college football game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)
  • Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, rear, congratulates running back T.J. Yeldon (4) after the two hooked up for the winning touchdown to defeat LSU 21-17 in an NCAA college football game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

For AJ McCarron, it confirmed what the Tide already knew — this guy is a heck of a quarterback.

He saved the season on a Saturday night in Death Valley, and most likely propelled himself into the thick of the Heisman Trophy race.

When it was done, the tears flowed.

“Just so many emotions running through me,” McCarron said after embracing his parents behind the end zone. “Sometimes it can be a lot of pressure playing here at this university, especially with all the tradition of winning and everything.”

Alabama (9-0, 6-0 Southeastern Conference) remained perfect on the season and No. 1 in the rankings with a stirring 21-17 victory over LSU, clearing what looks to be its most difficult hurdle on the road back to the national championship game.

The Crimson Tide finally got a challenge after rolling through its first eight opponents.

Thanks to McCarron, Alabama passed with flying colors.

Down by a field goal and 72 yards from the end zone, with just 94 seconds remaining and no timeouts, the junior engineered a drive for the ages. Three straight completions to get into scoring position. Then a perfectly called screen pass to T.J. Yeldon when the Tigers blitzed. The result was a 28-yard touchdown that won it for the Tide.

McCarron needed all of 49 seconds to shred one of college football’s toughest defenses, a unit that had totally shut him down for almost the entire second half.

“He was locked in,” said Alabama running back Eddie Lacy. “He’s always locked in for every game, but it was something different this time, this drive. I mean, he knew he had to make plays. He got the plays in. He did exactly what he was supposed to do, made the right reads and made the right passes. You can’t ask for any more from AJ McCarron.”

With the Heisman race a bit of a jumble, especially after Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein was injured in a victory over Oklahoma State, McCarron is moving up the charts with a bullet. He is the nation’s third-rated passer, just behind Klein and Florida State’s E.J. Manuel, with 19 touchdown passes and zero interceptions. McCarron extended his school-record streak without a pick to 289 passes.

His father, Tony McCarron, called that final possession the sort of signature moment that defines every Heisman winner.

“You know how they always say you have to have one?” the elder McCarron said. “There it is.”

He also scoffed at those who have described his son as more of a game manager than a star, a player whose main role is to make sure he doesn’t do anything that gets the nation’s most talented team beat.

“He wasn’t much of a game manager there, was he?” Tony McCarron said.

No reply required.

AJ struggled through much of the second half, having completed just 1 of 7 passes for 0 yards when he got the ball back for Alabama’s final possession. But his confidence never wavered.

“I just love moments like that,” he said “I like having the ball in pressure situations. When you’ve got teammates like I have, it makes your job easy.”

McCarron went to Kevin Norwood for an 18-yard gain that stopped the clocked while the officials reset the chains. Then, two more completions to Norwood for 15 and 11 yards, both along the sidelines so he could get out of bounds. McCarron went looking for Norwood one more time, throwing it up in the end zone. But the receiver and defensive back got tangled up, sending them both to the Tiger Stadium turf. The ball fell harmlessly to the ground.

Deciding it couldn’t sit back any longer, LSU called a corner blitz. McCarron saw it all the way, swinging a pass to Yeldon slipping out of the backfield. He slipped away from one would-be tackler, faked out another and raced to the end zone with 51 seconds remaining.

A perfect call. A perfect result.

“It was like clockwork,” McCarron said. “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?’”

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